Ski Mountaineering

Clark, Gray and Red

Sep 17-20, 1998

Reiner Stenzel

This was a summer solo peak climbing trip into the Clark Range in Yosemite N.P. It is shown to contrast the sceneries seen on various SMS ski trips with those during summer time. For example, SMS ski trips have been done to the Southern Clark Range, the Yosemite High Route, the Mammoth-Yosemite Trans-Sierra, and in summer we have climbed Mt Ansel Adams and nearby peaks.

The Clark Range is a major chain of high mountains in the eastern Yosemite backcountry. It is widely visible, remote and accessible in normally two days of hiking. Four peaks are on the SPS list and Mt Clark is a challenging mountaineers peak.

During the years when the Sierra Club denied mountaineering insurance for scheduled trips, I did a lot of solo trips, which is a good way of gaining confidence in orienteering, climbing class 4 peaks and safety in general. A trip to the Clark Range looked like a good adventure.

Following previous trip descriptions I started on the Mono Meadows Trail, crossed the Illilouette Creek, passed south of Starr King and left the trail near the Clark Fork for a two hour XC hike through forest. From previous storms or fires lots of trees were downed and the terrain looked like an obstacle course. Traditional orienteering in dense forest is a challenge and the best way is to follow a creek. I headed east in the vicinity of the Clark Fork, which eventually leads to a nice lake between Clark and Gray, about 0.5mi NW of the latter. There I set up camp for the climbs of Clark and Gray.

The easiest ascent of Mt Clark is via the southeast ride. The climb is class 3 except for a short class 4 jump across an awkward gap just below the summit. This "Fresh Air Traverse" is easier on the descent since the jump is downhill, nevertheless exciting when you are unroped alone.

The views from the summit of Mt Clark (11,522') are wonderful. You can look down on Half Dome and Starr King, see the Ritter Range in the east and more peaks of the Clark Range to the south.

The next morning, 9/19, I had an early start for Gray Peak (11,573'). It is a straightforward cl2-3 peak climb and I was on the summit at 8am. Again fine views for many miles in all directions. I had my second breakfast, signed the book, took pics, then headed down. Packed up my camp and headed for Red Peak.

I hiked south to Lake 10,400' about 3/4mi NW of Red Peak, then up the northwest slopes and reached the summit of Red Peak (11,699') by 3pm. Great views of the Clark Range peaks to the north and south. One can also look into the headwaters of the Lyell Fork. What a difference to the scenery in wintertime, for example from the summit of Merced Peak or the view of the Clark Range in winter from a Trans-Sierra ski tour.

After descending from Red Pk there was still enough time to head part way back. I followed Red Creek and arrived by last daylight at the remote Grayling Lake, which even had a register to sign in. Not a soul at this pretty lake, truely a place of total solitude. It was a peaceful night.

Next morning I hiked out more or less the same way as in. On the Illilouette Creek trail there was an unusual sight: A huge boulder standing upside down on its tip. Maybe the trees keep it from falling :)

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