10 Oct A Feathered Winter Treasure
Philip and I met for coffee the morning following our three day adventure into the Royce Lakes basin of Pine Creek. We have climbed together in various mountainous areas across the U.S for over a decade and share the commonality of two loves: the love of the mountains and good coffee.
Philip’s partner texted that she looked forward to hearing about his experience. Philip expressed this was a good way to view trips in the mountains: they are all experiences. The physical experience that reflects our fitness; our response to altitude; to heat, cold and other elements; and our level of exertion. The emotional experience that envelopes how we feel about and relate to our environment and ourselves.
Philip and I had planned to climb the N Ridge of Feather Peak over a three day itinerary September 29 – October 1st.
Day 1: Hike ~ 7 miles with 4,000ft gain to Royce Lakes beneath the overpowering presence of Merriam, Royce and Feather Peaks. 6 miles and 3,000ft to Honeymoon Lake is on a maintained trail while the remaining 1.2 miles and 1,000ft is cross country over granite slabs and meadow.
Day 2: Climb the N Ridge of Feather Peak: an immense and captivating 5.4 ridgeline
Day 3: Hike out
Unfortunately for that plan, our forecast was calling for a significant drop in temperatures, snow and electricity.
Last minute adjustments were necessary.
Philip remained keen to be in the mountains as opposed to rock climbing at a lower elevation; so we would don extra layers! Because the Sierra offers endless back-up plans, we could plan a 2nd class ridge of Treasure Benchmark, Royce, or Mt Julius Caesar where frozen hands on 5th class rock wouldn’t come into play.
We camped at Honeymoon Lake to be warmer: lower in elevation protected by more landscape (trees), less far in, and directly off the trail.
When we awoke in our wintery storm, we knew Treasure Benchmark was the most promising experience. As luck would have it, the storms came and went, without electricity, allowing a less risky yet cold climb. We saw the remains of summer flowers wilt (collapse? crushed?) below the snow and the glistening of the newly approaching winter. It took my toes a few thousand feet of descent on our third morning to fully ‘feel’ winter, but, you know, they adapt.
Any trip in the mountains is an experience. We adapt to the mountain conditions and we adapt to our personal condition. These adaptations create what we lovingly refer to as the mountain experience.
Author: SMG Guide Lindsay Fixmer