'TIMES' Men Hobble Along With Hikers
If you happen to think that following -- hobbling after, rather, -- a group of plain citizens on a week-end outing in the mountains would be a simple matter, you definitely do not know the Sierra Club and the urge for uphill walking it kindles.
Photographer Bob Ritchie and I found out the hard way by tagging along on the Southern California chapter's "Sadie Hawkins Day" 15-mile hike over peaks above Crystal Lake ranging from 9,146' to 7,782' in elevation.
At the invitation of Miss Freda Walbrecht, a cheerful, diminutive attorney and enthusiastic climber of almost any mountain, we city dwellers set off with 37 altitude-happy club members from their overnight camping spot near the lake. Up the headwall of San Gabriel Canyon we went at what seemed to be a gallop after abandoning comfortable sleeping bags and shady pines for a hot, steep trail.
Paced by tanned, husky Henry Greenwood, leader of the day's climb, the hikers breezed up 2,500 feet in two and a half miles to take their first 10-minute "breather" on the divide between Mt. Islip and Little Jimmy Springs. Bob and I huffed up to the hump as almost everybody else prepared to move on.
Several Club members dropped out at the divide to do some local exploring near the springs, leaving 25 climbers and two already-weary TIMES representatives to continue the trek. We eyed the comparatively level terrain nearby longingly, but girding up our canteens, rucksacks, and pride, we kept going after noticing Miss Alice L. Bates, a grey-haired lady who admits 60 summers, sauntering up the trail.
Once again moving along the ridge single file with an easy, loose-jointed gait, the uphill devotees resumed their almost constant stream of conversation about past hikes, especially rugged climbs, peaks remaining to be conquered, interesting trails, and the forthcoming Labor Day ascent of 14,242 foot White Mountain Peak, northeast of Bishop.
Once again moving along the ridge single file with a slightly hobbled tread, the photographer and I resumed our conversation about flagons of ice-cold ale, air-conditioned theaters, previous easy assignments, and when do we stop again.
Most of the outdoor fans carried rucksacks containing food, canteens, first-aid kits, spare sox and cameras -- all of which, it would seem, should add to the task of moving one foot after the other along narrow trails. Instead, they all appeared to love it, with people bowed under heaving packs taking a sort of social precedence of the hikers toting a mere 15 or 20 pounds.
Added incentive (for those Sierra Clubbers) in the day's climb was the disclosure that the single hike provided four mountains eligible for scoring in the organization's "100 peak game", in which members are striving to top 100 Southern California peaks about the 5,000' elevation mark. That's 100 mountains and about 4,900' too much.
High point of the week-end session was the ascent to Mt. Throop's summit -- 9,146 feet. Willing arms held Bob and me erect to gaze somewhat blearily at a far-flung vista ranging from the checkerboard of Mojave Desert farms to the hills of Santa Catalina Island raising through a blanket of smog extending from the coastal valley to far offshore.
Mojave! A beautiful flatland where a hummock is something to be skirted, not conquered! Catalina! -- clear water to float in, bicycles for transportation!
So we changed our socks in accordance with Boy Scout Handbook "Instructions for Hikers", ate lunch between gasps, and began the descent from Mt. Throop. Only to reach a divide and start climbing all over again.
This time it was No. 2 peak on the schedule, Mt. Hawkins. We reached its 8,418' crest by scrabbling across a trailless ridge and up a sharp-pitched hogback. Razorback hogback, that is. With much glee, the hikers crowded around a rock cairn on the peak to sign a register kept there in a metal container. Another peak in the "game" for them; newly discovered (and sore) muscles for me.
From there on, the ridges became repetitious but never routine. After a drop down the west side of Mt. Hawkins came the ascent of Middle Hawkins Peak's 8,305' from a rock-strewn saddle. Then, just for the heck of it and to keep in the spirit of the day, we all had to make a side excursion to "Sadie Hawkins Peak", a mere hillock of 8,047 feet.
At this point Jack Bascom, Navy Civilian Engineer, and assistant leader of the trip, took over his appointed task of keeping an eye on stragglers by covering the remainder of the hike with us. All that remained was a visit to South Mt. Hawkins, elevation 7,782' and the fire lookout there.
A walk, really only a walk this time, down the Forest Service road back to Crystal Lake finished the day -- and a pair of guys who hope to stay on the level from now on.