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A Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra (1954), edited by Hervey H. Voge


Kearsarge Pass to Army and Franklin Passes

The Kings-Kern Divide and the Adjacent Crests

Hervey Voge

THE RUGGED ridge of the Kings-Kern Divide connects the main crest of the Sierra with the northern part of the Great Western Divide like the bar in a giant letter H. To the south of this bar lies the high plateau where the Kern River starts, while on the north the tributaries of the South Fork of the Kings River flow northward in several canyons between the subsidiary ridges which jut out from the divide. The Muir Trail crosses the Kings-Kern Divide at Foresters Pass.

The Kings-Kern region has much to offer climbers of various tastes. The main peaks range from easy to moderate by the standard routes, and are without exception very fine viewpoints. The precipitous Kearsarge Pinnacles, the crags north of Mount Ericsson, and many of the north and east faces of the larger peaks present real challenges to rock climbers.

Historical

Recorded climbing started in 1864 with the explorations of the party of the California State Geological Survey. This party was led by William H. Brewer and included Charles Hoffmann, Clarence King, and Richard Cotter. Brewer and Hoffmann ascended and named Mount Brewer, while King and Cotter made their way from Roaring River across the Great Western and Kings-Kern Divides to Mount Tyndall and back in the classic trip described in King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. King’s narrative relates climbing adventures in the dramatic style of the Nineteenth Century, and two of the most exciting passages concern the Kings-Kern Divide. The first of these describes the crossing of the divide, from north to south, somewhere between Thunder Mountain and Mount Jordan, in the course of which crossing the adventurous climbers at one time pulled themselves up by a lasso thrown over a partially loose spike of rock thirty feet above, and at another time descended by rope-downs when neither forward nor return progress was certain. The other dramatic episode occurred when the two climbers, on the return journey from Mount Tyndall, passed around the south end of what is now called Lake Reflection. Here they encountered a sheer bluff which could only be passed by ascending a steep tongue of icy snow and climbing a cliff at its head. After an unsuccessful attempt by King, Cotter led up the cliff and seated himself at the top. He called down to King and said, “Don’t be afraid to bear your weight on the rope.” Thus reassured King made the climb unaided, only to discover that Cotter had a very precarious perch and that the least pull would have dragged him over.

John Muir climbed several unidentified peaks near the Kings-Kern Divide in 1873. The region was more thoroughly explored by Bolton Coit Brown, J. N. LeConte, and others in 1896 and thereafter, and by E. T. Parsons in 1903. (The early history of the Kings River Sierra has been described by Francis P. Farquhar, SCB, 1941, 28). In later years many have climbed these peaks, Norman Clyde alone having at one time or another visited most of the major summits.

Geography

The arbitrary region here considered extends about eight miles along the crest from Kearsarge Pass to Shepherd Pass, westward along the Kings-Kern Divide to the Great Western Divide, and north along the latter divide to its terminus. The rock is mostly granite, but some dark, metamorphic rock is found on Center Peak, the Videttes, and in a few other areas. The granite varies from firm material in some places to rather badly decomposed rock in others. Sketch 21 is a map of the area.

Approaches

From Independence. Kearsarge Pass (11,823). From the end of the road in Onion Valley at 8,900 feet a good horse trail leads over Kearsarge Pass to Bullfrog Lake. Just below Bullfrog Lake this lateral joins the Muir Trail, which ‘may be followed south to the upper regions of Bubbs Creek, Center Basin, and the Kings-Kern Divide at Foresters Pass. East Lake may be reached by following west down Bubbs Creek (leaving the Muir Trail at Vidette Meadow) to just below the juncture with East Creek at a spot called Junction Meadow, whence a trail leading up East Creek climbs southward.

Shepherd Pass (12,000+). The Shepherd Pass trail starts at an elevation of about 6,500 feet at the end of a road which leaves U.S. 395 at Independence. The rather poor trail leads over Shepherd Pass to the Tyndall Creek plateau just south of the Kings-Kern Divide. Knapsackers may turn north at an elevation of about 10,500 on the east side of the, pass and follow the old Junction Pass trail across Junction Pass (13,200) into Center Basin. The Junction Pass trail is not recommended for animals.

From Kings Canyon. The Bubbs Creek trail leaves the Kings River Canyon at 4,800 feet and follows the creek until the Muir Trail is reached at 9,700 feet in Vidette Meadow. At Junction Meadow, at an elevation of about 8,500 feet, the trail to East Lake leaves the Bubbs Creek trail and goes south up East Creek.

Sketch 21. Map of the Kings-Kern Region.
[click to enlarge]
Sketch 21. Map of the Kings-Kern Region.

From the North. The Muir Trail leads over Glen Pass (11,900+) and to the foot of Bullfrog Lake, from which point various routes may be followed as described for the approach over Kearsarge Pass.

From the South. The Muir Trail traverses the high plateau east of the Kern River and crosses the Kings-Kern Divide at Foresters Pass (13,200). From the pass the trail descends to the headwaters of Bubbs Creek and Vidette Meadow.

From the West. Several routes to the high peaks are possible from the west. Either the trail up Sphinx Creek or that from Big Meadow may be followed to Moraine Meadow, Scaffold Meadow or the headwaters of the Roaring River. These trails are described in more detail in Starr’s Guide (1951). Knapsack routes lead from these points via Brewer Creek or Longley Pass to East Lake or Lake Reflection.

Campsites

Camps suitable for knapsackers may be found up to about 11,300 feet elevation in nearly all the valleys. Popular camping spots for those traveling with animals are situated at Bullfrog Lake, along Bubbs Creek from Vidette Meadow to the lower part of Center Basin, on East Creek from East Lake to just below Lake Reflection, and on the south side of the divide along Tyndall and Milestone creeks.

Passes

Besides the main trail passes mentioned under approaches, several others are of interest to climbers and knapsackers.

Junction Pass (13,200). Class 1. This pass crosses the main crest and connects Center Basin to the head of Shepherd Creek. It was once the main horse trail for north-south travel in this region, but is no longer maintained. Parts have been obscured by slides, and the trail is not well marked, so that knapsackers following it should pay close attention to the topographic map.

Harrison Pass (12,600+). Class 1 to 2. This pass across the Kings-Kern Divide leads from East Lake to Lake South America. It has occasionally been crossed by pack animals, but like Junction Pass is only recommended for foot travel. The trail is not clearly marked over the higher portion of the north side, but the place of crossing the divide is not especially critical. Steep and sometimes icy snow may be met on the north side, but the south side in this region is very easy walking.

Lucy’s Foot Pass (12,500+). In 1896 Bolton Coit Brown and his wife Lucy crossed the Kings-Kern Divide just west of Mount Ericsson, and since that time the pass has borne her name. There is no trail, and considerable rough talus is encountered, but the route is class 1.

Milly’s Foot Pass (12,300+). Perhaps the most direct route from Lake Reflection to the broad flats of the Upper Kern is the saddle just north of Mount Genevra. This was crossed in July 1953 by Mildred Jentsch and Sylvia Kershaw. The cliff on the northwest side is not as difficult as it appears, for a cleft passes diagonally up through it. Class 2.

University Pass (12,700+). Class 2. This is a climber’s pass from Onion Valley to Center Basin; it is the lowest point between University Peak and Peak 12,910. There is a steep snow gully on the northeast side and a long rocky chute on the southwest side.

Brewer Creek to East Lake Pass (12,800+). Class 1 to 2. This pass crosses the ridge between Mount Brewer and South Guard, and leads from Brewer Creek to East Lake. It is for foot travel only. The routes are about the same as for Mount Brewer, Routes 1 and 2, except that the summit of Brewer is bypassed.

Longley Pass (12,600+). Class 1. This foot pass leads from the stream below South Guard Lake on the west to Lake Reflection on the east side of the Great Western Divide, and passes between Peaks 13,232 and 13,021. On the west it is quite easy, and on the east not difficult except for a possible, seasonal, steep snow bank. There is a trail part of the way on the east side.

Deerhorn Saddle (12,800+). Class 1. The saddle east of Deerhorn Mountain provides a feasible knapsack route from the basin north of Harrison Pass to Vidette Creek.

Routes and Records for the Principal Peaks

The descriptions of routes and records are arranged in the following order:

Peaks of the main crest (north to south)
Peak east of the main crest
Peaks of the Great Western Divide (north to south)
Peaks west of the Great Western Divide
Peaks of the Kings-Kern Divide (west to east)
Peaks north of the Kings-Kern Divide
Peaks south of the Kings-Kern Divide

Peaks of the Main Crest (North to South)

Nameless Pyramid (1/4 S of Kearsarge Pass)

A small pyramid of rather monolithic granite stands on the main crest south of Kearsarge Pass and above Pothole Lake. It was first ascended in July 1952 by Ted Matthes, Frank Tarver, and Phillip Berry. The approach by the ridge from the pass, or from the northeast, or from the west, is class 3. The northern side of the pyramid is class 4 to 5.

Peak 12,423 (3/4 S of Kearsarge Pass)

Ascended by Norman Clyde, April 4, 1926.

University Peak (13,588)

Route 1. From the northwest. Class 1. First ascent July 12, 1896, by J. N. LeConte, Helen M. Gompertz, Estelle Miller, and Belle Miller. From the environs of Bullfrog Lake proceed southeast up the basin between the Kearsarge Pinnacles and the main crest to the upper Kearsarge Lake and continue toward a low gap in the ridge west of University Peak, passing over rough, giant talus and some snowbanks (seasonal) to the gap. From the gap the easiest route is to traverse around and up on the sandy southwest slope of the peak. It is also feasible to proceed from the gap to the ridge running northwest from the summit and to follow the ridge to the top; this variation (Walter Starr, Jr.) is class 2-3.

Route 2. South face. Class 1. From Center Basin the long, rather easy slope to the summit may be climbed by a number of routes.

Route 3. North face. About class 3. First known ascent by Norman Clyde, prior to 1928. From the group of lakes at the northern base, at about 10,500 feet (Slim Lake) climb up a steep, rocky slope, several thousand feet in length, to the eastern end of a knife-edge which can be followed to the summit with comparative ease.

Route 4. Southeast face. About class 3. Climbed by Norman Clyde, Sept. 29, 1928. He described it as a good but not very difficult rock scramble.

Route 5. Southeast ridge. Class 2. From University Pass (see above, section on passes) the ridge may be followed easily if one stays somewhat on the south side.

Route 6. Northeast ridge. It is reported that this ridge was climbed in 1947. Class 3 to 4.

Center Basin Crags (about 12,700-12,800)

The sharp crags standing on the main crest between Peak 12,910 and Mount Bradley have been numbered from north to south. Crag I is a fairly broad one, while Crags 2, 3, and 4 are sharper and are grouped together. Crag 5 is less steep. (See Sketch 22.)

Crag 1. South arête. Class 5. First ascent August 29, 1953, by Phil Berry and party.

Crags 2, 3 and 4. First ascended in July 1940 in a class 4 traverse by David R. Brower and L. Bruce Meyer. A long rope-down was used at the end. Crags 3 and 4 were ascended again in August 1953 by Brower and Phil Berry. They proceeded from Center Basin toward the notch south of Crag 4 and then crossed northward to the notch between Crags 3 and 4; from this point both crags were climbed. Class 5.

Crag 5. The north ridge is class 2. First ascent by unidentified party.

Sketch 22. The Center Basin Crags from the southwest.
[click to enlarge]
Sketch 22. The Center Basin Crags from the southwest.

Mount Bradley (13,280)

Route 1. West face. Class 2. First ascent July 5, 1898, by Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Price, J. Shinn, and Lalla Harris. The summit can probably be reached by any one of a number of chutes leading up from Center Basin to the main ridge. The easiest way is to climb straight up the talus chute below the main summit. When the chute forks about three-fourths of the way up, take the branch to the right, which leads to the saddle between the two summits. From the saddle go around behind (E of) the main summit, which is the left or northerly one, and ascend a narrow, easy chute to the top. The party of the first ascent took four hours from camp in lower Center Basin to the summit.

Route 2. Northwest ridge. Probably class 3 to 4. This ridge was followed from peak 12,910 on Aug. 31, 1948, by Fred L. Jones.

Route 3. East ridge. Probably class 2. Climbed Oct. 27, 1948, by the east ridge from Symmes Creek by Fred L. Jones.

Peak 13,370 (3/4 NE of Mount Keith)

All but the last 15 feet was climbed July 15, 1940, by Paul Estes. The summit is a difficult and exposed monolith.

Mount Keith (13,990)

Route 1. Northwest face. Class 1 to 2. First ascent July 6, 1898, by R. M. Price, J. E. Price, J. C. Shinn, and C. B. Bradley. Time from camp in Center Basin to the top was four hours.

Route 2. Southwest ridge. Class 2 to 3. The sharp ridge from Junction Pass was followed by two Sierra Club parties in 1916, and it was thought that this route had not been used in any previous ascents.

Route 3. South face. About class 2. According to Norman Clyde the ascent from about 10,000 feet on the Shepherd Pass trail is comparatively easy.

Junction Peak (BM 13,903)

Route 1. South ridge. Class 2. First ascent August 8, 1899, by E. B. Copeland and E. N. Henderson. Ascend the west wall of Diamond Mesa near the lower (southern) end and proceed north along the sandy plateau and along or somewhat to the west of an easy knife edge leading to the summit.

Route 2. West ridge. Class 2. From Foresters Pass follow the ridge eastward, passing over or to the south of one small subsidiary peak. On the main peak stay to the south of the northwest ridge, and proceed southward and upward from one chute to another as convenient.

Route 3. Southeast ridge. On August 21, 1929, A. R. Ellingwood followed the ridge from Shepherd Pass to the summit.

Peak East of the Main Crest

Independence Peak (11,773)

This may be climbed by the north slope from Onion Valley. Norman Clyde ascended the peak three times in 1926 and twice in 1927.

Peaks of the Great Western Divide (North to South)

Cross Mountain (12,140)

Ascended in 1929 by Walter L. Huber.

Peak 12,871 (3/4 NW of North Guard)

First ascent July 17, 1932, by Sierra Club parties, including Norman Clyde, Thomas Rawles, Lincoln O’Brien, and eleven others, from Sphinx Lakes. The climbers said that it was a splendid peak and that the highest point was a large slab almost overhanging the steep east face.

North Guard (13,304)

First ascent July 12, 1925, by Norman Clyde. The summit is a large, sloping obelisk, which overhangs the east face.

Route 1. South ridge or slopes. Class 1 to 2. From the north fork of Brewer Creek proceed to the saddle between Brewer and North Guard, or up the south slopes of the peak.

Route 2. East and north faces. Class 4. Climbed May 28, 1934, by David R. Brower and Hervey Voge. From East Lake proceed up Ouzel Creek and tributaries to the northeast flank of the mountain and ascend this wall to the prominent shoulder or col north-northeast of the summit. From the col climb a thirty-foot V crack on the nose of the ridge to a platform, and from this platform go to the right (W) on broken ledges on the north face and ascend a second difficult crack to the easier rocks leading to the summit.

A subsidiary peak north-northeast from North Guard, about 13,100, was climbed from Ouzel Creek Aug. to, 1948, by James Koontz and two others.

Mount Brewer (13,577)

Route 1. West slopes and south ridge. Class 1. First ascent by W. H. Brewer and C. F. Hoffmann, July 2, 1864. From Roaring River or Moraine Creek go up Brewer Creek to the notch just south of Mount Brewer and follow the easy ridge of broken rock to the summit.

Route 2. East slopes and south ridge. Class 1 to 2. First ascent by Bolton C. Brown and A. B. Clark, 1895. From East Lake proceed up Ouzel Creek, taking the middle fork which leads almost directly toward Mount Brewer. From this fork, in one of several possible places, climb the ridge to the south. Alternatively, the ridge may be climbed over rounded slabs at its foot from the junction of the first fork of Ouzel Creek shown on the map. This ridge joins the main south ridge of Mount Brewer at about the southern edge of the summit pyramid. Where this subsidiary eastern ridge joins the peak, work to the left (S) through a small notch to the main south ridge, and proceed northward up this to the summit. Time from East Lake to the top is about four hours.

Route 3. Northwest slopes. Class 1 to 2. Climb from the north fork of Brewer Creek.

Route 4. Northeast couloir and north ridge. Class 2 to 3. Ascended August 4, 1940, by Oliver Kehrlein, August and Grete Frugé, E. Hanson, L. West, R. Leggett, and A. Mulay. From the east side of the mountain ascend a steep couloir filled with snow and (or) ice which leads to the base of the main pyramid of the mountain on the north side, and then climb the north ridge or face to the top.

Peak 13,232 (3/4 E of South Guard Lake)

This peak may have been climbed by Clarence King and Richard Cotter on July 4, 1864. Clarence King wrote, in Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, that from the notch just south of Mount Brewer “with very great difficulty we climbed a peak which surmounted our wall just to the south of the pass . . .” From this peak they attempted to follow the Great Western Divide southward, but soon descended to the east.

Peak 13,021 (1.5 W of Mount Jordan)

First ascent by Norman Clyde in 1925.

Climbed August 8, 1940, by Oliver Kehrlein and five others from Lake Reflection by ascending the east side of the Great Western Divide somewhat north of Peak 13,021, and traversing along the divide, from north to south. Several minor summits were climbed before Peak 13,021 was reached.

Peak 13,110 (1/2 N of Thunder Mountain)

First ascent August 8, 1940, by Oliver Kehrlein and five others who traversed along the north ridge of the peak from Peak 13,021 (see above).

Thunder Mountain (BM 13,578)

First ascent August 1905 by G. K. Davis of the U.S. Geological Survey. The second ascent was made on July 27, 1927, by Norman Clyde. The customary route of ascent has been from the southeast, from a lake just under the mountain, which drains into the northern branch of Milestone Creek. There are three pinnacles on top which increase in difficulty from east to west. Class 3.

Peaks West of the Great Western Divide

Peak 12,680 (1/2 W of South Guard Lake)

There are no records available regarding this peak.

Peak 12,620 (1.5 W of Thunder Mountain)

No records of any climbs are available.

Peaks of the Kings-Kern Divide (West to East)

Peak 13,241 (3/4 E of Thunder Mountain)

First ascent unrecorded. Second ascent by the east face, August 1939 by Fritz Lipprnann, Dave Nelson, Don Woods, and Edward Koskinen.

Peak 13,102 (1/2 S of Mount Jordan)

Norman Clyde, July 5, 1931, climbed the first pinnacle south of Mount Jordan, and found no cairn.

Mount Jordan (13,316)

First ascent by Norman Clyde, July 15, 1925, evidently of the lower north peak.

Route 1. From the south. Class 2. In 1936 two Sierra Club parties, led by Lewis Clark and Carl Jensen, made the ascent. They found a cairn on the northern summit and also climbed the interesting southernmost pinnacle, which is the higher. It bore no evidence of any previous ascent. The intermediate points were not climbed.

Route 2. North face. Class 3. Climbed August 3, 1940, by Art Argiewicz and six others from Reflection Lake and a basin to the southeast of the lake. A delicate five-foot leap was made to attain the final summit, but this was not necessary as the summit pinnacle can be climbed (class 4) by its east face. The north face of Jordan can be reached from Lake Reflection by passing either east or west of Peak 12,047.

Route 3. West face. Descended August 3, 1940, by Art Argiewicz and party. About class 2, except for summit.

Mount Genevra (13,037)

First ascent July 15, 1925, by Norman Clyde, who also climbed it in 1927. A Sierra Club party led by Lewis Clark and Carl Jensen made the ascent from Milestone camp in 1936.

Route 1. East face. Ascended August 6, 1939, by Dave Nelson, Earl Jessen, and Hal Leich.

Route 2. North ridge. Class 2. On August 3, 1940, Robert Schonborn led a party of six to the top from East Lake by way of Lucy’s Foot Pass and the north ridge. As an alternative from Lake Reflection a good class 2 route leads to Milly’s Foot Pass (12,300+) just north of Mount Genevra.

Route 3. North face. Class 3. Ascended July 19, 1951, by Bill Bade, Barbara Lilley, and Franklin Barnett up the north face by way of a snow chute leading to the ridge just west of the summit.

Mount Ericsson (13,625)

Route 1. West ridge. Class 1 to 2. First ascent August 1, 1896, by Bolton C. Brown and Lucy Brown. From Lucy’s Foot Pass follow the easy ridge to the summit.

Route 2. East ridge. Class 1 to 2. Descended August 1, 1896, by Bolton C. Brown and Lucy Brown. From Harrison Pass climb the east ridge.

Route 3. South ridge. Class 2 to 3. Climbed by Lewis Clark and Carl Jensen in 1936.

Route 4. Northwest couloir. Class 3 to 4. Climbed in July 1946 by Norman Clyde, Robert Breckenfeld, ‘Jules Eichorn, Joe Brower, and Danny Kaplan. From Lake Reflection ascend toward Lucy’s Foot Pass. Climb the rocky chute which heads between Mount Ericsson and the first crag to the north. About one hundred feet below the head of this chute turn left (S) and ascend a steep, icy couloir which leads to the Kings-Kern Divide somewhat west of the summit of Ericsson. An ice axe is necessary in the couloir. From the divide climb the west ridge or the southwest slopes to the top.

Gregory’s Monument (about 13,960)

Route 1. West or southwest slopes. Class 1. First ascent July 1894 by Warren Gregory, Emmet and Loring Rixford, and W. Sanderson. This peak is the south and lower peak of Mount Stanford and is separated from the latter by a jagged, class-three ridge about one-fourth of a mile long. Technically speaking, the many who have ascended only to this point have not climbed Mount Stanford.

Route 2. North ridge. Class 3. Follow the ridge from Mount Stanford. See routes on the latter in the section on peaks north of the Kings-Kern Divide.

Route 3. East face. Class 3 to 4. Descended July 23, 1929, by Walter Starr, Jr., who wrote: “Left summit at 4:30 and descended to Center Basin via the first chute (lowest gap next to the peak) on the Junction Peak side. Bad rock climb down to ledge. From ledge descended steep snow chute, and from bottom snow in talus along stream to Center Basin and down Bubbs Creek. Arrived at Vidette Meadow 7:45 P.M.”

Peak 13,800+ (1/2 SE of Stanford)

Climbed August 17, 1938, by Bob Irwin. In July 1939 Jack Sturgeon traversed to this point from Peak 13,844, which is about one mile to the south. Class 2 to 3.

Peak 13,826 (1 NW of Junction Peak)

This is the highest point on the divide between Junction Peak and Gregory’s Monument. First ascent June 3, 1934, by David R. Brower and Hervey Voge. Class 3. From the lake on the south side of Foresters Pass they ascended the southeast face of the peak to the ridge between Gregory’s Monument and the peak proper, reaching the ridge at nearly its lowest point. They then proceeded eastward along the west arête to the top. Descent was by way of a shallow chute which led down the southeast face from the ridge just east of the summit, and included a rappel of about twenty feet.

Peaks North of the Kings-Kern Divide

South Guard (12,964)

First ascent July 26, 1916, by Walter L. Huber, Florence Burrell, Inezetta Holt, and James Rennie. They followed the south fork of Ouzel Creek to the snow field of its upper basin, and finding the snow too hard for secure footing, climbed the rocky northeast ridge of the peak, described as a very thin knife-edge of very loose rock. This ridge led them to the summit. To avoid the slow ridge, descent was made by ledges of the north face to the snow, and down the snow. Probably class 2 to 3.

Peak 11,844 (1.5 NW of East Lake)

Ascended from East Lake by Art Argiewicz and seven others on July 30, 1940.

Peak 12,610 (1.5 W of East Lake)

Traversed May 26, 1934, by David R. Brower and Hervey Voge who proceeded from Ouzel Creek to the saddle between the peak and North Guard and then ascended the west ridge. Descent was by the south face. Both routes are class 2.

Peak 11,597 (1/2 SW Of East Lake)

This is actually a long ridge which extends northeastward from South Guard; it offers interesting and convenient climbing.

Route 1. Southwest ridge. Class 2 to 3. David R. Brower and Hervey Voge, May 28, 1934. From the upper portion of the south fork of Ouzel Creek climb to the ridge and follow it eastward, weaving among small towers, blocks, and knife edges.

Route 2. South face. Class 2 to 3. David R. Brower and Hervey Voge, May 28, 1934. An entertaining climb, just below the difficulty requiring a rope.

Route 3. North face. Climbed August 3, 1940, by parties led by Alan MacRae and Oliver Kehrlein.

Peak 11,593 (1/2 NW of Lake Reflection)

The north face of this cleaver-shaped peak was climbed on July 31, 1940, by Oliver Kehrlein and six others.

Peak 12,311 (3/4 W of Mount Jordan)

First ascent August 8, 1940, by Peter Friedrichsen and three others.

Peak 12,047 (1/2 S of Lake Reflection)

Ascended prior to 1952 by M. Roth and Calkins Fletcher. Class 3 from the saddle to the south.

Ericsson Crags

There are three main crags on the north ridge of Mount Ericsson. Crag 1 is that closest to Ericsson, and Crag 3 that farthest away. These crags are most readily accessible by way of the rocky chutes which lead up to the ridge from the west. The crags offer challenging climbing and there are many possible routes and minor pinnacles that have not yet been explored.

Crag 1. (About 13,000.) Southeast face. First ascent August 4, 1939, by Edward Koskinen, Don Woods, and DeWitt Allen. Ascend the chute which goes up from the west between Crag I and Ericsson. About two-thirds of the way up this chute branches. Take the left or north branch, which will lead to a broad shoulder on the ridge just south of the top-most portion of Crag 1. A smaller and rather difficult crag (climbed in 1939 by Voge, Waller, and Woods) separates this shoulder from the north face of Mount Ericsson. From the shoulder a rather open chimney leads up the southeast face of the crag, but at the bottom the chimney ends in an overhanging crack. The climbable portion of the chimney can be reached by a delicate, downward traverse from a little arête just to the left (W) of the creek. This pitch would require a piton for safety except for the fact that it is possible to provide adequate upper belays without one. The route then leads up the chimney, over several large steps, and finally up the northwest side of the summit block.

Crag 1W. This is a formidable looking crag quite a distance out on the ridge running west from Crag 1. There are no records of any attempts. The most feasible route appears to be on the north and northwest faces.

Crag 2. (About 12,950.) Class 3 to 4. First ascent August 3, 1939, by David R. Brower and Hervey Voge. Ascend the main rocky chute coming down to the west between Crags 2 and 3. From this climb the next to the highest chute which enters this main chute from the south and which leads to the northwest face of Crag 2. Take the right (W) branch of this next-to-highest subsidiary chute and climb out of it just to the left (N) of some caves by means of a class-4 pitch. From there rather easy slopes lead to the top.

Crag 3. (About 12,900.) Class 3 to 4. First ascent prior to 1939. Ascend the main chute coming down to the west between Crags 2 and 3. When nearly to the top of this chute cross a rib to the left (N) by a band of broken rock and continue up the next chute to the north. Leave this by means of a rather delicate chimney which leads to the crest of the south ridge of the crag. Proceed along the east side of the ridge to a little arête running east from the top of the crag. Climb up the arête to the main ridge and follow this to the top. The climb can also be made by way of the southwest slope from the main chute.

Peak 12,222 (3/4 NE of East Lake)

First ascent Sept. 19, 1926, by Norman Clyde. Climbed July 30, 1940, by William Morrison and four others from East Lake, by way of the lake basin at the foot of Deerhorn.

West Vidette (12,229)

First ascent August 1920 by Norman Clyde and Louis Schichter. This peak is class 1 to 2 from the southeast from Vidette Creek. The north face may offer interesting climbing.

West Spur Peak (12,500+, 1/2 S of West Vidette)

First ascent Sept. 19, 1926, by Norman Clyde, who climbed the West Vidette and the peak to the south.

West Spur Peak (12,685)

On July 14, 1940, Dick Goldsmith and Anna Shinn stopped 50 feet from the top. On August 8, 1940, William Morrison and three others made the ascent from the west, from East Lake.

The Minster (12,200+, 3/4 W of Deerhorn)

This is a jagged ridge of grotesque spires extending westward from Deerhorn Mountain. A complete east to west traverse was made on August 3, 1939, by Ted Waller, Don Woods, and Edward Koskinen, who found no records of previous visits on any of the spires.

Deerhorn Mountain (13,275)

The twin peaks of Deerhorn make it an easily recognized landmark. The southeast peak is slightly higher. The first recorded ascent was made on July 8, 1927, by Norman Clyde, who found no cairn on the southeast peak, but possibly one on the northwest peak. Various routes have been used; those listed below are not necessarily arranged in chronological order.

Route 1. Southwest chute. Class 3 to 4. Ascend the chute which heads between the twin peaks of Deerhorn. The most difficult portions are near the bottom and near the top. From the notch the southeast peak may be climbed by its north face or its northwest arête. This peak has a small, steep top, and in 1939 a party of three was so cramped there that they lost the can containing earlier names down the north face.

Route 2. West ridge. Class 3. From the trail to Harrison Pass, at about 11,000 feet, ascend the southwest slopes of the ridge to a point a little east of the lowest point on the ridge between The Minster and the west gendarmes of Deerhorn. Proceed eastward on the ridge, staying more on the north side than on the south. Ascend the northwest peak of Deerhorn on cluttered ledges. Descend to the notch between the two peaks, and climb the southeast peak by its north face. This route was followed by Norman Clyde, Hervey Voge, and Ted Waller on August 5, 1939.

Route 3. Northwest basin and west ridge. Class 3. Climb into the basin almost due east of East Lake and proceed from its upper end to the west ridge of Deerhorn, which may be traversed as noted above to the summits. Route done by W. Morrison, R. Kauffman, and Norman Roth on August 5, 1940.

Route 4. Southwest face. Class 3 to 4. From the Harrison Pass trail at about 11,000 feet climb the southwest face of the mountain, aiming for a point just west of and about 300 feet below the northwest peak. From here work around to the north and climb to the top of the northwest peak. The traverse may then be made to the southeast peak. It is also possible to climb directly up the west face of the northwest peak, which for 300 to 400 feet is quite airy but not really difficult. This route was made by Norman Clyde, Jules Eichorn, Robert Breckenfeld, and others, in July 1946.

Route 5. North buttress. About class 4. This buttress leads from upper Vidette Creek directly to the northwest peak of Deerhorn. It was climbed by Norman Clyde.

Subsidiary Peaks of Deerhorn Mountain

To the east of Deerhorn there are two sharp subsidiary peaks. No records exist regarding the double-pointed peaklet nearest the main southeast peak. The next peaklet to the east was climbed August 3, 1939, by DeWitt Allen and Fritz Lippmann by the southwest chute. They used a piton a number of times for safety in the wet chute.

An arête running north of Deerhorn somewhat west of the northwest peak was traversed by Norman Clyde, David R. Brower, and eight others on July 13, 1940. No record was found of previous ascent of peaks on the arête.

East Vidette (12,742)

First ascent by a Sierra Club party in 1910.

Route 1. Southeast ridge. Class 2 to 3. A variation of this route is the ascent of the north side of this ridge and the traversing of the upper portion of the ridge to the summit.

Route 2. North side. Class 3 to 4 up north or northwest face.

East Spur, Peak 12,722

Climbed for the first time by Jim Harkins and Pat Goldsworthy on July 14, 1940.

Peak 12,288 (1.5 W of Center Peak)

There is no record of any ascent.

Peak 13,440 (3/4 E of Deerhorn)

Climbed by Boynton and Edith Kaiser, August 7, 1948. This peak may possibly have been traversed by Norman Clyde and David R. Brower on August 4, 1939, during a descent from Mount Stanford. It was climbed from Vidette Creek by the Kaisers, who went up the northwest slope, staying somewhat northeast of the ridge leading from 13,440 to the low pass to the west.

Mount Stanford (13,983)

This peak is separated from Gregory’s Monument (see peaks of the Kings-Kern Divide) by a knife-edge ridge about one-fourth of a mile long.

Route 1. South ridge. Class 3. From Gregory’s Monument follow the ridge, with minor deviations to one side or the other. The crossing takes about 20 minutes. First ascent August 1, 1896, by Bolton C. Brown.

Route 2. West face. Class 3. First descent August 1, 1896, by Bolton C. Brown, who went down the chute where the knife-edge from Gregory’s Monument joined the peak of Stanford (just S of the final peak). He went down the chute for about one thousand feet and then proceeded downward and toward the south from chute to chute to the cliff base near a small lake below Harrison Pass.

Route 3. West face and north ridge. About class 3. The west face may be ascended to the ridge north of the summit and the ridge followed southward to the summit. This route was followed by Art Argiewicz and three others in August 1940.

Route 4. North ridge. About class 3. This route was descended by David R. Brower and Norman Clyde, August 4, 1939. They traversed the north ridge from the summit to the saddle east of Deerhorn.

Route 5. East face. About class 3. A steep couloir or chute usually filled with snow descends almost directly from the summit of Stanford toward the basin west of Center Peak. The face to the south of this chute may be ascended to the summit, or the chute itself may be followed, if one keeps to the north side. These climbs were made in August 1947 by James R. Harkins and several others. In 1948 Beckett Howorth and party ascended the “east ridge.”

Route 6. East arête and north ridge. Class 3. Ascended in 1953 by High Trip party. About one-half mile north of the summit an arête extends eastward. Climb this to its junction with the main mass, and ascend a chimney leading to the north ridge.

Kearsarge Pinnacles (about 11,700 to 11,967, 12,009, etc.)

These sharp little pinnacles are numbered consecutively from southeast to northwest, numbers i through 12, after the 1939 system of Edward Koskinen. Several numbering systems have been applied in the past, and the numbers on the summits, if any, may differ from those given here. The minor summits are not numbered. The pinnacles may be identified from the accompanying Sketch 23. From the north the notches 3-4, 5-6, and 9-10 are rather readily reached, while 4-5 and 8-9 are harder.

Sketch 23. The Kearsarge Pinnacles from the north.
[click to enlarge]
Sketch 23. The Kearsarge Pinnacles from the north.

Pinnacle 1. First ascent July 28, 1935, by May Pridham, Miles Werner, and Pan Coffin.

Pinnacle 2. First ascent as for Pinnacle 1.

Pinnacle 3. First ascent August 1, 1939, by Ted Waller, Don Woods, David Nelson, and Edward Koskinen.

Pinnacle 4. First recorded ascent as for Pinnacle 3.

Pinnacle 5. Records unknown.

Pinnacle 6. Records unknown.

Pinnacle 7. This pinnacle has been climbed numerous times.

Pinnacle 8. Class 5. Best climbed from the south notch (7-8 notch). First ascent in July 1932 by Glen Dawson, Thomas Rawles and Hans Leschke.

Pinnacle 9. First recorded climb July 25, 1924, by R. Howard. It is easy class 4 from the northeast. Climb up the chute to the high V-notch between 8 and 9, go around to the south side of the ridge, and climb up the face, reaching the lower summit first. An ice axe may be needed in the chute. Or climb from the 9-10 notch.

Pinnacles 10, 11, 12. All have been climbed many times. First ascent probably by Glen Dawson, Owen Ward, and Hans Leschke in 1932. They may be approached from the northwest end of the ridge, from the north, or from the 9-10 notch.

Besides the ascents mentioned above, climbs of unidentified pinnacles were made earlier. In 1932 jack Riegelhuth climbed up the nearest chimney from Vidette Meadow to the top of “the highest pinnacle.” On July 28, 1935, a Sierra Club party including Peter Grubb and Neil Ruge climbed “a few” of the northwestern pinnacles.

Center Peak (12,767)

First ascent July 5, 1898, by C. G. Bradley, by an unknown route. Two hours to the top from the meadow at the foot.

Route 1. North face. Class 3. David R. Brower and Hervey Voge, May 22, 1934. Three chutes discharge prominent talus fans into Center Basin northwest of the peak. Take the center chute and climb well up within the mountain wall; then turn to the right (SW) up a chute which leads up to the northwest buttress of the peak. Follow along the buttress to a saddle, and there cross to the west side of the northwest ridge and climb upward close to the ridgetop to within two hundred feet of the summit, then cross to the north face for a short way, back to the west, and then to the top.

Route 2. East face. Class 1 to 2. This face may be ascended in several places from about 11,500 feet in Center Basin.

Route 3. Northwest face. Class 3. Ascended by Phil Berry and Frank Tarver, July 26, 1952. South of the talus fans mentioned under Route 1, and about 100 yards south of the sheerest part of the face, proceed directly up the face to a tunnel at the top of the face. From the tunnel ledges lead to the summit.

Peaks South of the Kings-Kern Divide

Peak 12,492 (3/4 SW Of Mount Genevra)

This peak was climbed from Milestone Creek in August 1939 by Fritz Lippmann, Dave Nelson, Don Woods, and Edward Koskinen.

Peak 13,844 (1.3 W of Junction Peak)

Climbed by Norman Clyde, June 22, 1926.

Peak 13,028 (1.3 W of Diamond Mesa)

Climbed July To, 1939, by Jack Sturgeon.

Diamond Mesa

Strictly speaking there is no summit of the Mesa, since it rises continuously toward Junction Peak. It was climbed July 10, 1898, by Bolton C. Brown and a companion in an attempt on Junction. It may be ascended by the west face, especially near the southern end, and may also be reached by following the ridge from Junction Peak. There is a meadow and a stream on the Mesa’s lower end.

References

Text: SCB, 1895, 214; 1896, 289; 1897, 21, 83, 92; 1899, 272; 1900, 109, 154, 172; 1903, 242, 278, 290; 1907, 159; 1912, 163; 1917, 230, 237; 1922, 252; 1923, 378; 1926, 307; 1927, 42220; 1928, 32, 88; 1929, 87; 1932, Ito 1933, 126; 1934, 97; 1935, 69; 1936, 93; 1937, 105; 1940, 124, 130; 1941, 127, 129, 134; 1947, 99.

Photographs: Sierra Club Bulletin magazine numbers, year and facing page as shown: Mount Bago: 1910, 236. Mount Brewer: 1897, 17, 20 (sketches); 1902, 95 (from Kearsarge Pass, from Bullfrog Lake); 1903, 278, 281 (on climb from East Lake), 282 (view from); 1907, 162 (from Brewer Creek); 1917, 206 (from east); 1926, 237 (from Kearsarge Pass); 1941, 94-5 (from Mount Gould); 1945, 62 (from east). Center Peak: 1923, 378; 1933, 14; 1941, 14-15. Deerhorn Mountain: 1913, 25 (from southeast); 1930, 67 (from north). East Vidette: 1903, 282; 1911, 13 (from north); 1917, 179 (from north); 1930, 67 (in winter); 1941, 14. Foresters Pass: 1923, 23. Mount Ericsson: 1897, 92 (sketch from west, with crags); 1913, 25 (crags). Mount Jordan: 1911, 15. Junction Peak: 1917, 178 (from east); 1933, 15. Kearsarge Pinnacles: 1894, 100 (from north, as are most of the following); 1902, 95; 1910, 237; 1911, 12; 1917, 190, 207; 1919, 407; 1926, 220; 1941, 94. Kings-Kern Divide: 1897, 21, 22, 26 (sketch maps); 1917, 207 (from Mount Gould); 1945, 62 (peaks above Lake Reflection); 1941, 95. North Guard: 1903, 278. South Guard: 1897, 20 (sketch). University Peak: 1910, 238-9 (from north in winter); 1912, 285; 1917, 190, 191 (from Kearsarge and Pothole Lakes); 1944, 46 (from north). West Vidette: 1912, 274 (from Junction Meadow); 1941, 94 (from Mount Gould).



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