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Mount Williamson 14,389
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mini location map2018-07-20
45 by photographer avatarchumley
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Mount Williamson 14,389Sierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Backpack avatar Jul 20 2018
Backpack30.50 Miles 10,759 AEG
Backpack30.50 Miles3 Days         
10,759 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Scott put this one on the calendar a few months ago, and I try not to let opportunities to hike in the Sierra pass me by, so I said I'd be there for sure. The group ended up being a little larger than typical, but it turned out really well.

9L took the opportunity to join me on the drive and we all met up at camp Thursday evening for a beer and an ISS flyby before settling into bed for the night. Friday morning we headed to the Shepherd Pass trailhead and started out on our big 9 mile/4,800 foot hike to Anvil Camp. We all knew what we had ahead of us, and made it in better time than planned. The trail was in excellent condition and constructed as nicely as the other eastern Sierra access trails I've hiked. We arrived just as it started to rain and all managed to get tents set up and take shelter before the skies really opened up on us.

After some good showers and thunderstorms during the afternoon, things cleared up as it got dark. With the forecast not in our favor, and no change in the pattern over the next couple of days, we opted for an alpine start on our attempt to summit Williamson and Tyndall on Saturday. On the trail at 4am, we topped out at Shepherd Pass by 5:15, just as it got light enough to turn off our headlamps. From here it was the long trudge across Williamson Bowl toward the ascent route.

The group of 6 was moving at different speeds, so Joe and I split from the others, leaving us as two separate groups. At the southeast corner of the bowl, the route climbs steeply up the slope toward a chute. From there, the chute gains 1,000 feet in half a mile, topping out at the 14,000 foot contour. At the top of the chute, the crux of this summit is a class-3 climb referred to as "the chimney". I had been a bit apprehensive about this part, but when Joe and I arrived, a couple who had summitted at 7am were just finishing the descent and made it look easy. Turns out it was easy! The climb is nicely protected with no exposure, tons of hand and footholds, and easy shimmying up the chimney. At the top, you pop out onto the ridge about 300 feet below the summit and the views are amazing!

From here it's a piece of cake to reach the peak. It was now 9:30, and the clouds had begun to build aggressively. None looked particularly daunting quite yet, but our experience from yesterday led us to assume it was just a matter of time before these clouds would produce both rain and lightning. So our time on the summit was short. Nonetheless, the clouds made for some amazing views in all directions. For a short time, I was able to get a view of Whitney, just 5 miles away, and just 116 feet higher. I'm not sure I could ever see a better view of Whitney than this one! The absolute highlight of the trip! :)

The other half of our group was just topping out of the climb as we were headed down. Despite the building clouds, Joe and I still had hopes of hitting Tyndall on the way back. It would be a detour of 1,700 feet over a mile climb, right on the route we were hiking back to Shepherd Pass. But after an hour getting across the bowl, it was 1pm and the clouds over Williamson looked mean. Figuring it would take nearly two hours to get to the summit of Tyndall and the exposed nature of the route, we decided it wasn't worth the risk.

We headed back to camp, rain setting in about a mile before we got there confirming we made the right decision. Even without Tyndall, it was 12 miles and more than 5,000 feet gained over 10 hours ... a pretty good day! I enjoyed a well-earned afternoon nap as it rained and the thunder rumbled above.

Sunday morning, we slept in and hit the trail around 7:30 for the hike back down. While we were all prepared for the 600 foot climb in the middle of the descent, it still lasted longer and seemed steeper than we remembered. At Symmes Saddle we took a break, and 9L arrived just in time on a day hike to meet us and hike back down with the group.

We grabbed lunch in Lone Pine before the drive back to Phoenix. Big thanks to Scott for planning this one. It was a blast! Too bad the weather didn't cooperate enough to make Tyndall a realistic option. It was good to hike with Sam again, to hike with Taylor, and to meet Joe and Shawn. Thanks to 9L for joining on the drive. All in all, a fantastic trip!
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