Ski Mountaineering

Hiking and Climbing

July 14-17, 2021

Reiner Stenzel

In the midle the summer one has a desire to escape to the mountains away from the hot low land. From the SF Bay area the Lake Tahoe area is the most popular destination. The Eastern Sierra requires a long drive which is populated by SoCals. Thus a bit of wilderness requires hiking in the boondoggles of the Carson-Iceberg and Stanislaus Wilderness where there are lakes, rivers and mountains.

On Thurs, 7/15/2012, I drove to Union Reservoir, near Spicer Reservoir, reached on SR 4 leaving followed by a 26 mi dirt road to Union Reservoir. Not to my surprise all campgrounds were filled, thus I car camped at the Elephant Rock Trailhead. Next day, 7/16/2012, I got up at 6 am, started the climb at 7 am, then summited by 8:30 am on Elephant Rock.

The climb was the highlight of the day. No definite route has been described, other than the west face has a class 3 route and the rest are cl 4 climbs. Thus I spotted a possible route on the southwest face, consisting of channels and ledges. Well, the plan started ok but then it got steeper and unpredictable. Thus, once on the climb one cannot find a continuity and many attempts were done to make process. I spent time checking rock stability. All hands and feet were needed, no chance to take a picture. The adrenaline was flowing when climbing cl 4. Climbing slow and careful moves I got to the trees where the steepness decreases to cl 3. I left some cairns for the return, but was wondering whether I should not find a better return route.

The high point seen in Fig.3 is not the real summit. There is an eastern ridge where several peaklets lead to the summit. The funny situation is that the summit climb is easy but the sidewalls not. Maybe this feature describes climbing a real elephant. Once on the top I searched for the peak register. No luck, not even paper scraps. But I could call from the peak, wondering where a cell tower could be. After breakfast, picture taking and calling I started the return. I found two cairns which lead to the west face with a broad chute. No problem in the beginning but it got steeper. Occasionally it was safer to face a steep wall for safer descending. But in retrospect this was the right cl 3 route. At the botton fan all little rocks flowed down when I stepped into the fan. I climbed at the boundary of scree and brush which provided a good handhold hiking in trail shoes.

Once down I XC hiked to the Elephant Rock Lake and took a good rest. I cleaned in the lake, had breakfast, took pictures and was satisfied that one can still climb with 81 years. I hiked back to the car and drove to the second destination, Loon Lake. It is found by Hwy 50, turn off at Ice House Road, and followed innumerate switch turn for about 26 miles. A similar experience arose: Crowds everywhere,, all campgrounds full, but I was lucky for one night of an unused reserved spot. I spent the late afternoon by hiking along the Loon Reservoir.

On Sat, 7/17, I hiked to Spider Lake, the prettiest lake I spent three years ago. The lake has many arms like spiders, some filled with water lilies, others have clean granite slabs for easy swimming and sunbathing, wild ducks and geese, free camping and I saw only one couple camping. After hiking part around the lake I decided to turn back. By 2 pm I was back at the car and had enough time to drive home. In the early afternoon thunderstorm clouds grew. If closer lightning cause wildfires and the traffic could be like at home. Thus I cut one day to enjoy my four days in the mountains.

Trip pictures (click for large version):

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