HST Community      TR: No Joy on Johnson

TR: No Joy on Johnson | High Sierra Topix  

TR: No Joy on Johnson

Topics related to peak bagging, rock climbing and bouldering in the foothills and high country of the Sierra Nevada. Be sure to also check out the Information Booth forum category to learn from / see if you can contribute to a profile for High Sierra 13'ers, 14'ers and cross country passes.

TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Shawn » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:33 pm

Some years ago I read a few trip reports about Mount Johnson above Treasure Lakes near Bishop. The class 2/3 north ridge has
some fun exposure, reportedly worth the relatively short but arduous hike to get there. Having some time to break away from the house, I
made the 300+ mile drive to the trail head on Thursday afternoon for a day hike on Friday, July 28, 2017.

I managed to sleep in, dragging myself from the back of the Jeep at a leisurely 6:30AM. I was on the trail sometime after 7:00. The
skeeters were out in full force, the worst I've ever encountered. Thank goodness I found a skeeter net buried deep in my pack. Time
passed quickly on my way to the lower Treasure Lakes. I noticed many campers, all in their tents enjoying the massive swarm
of the blood sucking bugs.

starting down the trail.jpg


Temps along the 395 corridor were very hot, and to my dismay the temps at elevation (11 and 12k) were relative scorchers too. The snow
filled valley en route to Johnson along with the complete lack of cloud cover and no wind whatsoever had me perspiring the entire day.
Still, it was a beautiful day to be in the mountains and it seems I had the valley above Treasure Lakes all to myself.

me above treasure lakes.jpg


One of the lower Treasure Lakes drains into the other and there is a narrow outlet which typically provides a crossing to get above the
lakes using a log. This year that log was long gone, leaving about thirty feet of knee to crotch deep water to cross. I scoped out the
"best" place to cross and decided to remove my boots and socks to go barefoot. That was a very bad choice as the water was freezing cold
making my feet and legs numb and somewhat unusable. Back on shore I put my socks and boots on and crossed without issue
(face palm).

water crossing.jpg


The snow began in earnest above the lower lakes, so I went up the rib which was snow free in my walk to the upper Treasure Lakes. I
dropped down of the rib into the snow filled valley and ascended the valley passing multiple tarns. Normally at this time of year the
valley would be void of snow leaving only massive fields of talus to navigate. I cannot imagine doing talus hopping for such a distance
so I was very grateful for the snow coverage (and only encountering short sections of talus). As I gained elevation in the valley some of
the sections got too steep and slushy for hiking poles so I stopped to put on my crampons for safe travel. While I had looked at my
planned route many times in advance, I was a bit surprised by how arduous the hike to the base of Mount Johnson was becoming. Seems
skipping breakfast wasn't such a good idea after all.

slush.jpg


As I reached the cirque below Mount Johnson, I refilled my water bottle and took my first and only ten minute break and had a little
snack. The views were great and all was well, but I was silently begging for a little shade to cool things down a bit. What happened to
that 20 percent chance for rain in the forecast? You might say it was becoming Type II fun.

Type 2 Fun A.jpg


My original plan to get on the north ridge of Johnson was the well advertised use of Treasure Col to get on the low end of the ridge and
ascend to the summit. As I gnawed on my snack I observed that Treasure Col (and everything else around the cirque) was melted out on top
and I really didn't feel much like scrambling around in the mess above the snowline. And while I had a map in hand, the conditions made
it difficult to pin point which part of the rubble was Treasure Col. Sigh.

Treasure Col.jpg


Plan B, and not shown in any other trip report I've seen, was to ascend the much longer and steeper col that tops out very near the
summit of Johnson. How convenient is that I thought, no problem there. The chute looked snow filled right to the top. So that's it, time
to get in the unnamed col and head straight up. I took a couple of gulps of water and started up. I had not been looking at the time, but
I think it was about noon. Almost immediately I noticed the slushy snow was turning into one big slurpee. Still, while kicking steps I
could hold my purchase in the snow okay using some discipling with each step.

Snow Chute.jpg


In the classic "false summit" perspective, I could look up the col and perceive I am nearing the top only to find I'm just peering over
the next rise which was a bit steeper than the section below me. The higher I got, the sloppier it became, in an unsafe sort of way. My
energy was depleted with the one step up, two steps sliding down conditions. Checking my altimeter, I was a little above 12,500' above
sea level - about three hundred feet short of the summit.

I stopped for a short bit to evaluate my options and the conditions. I am making a six hundred mile round trip drive for a day hike to a
relatively easy summit. Here I am three hundred feet away from the summit in the vertical slurpee, zapped of energy (and the nausea that
goes along with over exertion) with one gnarly self arrest I didn't want to repeat. I know it's an ego thing, wanting to summit when
"it's right there". And it's with that I found my answer. I'd rather be telling of a great day in the mountains even if I missed the
summit with a very small margin of safety to spare, rather than showing up on the local SAR website being hauled off in a helicopter by a
lot of folks wearing orange.

bailing.jpg


It was a great day to be out in the mountains.

Map Overview.jpg
You must register an account and login to view the files/photos attached to this post.



Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 935
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:56 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Jul 29, 2017 5:59 pm

Wow, that is both a formidable looking and striking couloir. Good move to turn back when faced with the slushy snow. Self arrest tends to be null and void in that stuff. Certainly a good mountaineering adventure, though, in spite of lack of the summit.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2767
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:32 am

I did a side-trip to Treasure Lakes last year while doing Dusy Basin. The mosquitoes were horrible! I think that area is a mosquito incubator. I fished with full-on heavy clothing, gloves and head net. Nevertheless, a very beautiful area. At least your long cold wading did not have a strong current to fight.

The snow coverage this year does make this climb less tedious than talus. Perhaps a better plan would be to camp at Treasure Lakes and do a pre-dawn mountaineering start for better snow conditions as well as more energy for the actual climb. The trek up to Treasure Lakes is more brutal than I had envisioned.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 3717
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Shawn » Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:57 am

Ha - I love the "mosquito incubator" line WD. :) It was really crazy, not sure how else to describe it. On my way out I just sort of let them have their way with only my hands exposed. Seeing campers coming in late in the day with shorts and tee shirts made me smile as they had no idea what carnage was down the trail.

Of course you're right about getting up there earlier for better conditions. The temps were miserably hot. It would have been a done deal if the snow was firm, but given the compounding issues and being solo my gut told me not to risk it as the old axe would not have stopped gravity from having its way. Now the the dreadful part is recollecting how close I was to the summit while I sit in my chair in the comfort of home ("would've/could've/ should've").

The past couple of years I've been prevented form getting out much due to elder care responsibilities (and for some time to come). Thus my trips are confined to extended day hikes.
Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 935
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:56 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:13 am

Yes, responsibilities of caring for aging parents. Every trip I go on, I expect to hear that my 97 year old mother has died. She is in a good, but 800-mile away assisted living facility. She did here share of backpacking in her earlier years, so always tells me to go on the trip. I think she regrets missing so much hiking due to her own elder-care responsibilities with her mother. She stubbornly refuses to come live with us.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 3717
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Vaca Russ » Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:40 pm

Shawn,

Great story. Good call on turning back short of the summit. I'm not a betting man but I think it is safe to say the mountain will be there if you ever want to try again.

Climbing solo presents several challenges. The main issue for me is I only have my own brain to rely on making good choices. Sad to say, but often I can't always trust my brain because of ego. So, like you, I just say it was a great day to be out. And then I add..."I'll be back!"

Last Saturday I attempted two peaks, but quit after bagging the first one. I say I ran out of time but the truth is I "mis-underestimated" the difficulty because of poor research. Look forward to the report.

Thanks,

-Russ
"...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?"

Kahil Gibran.
User avatar
Vaca Russ
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 799
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: The Nut Tree
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: TR: No Joy on Johnson

Postby Shawn » Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:55 pm

Thanks for the good words Russ. No doubt you and others here know the frustration of missing a peak. Johnson has its own dynamics and I felt lucky to catch it at the right time (most of the 1.5 miles of talus covered in snow), but the darned high temps at elevation created a big wrinkle in my plan. Consequently, if I do get back up there it would be a year away. I'm already hoping our next winter brings average or better snow to the high country.

After a thirty year career of having safety plowed into my head every day, I am probably making choices which are overly conservative. Guess that's better than the opposite approach.

I do look forward to your TR.
Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 935
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:56 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Peak Bagging / Rock Climbing / Bouldering



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest