Mount Williamson (N#97, T#24), Trojan Peak (N#98, T#25), Mount Barnard (N#99, T#26), and Mount Tyndall (N#100, T#27)
Nathan Day 69, Travis Day 13
The sun rose above the vast, barren expanse of the alpine tundra, dragging me from a deep sleep. I checked the time, and realized I needed to hurry: 4 days earlier, as we parted ways, Travis and I had promised each other we’d meet up at 8am sharp on top of Shepherd’s Pass for the final linkup of my trip: Williamson, Trojan, Barnard, and Tyndall.
I cruised up to the pass as the sun warmed the cool morning air, arriving at 8:20am. I scanned the area, then shouted, but heard no response. I checked my phone, and two texts from Travis floated in on a meager wisp of signal: one confirming our planned meetup, and the other saying he was just below the pass. I scanned the steep cirque below me, then yelled his name louder. No response. I figured he must have set off for the peaks already, so I took off after him, heart rate spiking as I jogged up the slope away from the pass.
As I traversed towards Williamson, I frantically scanned the snowy alpine cirque for any movement, but saw nothing. After almost an hour of chugging away, chasing after Travis, who was surely high on the peak by now, I heard a faint yell. Surrounded as I was by rock walls, it was tough to say which direction it had come from. I did some mental calculations: Odds there are other humans out here? Low. Odds they are here, yelling, at this exact moment? Very low. Odds that they are here, now, yelling something that sounds like my name? Astronomically low. It had to be Travis.
I shouted in reply, and the response came from behind me, towards the pass. I was a bit bewildered. Minutes later, we had a happy reunion, and I realized that Travis had indeed been climbing to the pass when I was on top, but somehow I hadn’t seen him and he hadn’t heard me.
As we charged together up the steep gully towards Williamson, we exchanged stories about the last few days: him on the front-country peaks of Onion Valley, and me on my backcountry escapades on the Kings-Kern Divide.
The company made the climb go quickly, and seemingly within minutes we were clambering onto the second highest point in California.
Needless to say, the vistas were epic. The floor of the valley lay 11,000 feet below, and all around the majestic peaks of the heart of the High Sierra stretched skyward as far as the eye could see.
I picked out all the ones I had climbed, an ever-growing collection, and then we charged back down to the alpine basin below. On to the next!
Trojan and Barnard are both fairly unremarkable climbs, but we managed to spice them up with some fun, totally contrived 5th class pitches.
This includes attempting a heinously slick squeeze chimney that remains an open project. If anyone wants to nab this sick FA, let me know!
Trojan Peak summit
Fun on the traverse to Mount Barnard
Mount Barnard summit
We slid our way down a long snowfield off Barnard, and traversed on increasingly weary legs towards Tyndall, our final climb of the day.
We were tired, and it loomed tall.
There were a handful of options of routes to climb, the most enticing of which was a 5.6 up the peak’s beautiful, curving east buttress. However, we were tired, the face looked shady and cold, and the easy scrambling route seemed to be the better option. As we rounded the base of the peak, however, the climb came into view. Glowing in the afternoon sun was a gorgeous sweep of rock split by a set of overlapping flakes. It was simply too good to pass up.
With reignited stoke, we hurried towards the rock and sailed up the magnificent line, carried upward by the joy of movement.
The climbing was excellent and fun, with secure jams and holds on great alpine granite. After a few pitches of engaging climbing, the steepness eased, offering endless slabby romping up the pristine rock.
Climbing the perfect sweep of stone in the glow of the low sun, surrounded by towering peaks, was pure bliss. We emerged onto the summit just before sunset and basked in the alpenglow.
It was my 100th SPS peak, and one of the very best I’ve ever climbed.
The hike back down to the trailhead was endless, dark, and exhausting, but nothing could diminish the joy of those wonderful moments.
It was an exceptional way to end an incredible week in the mountains.
View Nathan's activity here. This was the last day of his weeklong backpack from Onion Valley.
View Travis' activity here. Travis had a monster 33 mile, 19 hour, 14,000 vertical foot car-to-car day.