I happened upon the Convict Lake area on my birthday backpacking trip up to Mt. Baldwin in 2016. The area is an amazing Eastern Sierra setting with two notable peaks (Morrison and Laurel) within a mile of the parking lot and an amazing remote basin several miles back. In this trip we were to follow the East Slope Variation route to ascend the chute between Mini Morrison and Mt. Morrison, ski down the chute, camp and then the next day ski out via the East Slope route. (map)
Less than 24 hours earlier I woke up in a freezing desert outside Red Rock Canyon where I spent Christmas rock climbing. I now found myself in a snowy parking lot stuffing climbing ropes and ice tools into an already full backpack. I would be celebrating this New Year’s Eve by winter camping in a Coldstream Canyon at the base of frozen waterfalls for ice climbing. Welcome to Brice-style holidays.
I had been training all year for a difficult climb up Sargent’s Ridge when the trip fell through a couple weekends back so when I had an opportunity at another ridge route I jumped at it. In all the trip was a bit of an adventure with encountering a lighting storm while on the mountain, sustained wind for the whole climb, going solo for part of it and not being able to see when my glasses iced over on a steep section. I’m calling this write up the Casaval Traverse since I deviated off Casaval Ridge around 12,500 ft and topped out at the West Face instead of doing the Catwalk.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the snowiest places in California and also one of the least visited national parks despite its rich geology and beauty. Around mid-April it was one of few lower elevation peaks with enough snow for a full snow mountaineering accent. The other peaks we had considered near Convict Lake (Laurel and Morrison) now nearly bare.
“We think we took a wrong turn a quarter of a mile back.”
Guest post by Matthew Adjemian
One way of describing mountaineering is, “walking uphill while not feeling very well”. Another is a performance sport pushing mental and physical exhaustion. Since last year I’ve completed two Mt. Shasta (14,180′) routes and a Mt. Williamson (14,380′) summit and I am constantly trying to stay mountaineering shape. For those new to the sport it can feel daunting so I thought I’d share what I do and some advice from the mountaineering textbook “Freedom of the Hills”.
On February 5, 2016 I went up to Mt. Shasta City with my friend Michele to attend a free avalanche training from the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Once we saw that low avalanche danger, clear skies and light wind was predicted for the whole weekend we decided to do a summit attempt Sunday morning up the Green Butte route (map 1, map 2, map 3). Spending Saturday night on the mountain somewhere around Green Butte.
“Everyone wants to climb a tallest peak, it is often much more difficult and pristine to climb a second tallest peak.”
At 14,380 ft, Mt. Williamson is the second highest peak in California (5th highest in lower 48). To reach it you must suffer through an unrelenting 10,000 feet of gross elevation gain over 12+ miles. As a result you’ll find yourself mostly alone compared to other 14ers, like Whitney or Shasta where I could see a line of people coming up Avalanche Gultch. When the four of us were on the mountain over August 28-30, 2015 we encountered just two other people trying to summit the mountain the day of, a few trail runners single-day peak bagging and a half dozen other backpackers the entire trip.