Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, Lake Peak, Zahniser Peak, Grinnell Mountain
By: George Wysup
Leaders: Tom Hill, Virgil Popescu, and George Wysup
Tom and George hatched a trip to the commonly led triumvirate of 10K Foot Ridge, Lake, and Grinnell, all 10,000+ footers in San Gorgonio Wilderness. Tom figured we needed a new slant for this humdrum hike. Why not do the entire ridge, not just the register can bump? Why not, indeed. I had hiked the ridge almost 30 years ago (with a San Gorgonio area legend named Bob Tosh) before I had ever heard of HPS, and I was excited about doing it again. We would go up to bump 9930' at the east end, then run the ridge over bumps 9884', 9971', 10094' (current HPS register site), Lake Peak (10161'), to Zahniser Peak (10056') on the west end. The return would include Gnnnell Mtn (10284').
We nailed Virgil as a third leader, since we know that "stuff" happens. He was tickled to go along since he is amidst his funky pathfinder period and the route was to get him two very nice pathfinders. The HPS Outings Chair (me) approved and submitted the writeup to the Chapter Schedule, and we were now stuck with it.
SASE responses dribbled in and it became apparent that this trip was destined to be quite popular. People somehow sense a true classic hike and want to be a part of it, I suppose. We ended up with a total of 21 eager hikers at 7:30 a.m. at the Fish Creek trailhead. Many were known by the leaders to be strong hikers and the others had good credentials. Besides the leaders there were: Joanne Andrew (Long Beach WTC fame), Mike Bayer, Pat Brea, Tom Connery, Peter Duerst, Marc Garfinkel (MD), Rich Gnagy, Laura Joseph, "Ranger Mike" McCawley, Agustin Medina, John Meehan, Zobeida Molina, Ed Nemeth, Larry Piccone, Gary Schenk, Viorel Udnca, Janet Yang, and Dave Zalewski. Rich Gnagy deserves special mention since he has completed the DPS and SPS lists and is well on his way to an HPS finish, which would make him the oldest to complete the triple list. Rich has been climbing mountains in 8 decades now, and started climbing when I was 2 years old (and I am on Medicare now).
Tom took the initial lead because he had been reconnoitering the route for an hour before I arrived with a group from the car pool spot at Mill Creek ranger station. I soon learned from group conversation that some of the folks were doing their first cross-country hiking-and they were loving it. The route took us basically south from the trailhead over a bump (8480'+) and up a ridge to elev 9580'. From there Virgil led us SE down to the saddle at 9400+, keeping the near-headwall of Hell-for-Sure Canyon on our left, then SW to 9930', past the hungry chirping of a nest of woodpecker chicks. The route had, amazingly to the leaders, gone quite well, with minimal brush and was just pleasantly steep. It appeared to be quite popular with large animals of the non-human persuasion. We now had about 2 miles and 2000' gain under our belts.
Behold! A register can of sorts, obviously ancient, was nestled in a ragged rock cairn. I say ancient because it was a rusty Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco tin. The weathered notebook inside dated from 8/10/1968. John Backus had signed in 1971. Was this an old HPS summit location? I don't know. I understand that the previous location was on bump 9971'. We speculated that this summit was worthier of HPS peak-hood than many others now on the list. Tom left a modern nesting can register and we dubbed the pleasant summit "Hell-for-Sure Peak".
I took the lead, at the risk of getting us lost, to the real HPS can. We passed the unspectacular bump 9884' and visited the top of 9971'. Here again was a register can. The book claimed the summit to be 9884'. Was this the old official HPS can? Why is the elevation wrong? Was it moved from 9884'?
We were hiking through a limber pine forest containing some aged specimens. How old? All I can say is that Bob Tosh had core-sampled several of the trees about 40 years ago and the samples were dated by a U of AZ lab at over 2000 years old. I suppose that makes them ante-Christs.
We continued over rocky class 2 bump 10040+ to our first official HPS summit in time for a brief lunch. Now we had done about 4 miles and 2800' elev gain.
Virgil led us to Lake Peak, adding another 1.5 miles and 400' gain to our effort. We marched through the "toothpick forest" resulting from an old fire. After many years most of the toothpicks no longer stand, and the downed trees cause a bit of extra work for hikers. The plan had been to visit Zahniser Peak, near Mine Shaft Saddle, on the way to Grinnell. A few hikers seemed reluctant to go out of their way to an unlisted peak, so we voted. 14 hikers elected to go to Zahniser, and 7 went with Tom to Grinnell to wait. Zahniser is just a little mound, but is rather attractive. A short, 200' vertical romp from the trail got us to the summit where we found an old ammo can register. Not many people bother with this one.
We quickly got up to Grinnell and found the rest of the group slothfully enjoying the afternoon. We noted the unexplained recent felling of several large pines at the summit. We are now up to 7 miles and 4200' gain. Another 4 miles downhill, after a shortcut down the SE face of Gnnnell, got us back to the cars. Passing through Fish Creek Meadows we were awed by the unusually lush plants and flowers, including spectacular giant lupine, many lemon lilies, and very healthy-looking yarrow and skunk cabbage.
All present, uninjured, and seemingly pleased by the day's effort. Gary Schenk even rewarded me with a cold Michelob.
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