U.S. 395 PEAKS AND AUGUST 2005 HEAT WAVE ESCAPE: Tioga Peak (11,513') 4X, Mt. Morgan (13,748') 3X, Table Mountain (11,680+') Attempt, and Mt. Dana (13,053') 8X August 3-6, 2005

Another forecast of high temperatures led me to take off for the High Sierra. I didn't need to do any of these peaks, but I usually enjoy repeat climbs. These all would be easy peak hikes, with lessened chance of injury. It is miserable for me to stay home, with deficient air conditioning, and lack of ops for plain, outdoor exercise, due to the heat.

I left home, early Wednesday morning, to motor to Yosemite National Park. The weather was cooler up there, something I long know, despite warm temperatures expected even to 10,000 feet elevation. Passing through the park on CA 120, I took the gravel, Saddlebag Lake Road to come to the signed Gardisky Lake Trailhead.

Using plenty of DEET, mosquitoes were still able to land on me, and I was to take several bites this trip. The West Nile Virus is now almost everywhere, with infected animals and people now found near the High Sierra. I hope I can stay immune to its effects, as with most people, but aged persons are mostly the usual victims.

I hiked fast up the trail, and summited Tioga Peak after an hour and twenty minutes. No other hikers were about. The register shows many hikers do this, with multiple repeats by one particular local, I think. This is a fast, easy jaunt, with mostly use trail up to the top, all class 1. The view down to the Tioga Pass Highway is usually fine, with Tioga Lake prominent in the photos (top).

With good food waiting in Mammoth, I shortly descended, and motored over to U.S. 395 and headed south. This now more livable ski town would be my first choice for my mansion site if I ever win really big at gaming. Despite the development, improvements like a sidewalk along the main streets, and nicer exteriors attract me to this town, at about 7,500 feet altitude. Things have mostly changed for the better since my last visit, I think.

Enjoying a light and simple restaurant meal, then decaf and dessert, I motored, next, to the local campground, where $15 is the requested fee.

Thursday, I climbed Mt. Morgan (south), for my big peak for this trip. Starting at 7:50 a.m., I took the trails to Francis Lake, then headed up a small ridge to the right (west) of the lake, to look for the use trail to the top. With qualms about doing such a big peak solo, I heard voices, and later, three other hikers appeared. I offered to team up, glad for the company.

They also reached the summit, and we snapped photos of each other, with the usual courtesy and good will found among peak baggers. I enjoyed the great views, clicking away at other peaks that I climbed in this area. Mt. Dade and Mt. Abbot are seen in the telephoto shot (right). Puffy clouds accentuated the fair clearness of the air.

We started down together, and I knew the fast way down, with easy walking along ridges and moraines. They went a different way, since they said they had started from elsewhere. I continued down, to get back to Francis Lake, then used the fine trail back to Rock Creek Lake, the trailhead at 9,682' elevation. It took me 5.5 hours to top out, then 4 hours to descend, so I am a bit slow.

I motored down to Bishop, CA, to have another nice restaurant meal, and then stayed in the local campground on the south end of town. Great to take a shower!

Waking up early, I used up some relaxing time, to have a nice restaurant breakfast, then more drink. Headed then up to Lake Sabrina, I used the boat ramp parking lot. Walking across the dam, I scrambled up to the Sabrina Basin Trail. Lots of pretty flowers!

My goal was to hike the George Lake Trail, new for me, and to bag a minor summit, Table Mountain. Mosquitoes were fierce. I tried to use up a herbal repellent, which did help some, but I sustained several bites. No use to fret. Dark clouds formed above, and I hiked up, past the lake, to approach the Table Mountain summit plateau. I stopped to see what would happen.

I called it after a half hour, so snapped pictures of the view from here (photo right), then headed down, less than 200 feet vertical from my peak goal, but roughly half a mile away, horizontally. It began sprinkling in a half hour, then thunder was heard. Monsoonal moisture was affecting the High Sierra. I had to don my parka due to hail and rain, and tried for some quick pictures of the weather. Back to the parking lot by 1 p.m., I shortly motored back to Bishop.

Surfing the Net, I re-checked an activity for this weekend, by my mountaineering club. It would be nice to visit with like-minded climbers, even though only a few attended this event.

Back north to CA 203, I waited at Minaret Summit, enjoying the view and changing light, then motored down the Devils Postpiles Road. There is an entrance station that charges a $7 fee, as typical for the USFS, now, for driving past to camp, presumably. They are aggressively curtailing auto use on this narrow mountain road, requiring using a mandatory shuttle service from the ski resort. This is sometimes inconvenient for hikers, with limited hours, but I recall, in the deep past, the crowds and pollution from too many cars.

Chatting briefly with the small Club group, I soon figured to go back into Mammoth town to get dinner, and pay for camping, then. They had no peak climbing scheduled, and it seems this club is getting dismal for the activities I like!

I had a quick burger and fries, then, tired, I sought a campsite. I wound up, late, in June Lake, to luckily find a spot before I nodded out.

Saturday, I was to do one more peak. There was nice dawn light on the peaks seen from U.S. 395, with reddish clouds. Having another leisurely breakfast at the complex near Lee Vining, CA, I motored back up to Tioga Pass. Mt. Dana would be my choice. Hiking up, I had some excitement with clouds moving in. Lightning danger seemed likely. I conversed with some novice peak climbers, and kept looking to the sky. Sun mixed with clouds suggested that it was O.K. for a fast summit.

I topped out in three hours, a good time for myself, nowadays. We snapped photos, signed in the register, and started down. Rain and dark clouds surrounded us in the views. It turned out to hold, and we stuck together for a bit longer. They needed some tips on better enjoying climbing, but then they fell behind. I saw rain was coming, so made haste. Fifteen minutes before my return to Tioga Pass, heavy rain broke loose. I protected my digital hardware by putting it into my pack, and knew I'd make it back, parka on, or not.

I sat in my car, drying a bit, then headed back east to U.S. 395. I ate more food, a deli sandwich, then headed north to see what was new along U.S. 395, this year. The cloudy and rainy weather persisted, so I decided to head home. It would be hot back in town, but I can use my antiquated air, and resume my daily, frugal life.

Hiking some 30 miles, with 11,200' gain, I drove about 700 miles, total, and round trip. I shot over 600 digital images, and a few frames of Kodachrome. My cash expenses were some 165 dollars.

I never wore more than two light layers of clothing, and took, at most, only three liters of water, on each peak hike. My pack ran some 20-23 pounds, mostly emergency gear, never used. Seeing a few marmots, again, some deer were sighted as well. The flower display wasn't bad, me snapping several close-ups.

Whether the West Nile Virus turns out to be a problem for me, it remains to be seen. I have never been tested for it, but will see how things go. Complications could lead to the end of my hiking, but as they say, "If the problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it. And if the problem cannot be solved, worrying will do no good!"