The view southwest from the summit of Mt Agassiz to Sill, Nth Palisade & Thunderbolt

 

Mount Agassiz Climbs: 1993 & 2003


June, 1993: The snow was a problem on the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail. I camped the first night at the creek crossing, not far from the trailhead.  The following day I climbed above Sam Mack Meadow to a rock outcrop near the still frozen Sam Mack Lake; happily dumped my heavy pack and set up what became a pleasant base camp for five days.  During my first outing on the Palisade Glacier I did a recce of the area below Mt Agassiz. Studied the southeast ... Class 3, couloir for this peak and then traversed across to the southeast side of Agassiz Col, a Class 3 crossing into Dusy Basin.  Relatively easy from where I’d come from, but the descent into Dusy Basin looked a little desperate ... steep, with much loose rock.  I also studied the Class 3 route up Mt Winchell, which appeared rather exposed on the lower snow sections.

The next day, in excellent weather, I set off early for an attempt on Agassiz.  The initial sections of the couloir were dauntingly steep, enclosed by a narrow gully of vertical rock, giving me some reservations about the wisdom of trying this route. 

  • My camp at Sam Mack Meadow.  Later I moved camp above here to Sam Mack Lake My camp at Sam Mack Meadow. Later I moved camp above here to Sam Mack Lake
  • Looking at the southeast face of Agassiz ... The center couloir was my climb route Looking at the southeast face of Agassiz ... The center couloir was my climb route
  • Looking down the couloir from above the snow section Looking down the couloir from above the snow section
  • The view of Agassiz Col from the summit ridge of Agassiz ... Dusy Basin beyond The view of Agassiz Col from the summit ridge of Agassiz ... Dusy Basin beyond
  • Looking down from the Agassiz summit ridge to the route I'd taken Looking down from the Agassiz summit ridge to the route I'd taken
  • The view from the 13,900' summit of Agassiz ... looking southwest to Mt Sill The view from the 13,900' summit of Agassiz ... looking southwest to Mt Sill
  • A summer view of the western face of Mt Agassiz and Bishop Pass A summer view of the western face of Mt Agassiz and Bishop Pass
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The snow was hard, necessitating some front-pointing on crampons and I quickly became aware of the potential avalanche danger in the gully… snow, rocks or both!  After 1,000’ of snow, it was crampons off and scrambling up steep loose rock.  The moves then were relatively easy; mixed rock and occasional snow patches until reaching a ridge that took me amazingly to the summit.  Couldn't believe it; I’d not been that sure of actually standing on top of Agassiz at 13,900'.  The easy route for this peak was clearly visible, leading down to Bishop Pass and the well used trail that crosses from South Lake to Dusy Basin. The route that I would later use in 2003.

During August of 2003, in the company of Jeff Warner, I’d planned to hike the ‘JMT Circuit’ from North Lake to South Lake. The total distance of this very popular route is 56 miles, with elevations of 11,300' at Piute Pass, 12,000' at Muir Pass and 11,900' at Bishop Pass. The lowest point is 8,100’ at the trail intersection of Piute Pass and the JMT. I'd reckoned on completing the trip in five days and we provisioned accordingly. Shortly into the hike, we learnt from other groups also doing the circuit, that their plans called for at least seven days. I initially dismissed these folks as idle sightseers, but as our daily efforts to make the required mileage turned into forced marches, their relaxed itineraries began to make a lot of sense.

 

  • Peter and Jeff on the JMT section between Piute Creek and Evolution Valley Peter and Jeff on the JMT section between Piute Creek and Evolution Valley
  • Peter on the easy eastern slopes of Mt Goode Peter on the easy eastern slopes of Mt Goode
  • Peter on the 13,100' summit of Mt Goode.  Mt Agassiz behind. Peter on the 13,100' summit of Mt Goode. Mt Agassiz behind.
  • Looking east towards South Lake from the Mt Goode summit Looking east towards South Lake from the Mt Goode summit
  • The western face of Mt Agassiz ... our route began at the lower left snowfield The western face of Mt Agassiz ... our route began at the lower left snowfield
  • The summit of Mt Sill in the distance as seen from Mt Goode The summit of Mt Sill in the distance as seen from Mt Goode
  • Peter approaching the summit ridge of Mt Agassiz Peter approaching the summit ridge of Mt Agassiz
  • A snow free Agassiz Col seen from the summit ridge A snow free Agassiz Col seen from the summit ridge
  • An almost snow free view of Palisade Glacier, Mt Sill, Thunderbolt & North Palisade An almost snow free view of Palisade Glacier, Mt Sill, Thunderbolt & North Palisade
  • Jeff at rest on the summit of Mt Agassiz. Jeff at rest on the summit of Mt Agassiz.
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In the event, we did complete the trip in five days and benefited from the hard exercise as a preparation for our second adventure.  After a three day break at Parchers Resort, we hiked back to a location near Bishop Lake; camping at an elevation of 11,400’ and made plans to climb two major peaks in the area.  The first was Goode Peak --13,100', an easy scramble up the southeast slope to an impressive exposed summit.  Our second ascent was on Mount Agassiz--13,900'.  We scrambled up the talus covered west slope to a summit that provides great views of the Palisade Glacier and the 14,000' peaks that surround it: Sill, Polemonium, North Palisade and Thunderbolt.

 

©PeterTremayne, Reno, 2012

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