Ski Mountaineering

Mt Abbott, Recess, Gemini and Julius Caesar

July 5-12, 2002

Reiner Stenzel

This was a summer Sierra trip to climb some orphan peaks for finishing the SPS peaks in September. SMS member Leslie Hofherr wanted to get another emblem peak, Abbot, and joined the trip. On Fri, July 5 we drove from LA to Lone Pine, stopped for dinner, then continued to Baker Creek Campground in Big Pine.

Sat, July 6. Left for an early breakfast at Schatz's bakery in Bishop and at 7 am got a wilderness permits for the Pine Creek Trail Head at the Ranger station. We started hiking around 9:30 am past the tungsten mine and a waterfall. Hikers told us there were lots of mosquitoes and they were so right! At the first lake, Pine Creek Lake, we took a swim to cool off and were eaten by the critters. Near Honeymoon Lake we picked up the Italy Pass Trail. The trail meandered through Granite Park by small lakes and along streams. It was very scenic. We crossed Italy Pass around 3 pm and were down at Lake Italy around 6 pm to set up camp. There was a fine view of Abbott, Dade, Gabb and the surrounding spiky ridges. The planned route up the west face of Abbott appeared pretty steep, but I had done it before and it is only a good class 3 climb. The sunset was spectacular.

Sun, July 7 - Got up for an early start to Abbott at 6:15 am. We hopped boulders and some snowfields along Lake Italy. On the other side of Lake Italy we headed up the pass between Gabb and Abbott angling toward Abbott. We climbed up to the highest point of Abbott's talus fan, entered the middle of three chutes as described by R.J., and followed the gully to the series of chutes leading to the top of the ridge. The chute was full of talus and boulders. Reiner stayed to one side and I was on the other side, which avoids rock fall on each other. The climbing in the chute was nice. Once on the ridge it was an easy walk to the top of Abbott. What a nice peak to climb. On the ridge top we found fresh polemonium.

The views from Abbott were outstanding. The wind from last evening had cleared the air and visibility was excellent. We saw our next destinations, Recess Peak and Gemini, took many pictures and signed the peak register.

We were back at camp for lunch, packed and around 1 pm we were on our way to Recess Peak. We hiked around Lake Italy, then followed the Hilgard Branch on a trail that faded in and out. There was some bushwhacking and navigation to do. At the crossing of the stream coming down from Hilgard Lke and the Hilgard Branch we set up camp. A gauze mesh tent provided relief from the hungry mosquitoes.

Mon, July 8 - We started at 7am to our destination, Recess Peak. We ascended along the creek from Hilgard Lake, crossed some marshes, some snowfields and meadows. While filling up my water bottle the loose cap was swept under a rock and could not be retrieved requiring an improvised cap with plastic bags and rubber bands. After a small pass we headed up to Mist Peak (12,692').

We down climbed around 400 ft to a sandy area with lots of little tiny flowers. After climbing 500 ft up on a boring talus slope we reached Recess Peak (12,836') by 10 am. Actually, its northeast face was impressive with a steep drop off to the Second Recess and large snowfields.

We returned via the same route except staying on the other side of the stream where we found a use trail. We were back in camp at around 2 pm. We relaxed in the nice warm sun. By 3 pm, we packed up and headed toward Gemini. The plan was to reach Marie Lake, which was located above the trees and hopefully mosquito free.

We hiked on a trail along the Hilgard Branch, reached the John Muir Trail and followed it to look for a stream crossing. The stream was moving very fast so a fall into the stream was not part of the plan. After two successful crossings we reached Lou Beverly Lake around 5:30 pm, ready to make camp. We caught some trout, set up the mosquito net tent, cooked dinner and had a well-deserved rest.

Tues, July 9 - We left Lou Beverly Lake and all its mosquitoes behind and hiked toward Three Island Lake. The terrain was very pretty with lots of small lakes, streams, marshes full of flowers and granite slabs. It was also relatively flat. At a grassy spot beyong Three Island Lake we had a snack. It would have been fun to stay longer but Gemini was waiting. We climbed up over some more granite ledges and past 5 unnamed lakes. On the way we saw a grouse speckled exactly like a granite rock. At 11 am we were at another small lake at about 11,800' elevation, close to Gemini, and decided to set up camp and do the peak without full packs. The climb up Gemini was over boulders along a ridge. One side of Gemini drops nearly straight down. The climb of the last 50 feet to the peak top was fun. We stayed on the summit from 1:30-3 pm and relaxed, ate and left VQ Man RJ a note in the register. We could see Recess Peak from Gemini. Back at camp we celebrated finishing 3 peaks in 3 days.

Wed, July 10 - We headed over a pass north of Gemini and dropped down some ledges to the Seven Gables Lakes. The gullies on the pass had snow in them so we downclimbed on dry ledges most of the way. We saw trout in Seven Gables Lakes but kept walking toward Vee Lake. There were trout at Vee Lake too but they did not bite. The views from Vee Lake of Seven Gables and around the lake were spectacular. Three hikers passed bye. We moved on to Bearpaw and Ursa Lake. In a small unnamed lake we admired a reflection of jagged peaks in green-blue cold water. The bear lakes were gorgeous. We camped at the north end of Black Bear Lake, fished around the lake and enjoyed the view of Seven Gables. Again we saw big dark trout in the lake but could not catch them.

Thur, July 11 - We awoke to a change in the weather. There were rain clouds developing early in the morning. We hiked XC over a pass northwest of Black Bear Lke toward Italy Pass and reached it by 10 am. We climbed easy Mount Julius Caesar, were back at the pass by 12 noon, and hiked down to the Chalfant Lakes. We saw another mother grouse with chicks. The chicks ran away but the mom froze and was nearly indistinguishable from the granite rocks. There was good fishing in the Chalfant Lakes but around 6 pm thunder, lightning and rain started and we retreated into the tent for the next 3 hours. We had a late dinner with two full pans of trout.

Fri, July 12 - We woke up early to hike out by 6:15 am. After the rain the air was cool and everything was fresh. We crossed over a small pass to find the Italy Pass trail. We were back at the car by 11am. After a clean-up at Keough we cruised through the Mojave Desert in 111 degree summer weather. It was a great and successful Sierra trip.

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