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Ascent of Laurel Mountain on 2018-07-21

Climber: david dakine

Date:Saturday, July 21, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Laurel Mountain
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:11811 ft / 3599 m

Ascent Trip Report

Summer thunderstorms were unusually strong in the Sierras these days, so I didn't expect to reach the summit, figuring this would be a scouting hike. I went to the base of the classic route but it was a soggy pile of dirty snow. So I headed back to the trail and immediately went up the slopes north to the hanging valley described by Bob Burd. It seemed to take forever but the top comes suddenly and becomes a flat walk through a valley towards the cliffs. The moraine is not bad at first but becomes slippery near the cliffs. I saw rockfall across the canyon. The cliffs are class 3, not granite here so it's a bit slippery too. Here the light hail began.

Before me is a meadow, the north saddle and the wide open north slope. Summit fever! I run out of water here because I never expected to get this far. The hail stops but the clouds gather right around the summit. It's clear to the north but stormy up at June Lakes. I meet a group of three hikers and bum some water off of them. They're also low on water, but they were planning to hike to the lakes on the south side of the summit where they would get water. Nice guys, I was not prepared and they graciously bailed me out. Little did I know it would soon be raining hard and pooling on the rocks.

The rain gradually strengthens so slowly I barely notice. The footing on the wet slate is fine. The guys are very outgoing and chatty, whereas I'm usually concentrating on breathing and step placement near the summit. It's just plain wet at the summit. We trade phones to take summit photos, which seems to have soaked my iPhone and damaged the screen backlight.

The guys invite me to join them down the south ridge, pointing out that although it's longer by several miles, water is available on that side after a short distance. I agree at first, but I'm becoming uncomfortable in the steady rain and decide to head back right away the way we came up. Thank goodness I turned around because these guys walked into a pretty strong thunderstorm.

Down the north face I find a use trail on the east side which I really could have used coming up. The rain is getting lighter as I cross the saddle but then I hear thunder overhead and the rain picks up. A pretty strong thunderstorm covers the area from Laurel Mountain south to Rock Creek and beyond. I veer north around the cliffs and curve back to the hanging valley. The rain is soaking, the thunder and lightning is frequent, all the way down to the lake. I was on the edge of the storm cell but I was looking towards the south where those guys were hiking near the center of the storm.

Back at the car it's breezy, cloudy and chilly, while I am soaked but relieved.

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