Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nimbus and Thor 9.21.11

With a chaotic schedule of late I did my best to etch some time out to take advantage of the recent nice weather. I had hoped to do a combo of Thor/Nimbus last week but the didn't happen. I put out some texts trying to find some partners and I was very happy to have Fletcher and Rob to sign on. I had been out with both on previous trips so I was quite sure that they would certainly help make the day a success. I met up with both in Monroe and piled into the trusty Subaru and we were off.  The day started at the Tunnel Creek trailhead which provides a short jaunt to Hope Lake and the PCT. The day was warm when I left but their was a very high cloud deck keeping the temperatures very manageable. We had such great conversation that I hardly noticed that we had passed Hope Lake and we were most of the way to Trap Lake. The short climb to Trap Pass went equally quickly and we left the trail at the pass. We instead followed the climbers trail that leads to Thunder Mountain Lakes. Many years ago I had tried this same trip and was turned back because there was a fire in the Square Lake drainage. I had remembered the climber's trail to be much harder to follow then what we found today. The trail was easy to follow and like the rest of the day the grade was pleasing. Soon Slippery Slab Tower came into view.

  This heavy snow year is still in effect and what was most surprising to me was that the bugs were horrible and none of the heather has turned as of yet. In fact the flowers along the way were still blooming. What a wacky year?  We alternated between rock gardens and snowfields as we made our way to the saddle to drop to the uppermost Thunder Lake. I was a little confused about which way to go, I felt like we needed to cross a higher saddle but when I saw two overnighters coming down from the lower saddle we headed their way. As it turned out if we would have hit the higher saddle it would have saved some time for our first objective of Nimbus. After some short pleasantries we left the two and headed to the UTML. We headed West and easily made our way to the summit area of Nimbus. I knew it wasn't likely that we would be able to reach the very top because there is an immense rock on the summit that is nearly blank on every side. We mused for sometime about how me could actually make the summit. In the end I couldn't coax any takers for letting me use them for a shoulder stand.

After a short stay we headed down for the next objective of Thor Peak to the East. I had read that the ascent was straightforward so I headed East to the North of the impressive point to the East of UTML. This in retrospect was not the easiest of routes. I led us on a high traverse over some very steep gullies with some less than ideal footing. On one gully I lost my balance and dropped my water bottle and watched it bounce it way 500' below me. Once reaching the end of the ridge I crossed over to the South side for less taxing travel. The heather on the South side was still wet but since the grade and runout was less I felt better. I reached the saddle and dropped pack. Once I could see that the rest of my party was right behind me I easily made my way to Thor's summit. As advertised the route is easy and without drama. As I was signing the register that was placed in the 80's in a glass vial with a ancient cigarette in it, a first for me ,the rest of the my group joined me. There seems to be a debate on what the name of the peak should be, evidently there is a struggle between Wolverine in honor of the lake below the peak, and Thor the conventional name for the "unnamed peak" After looking through the register and noticing that there weren't that many entries in the many years that it had been in place another solo climber made his way to the summit 10 minutes behind us. I don't know what the odds are on that happening but I am quite sure that they are not very high. We had a healthy debate about how to return. I desperately didn't want to repeat the high traverse of our approach. I had the idea to drop to the small tarn to our West where I spied a low angle gully that would get us back to our ascent route. Another idea was to head straight back towards Trap Lake. This I was resistant to because the reports I had read made me think while the route worked it wasn't something that anyone would want repeat. I talked briefly with the solo climber and he had traversed from Thunder Lakes on the South side. I was willing to try this but part of the group not knowing this was quite a way below and so we decided to try for the gulley route.

You can see the route in this picture

The initial part of the descent went quickly and I was very pleased to find some running water since I was out. I tried to stay high to avoid any unneeded elevation gain. We had to cross one steep snowfield that was easier to cross in the moat. I was very worried about the pooch since this was his first foray into such a large boulder field, but as becoming more common he exceeded my expectations. Soon we reached the gully and I was pleased that it was even easier than what I was hoping for. We tried to space ourselves to avoid any rockfall injury but within 20 minutes we were thankfully back on route. Once back on route the rest of my party left me to try to fit in nearby K9 which I had already done and didn't have the desire to repeat. I took a short break in order to keep the dog from being confused. Since I new with the rest of my party needing an hour to accomplish the task I slowed my pace. I used this time to break out a big smile. I realized why these endeavors are so important to me, it provides my life an essential balance. Soon I rejoined the rest of my group who had nixed the idea of doing K9. The rest of route out felt like there was a couple of miles added but we did make it out without needing headlamps. Just an extraordinary day spent with great company.

Approx 15 miles 5600' of climb 10 liesurely hours.
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