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Grinnell Mountain, Lake Peak, Ten Thousand Foot Ridge

5 September 2001

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich

Leaders: Carleton Shay and Mars Bonfire

I suppose I'm stubborn -- when I try for a peak and don't reach the summit, it bothers me until I can return and finish the trip. At this point, for various reasons I've missed Occidental Peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, the latter two due to threatening weather, the first because I wasn't in the mood for oak leaves down the back of my shirt. Such delicacy! Anyhow, when I saw Grinnell/Lake/10K Ridge in the Lookout's schedule, I knew I had to go. And Friday with Doris and Ingeborg, I'm going to give Sugarloaf another whirl. Who knows when I'll muster the courage to retry Occidental?

Although it's Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, and not Occidental, that seems to be at least slightly hexed. Besides our missing it on August 13, Chris Davis had inherited it as an orphan at some point, and reportedly had a rather difficult time de-orphaning it last week. But anyhow:

Besides the leaders Carleton Shay and Mars Bonfire, there were five hikers who met at Mill Creek on Wednesday morning: Dave Comerzan, Dorothy Danziger, Karen Leverich, Ingeborg Prochazka, and Sheldon Slack.

The weather was cool and crisp. Sometime in recent days, summer's hold has begun to loosen, and fall is sneaking in: some of the trees, especially at the higher altitudes, are starting to turn. There are fewer flowers, and more needles on the forest floor. The sun's angle is that little bit lower and lends a special quality to the light. It's perhaps my favorite time of the year, with the air so clear and the colors so sharp, even more so in the mountains.

After the long haul up to Fish Creek Saddle, many cached their packs. I think only Mars, Dorothy, and I proceeded with full loads, or close to full loads. Coincidentally?, we ended up bringing up the back of the column, as Carleton led us off and on the use trail to the clearing of the fallen trees, where he paused (as seems to be traditional near the summit of Grinnell) and looked perplexed. In that nearly level expanse of forest, where is the summit, anyhow? Well, just like last time, just past those fallen trees.

Deja vu continued as we returned to the saddle, redonned our packs, and then went steeply up to the summit of Lake. But wait! No thunderheads! There was actually time to eat lunch! It's so much more pleasant hiking on a temperate day, without the clouds thumping and banging threateningly in all directions.

The next stop, Ten Thousand Foot Ridge. "At last!" I enthused to Ingeborg. "We're finally going to get 10K Ridge!" Her response: "Don't hatch the eggs before counting them." Um, er, okay...

Mars had warned me that the ridge between Lake and 10K Ridge was a positive maze of fallen trees. I hate fallen trees, I always seem to get scratched up while clambering over them. So I stopped and zippered on the bottom half of my pants legs, for a little extra protection. Then joined the group and followed Carleton off Lake and out along the ridge. At first, we were in an open forest of lodgepole pines, but eventually, as promised, they gave way to a much more open landscape, with tall twisted barkless dead trees reaching skyward, and their fallen kin scattered randomly across the ground. I don't know if the annoyance value of the matchstick forest had been over-estimated, or if Carleton is a genius of a route picker, or both, but I could have stayed in my shorts -- I didn't have to clamber over any log I couldn't simply step over. No problem!

Eventually we arrived in a saddle, with the mountain rising steeply in front of us. No more easy ridge running, it was time to actually climb our peak. Yes, it was a bit steep. But we slowly rest stepped our way up, and somehow it didn't take all that long before suddenly, no false summits!, we were on top. Egg hatching time in the San Bernardinos? Or at least, register signing time atop 10K Ridge. At last, success!

And then, the part of these trips that I still dread a bit: cross country down a steep ridge. Much shorter, of course, than going back along the ridge to the trail, and then switchbacking down the trail, but for me, anyhow, I find it a lot more difficult to work my way down a steep rocky ridge, deciding where I can safely step, using my poles to keep from falling down, trying to keep up with all the mountain goats, er, hikers, in the group who don't seem to share my difficulties. What do they know that I don't? Or will it get better with practice? I keep hoping...

So, finally, back to the cars, another successful hike, another peak in the bag. Gonna take a long time to finish the list at this rate. But what a lovely lot of hiking I have to look forward to!

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