2014 - June 7-9 » Lukens and Barnard

En route to the Sierra for the week, Phil Stinis and I tagged a quick HPS peak, Mt Lukens (pics 1-5), before stopping off to visit long time friend Tom Waggoner. After leaving Tom's, we set our sights on Whitney Portal, crashing out in the truck sometime around 11pm, sleeping in until almost 8am the next morning. We then picked up permits for George Creek at the Lone Pine ranger station, had a leisurely breakfast at the Alabama Hills Café, then made our way to the George Creek trailhead.

I’d been up the George Creek drainage several times before, though the last was in 2007 and time had faded memories of the pain. No real trail, thick brush, more than a handful of stream crossings (some pretty sketchy!), and  a bit of rock hopping makes for slow going, with no chance to allow one to drift off into mindless thought. Phil hadn't been fully informed of my plans ahead of time and wasn't amused at my choice of outings :). We packed into camp at just over 10000 feet, taking almost 6 hours to cover what the map shows to be about 4 miles (in reality, with all the weaving, we most likely covered near twice that, and Phil’s GPS showed that we had over 1000’ of unplanned ups and downs).

Up at 5:30 am on Monday, we ate a quick breakfast and got moving towards our objectives, Barnard (13990') and Trojan (13950'). We were moving slowly, and the lack of snow and views of seemingly endless sand slopes above made it hard to keep motivation as we’d really been hoping for a nice crampon climb. We had our work cut out for us, and I couldn't blame Phil when he decided to call it a day at 11k. I removed my ice axe, crampons, and gaiters from my pack and left them on a rock to retrieve during my descent, and had renewed vigor once I made the decision that I was actually going up. My pace quickened, and after sand gave way to dirt and eventually to granite blocks up high, I found myself on the summit of Barnard. I savored the endless views into the Sierra for just a few minutes before heading back down again. I decided to skip out on Trojan, which just looked like a lot more sand and scree, knowing that we’d already be pushing to get back to the truck before dark (which we did, just barely).

When I had researched Barnard before the trip, more than one person had called Barnard one of the harder 13ers that they had climbed, and the same was true for me, but mostly just because of the approach through George Creek. Upon closer inspection of the map after the climb, I believe a quicker route would be via Whitney Portal. At the very least, day hiking via George Creek would have been less effort than packing in. Still, given enough time to soften memories of the torment, I'd probably do it again ;)

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