Ascent of Split Mountain on 2018-10-20

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Whiley Hall
Date:Saturday, October 20, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Split Mountain
    Elevation:14058 ft / 4284 m

Ascent Trip Report

Split Mountain - there is no easy part in bagging this California 14er. The drive to the trailhead, the steep and loose "trail", the extended steep summit class 2+ scramble - these characteristics make Split a real satisfying peak.

I picked up Whiley from LAX on Thursday around 8pm and we continued on up to the Sierras. I was fading on the drive so we stopped only 2 hours in at Red Rock Canyon campground for the night. This was actually a great spot for breaking up the drive.

The next morning we continued onto the US 395 N and tossed around the ideas of which peak(s) we should bag. We settled on the plan to do Split on Friday and Mount Whitney on Saturday. This plan would change as we severely underestimated the time it would take to reach the trailhead on Split and to do the hike itself.

At the town of Big Pine, we made a left onto W Crocker Ave and then followed ____________'s GPS track to the trailhead. This was a very good guide - no idea how I would have found it otherwise! This road is pretty rough and takes about an hour to drive. I think it would be doable with any car but my Subaru Forester handled it fine. We arrived at The Red Lake TH at 11:30am for our very late start of 12pm. The trail starts out up some pretty steep and pretty lose dirt switchbacks and goes off in many different directions. I was already not feeling confident about our summit chances since we were not really putting down the 20 minute miles necessary to give ourselves a chance to do so. However we carried on and gave ourselves a 4:30pm turnaround time. We reached Red Lake at 2:40pm, covering 3.5 miles and 4000 feet elevation gain in 2 hours 40 minutes. The full frontal view of Split Mountain at this lake is astonishing. A massive behemoth with jagged edges and streaks of colors running across it, with various textured stripes to give it a rugged and beautiful uniquelook.
We ran into another hiker here who had just come down from the summit. He described some class 3 gully route on the south SE side that he took... I have not seen any other TR's taking this route, but I guess there are many ways to get up this beast.

We set off towards the standard route following the loose talus trail and the occasional cairn up the NE gully. This was really slow moving. Whiley was already gaining a lot of ground on me and as the sun faded behind Split's summit, the valley became very cold. Somehow the wind was managing to enter this valley as well. I had enough layers but this cold wind was definitely slowing us both down. We reached the base of what remains of the glacier just shy of 12,000 feet. At this point it was 3:45 and another 45 minutes would only get us to a colder, higher, steeper, non-summit turnaround point. With the sun setting at 6pm, we made the mutual decision to to start heading back down.

The descent was uneventful and we made quick work of it, getting back in time to not require a headlamp. Neither of us were too happy about missing the summit so we vowed to try again the next day. I had already booked a motel in Lone Pine since our plan was to do Whitney on Saturday so we drove all the way back there for the night. The road from Split's TH at night felt way worse than during the day. The desert gets angry at night...

The next morning we got an early start for us both arriving again at Split's TH around 8:30 and getting started at 9am. With the sun shining and 3 more hours, we were confident today would be a summit day. I felt much better this time around, and we made quick work of the trail we knew pretty well at this point, arriving to Red Lake in 2 hours and 15 minutes. We filled up our water bottles in the lake and I treated them with iodine tabs. We made it past the glacier and saw a guy coming down from the saddle we were aiming for - he was making amazing fast progress going down. The guy flew by us - a much older guy who was well into his 60s, flying down the mountain. He definitely had day-hiked it, probably starting around 4am. Impressive. We followed the various loose trails to make our way up. Whiley was opting for a more technical route on solid rock and I just decided to slog it up the loose stuff. It's arguable which way is better, but from her perspective my way was much worse. This section took us a good 2.5 hours, making it to the top of the saddle at 2pm. I was feeling the effects of altitude. The climb here to the summit is very straightforward. The class 2ish super steep hike to the top was super slow going for me, and the lightly snowy, sometimes slippery rocks were somewhat of a pain to manage. There is nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain in the last mile and a half. At one point I got a little too far to the right of the route, putting myself in some more strenuous class 2/3 positions. From there I tried to stay left, hugging the drop-off. Whiley hit the summit at 3pm and I made it there at 3:45pm. There was another group coming down who had camped at Red Lake that night and started at 9am from Red Lake... we started from the bottom and arrived at the top at the exact same time. They were impressed. When I got to the top I took off my pack and accidentally let it drop behind me. It landed with about 2 feet to spare from the edge of a sheer drop! Wow that was a close call.... note to self to be more cautious about taking off my pack.

On the way down It was slow to reach the saddle. Very steep and sometimes loose on the sharp rocks. Had to be very careful with each step. Some snowy patches allowed for some riding, but mostly it was just one step at a time. We cleared the glacier about 6pm and were down by the lake around 7pm, just as it was getting dark. I had a headlamp so I took the lead on the way down and we made it to the car by 8:30pm. We were faster than the day before, and we had summitted Split!

We left feeling accomplished. The road out was a breeze at this point - I knew every turn and every rocky spot like the back of my hand. The scratches on the Subaru from the desert shrubs will come out with a little bit of buffing I hope! If not, there's a good story behind it.

We were both very happy to have gone back and climbed this mountain. Had we left it as an asterisk on our list it would have had a sore feeling to it. A great story of perseverance.

The 3 P's of success: Passion, Planning, Perseverance.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7409 ft / 2258 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7109 ft / 2166 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11.4 mi / 18.3 km
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Cold-ish in the shade, warm in the sun and super clear in all directions
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:7409 ft / 2258 m
    Distance:5.7 mi / 9.2 km
    Route:Red Lake trail
    Start Trailhead:6649 ft / 2026 m
    Time:7 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:7109 ft / 2166 m
    Distance:5.7 mi / 9.2 km
    Route:Red Lake trail
    End Trailhead:6949 ft / 2118 m
    Time:3 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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