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Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:11 pm
by tbone
Hi all,

I'm new to HST, I've already spent hours researching trips and new-to-me trails and found the TRs extremely valuable. Thank you all for your postings, in return, here's one from me:

On Saturday, July 9 we left the Pine Creek trail head at 11:00 am and took our time winding our way up the switchbacks to the penultimate Gable Lake. We climbed about 3,000 feet, camping just below 11,000 to get as high as possible before our morning push for Mt Tom. We chose the north side Gable Lakes route hoping for more shade and cooler temperatures; the classic/easy route from Horton Lakes/Buttermilk Road is south facing and 100% exposed to the sun. While it was a harder route than Horton Lakes, there are many highlights of the Gable Lakes Trail:
  • A beautiful and tasty spring crosses the trail at about 9,200 feet.
    Startling feats of mining engineering - and trash - abound.
    An avalanche swept through the basin below the lowest Gable Lake making a huge mess for 1,000 feet down-canyon. The trail is impacted in the section just below the lowest lake.
    There was only one section of mild bugs, as usual, it corresponded with the most abundant wildflowers. I saw the most dramatic display of shooting stars I've ever seen in the Sierra.
    The two lower lakes are completely thawed, the two upper lakes are about 60% thawed. The highest is still frozen.
    Walls, ridges and exposed slopes/rocks were thawed, otherwise snow covered about 80% of the ground above Lower Gable Lake (~10k ft).
    We saw two day hikers coming down the trail, other than that we saw one group of 10 (yes, ten!) on Saturday and no one else the entire weekend. That's NO ONE on Mt Tom at all on a perfect Sunday in July!
On Sunday morning we left camp at 6:00 am. We were camped near the bottom of a head-wall that leads to the saddle of the Hanging Valley below the peak. The group of 10 had taken two hours to descend that wall Saturday afternoon, we watched their route closely as they inched down. Concerned by their difficulty getting down the wall, we decided to go up another route, taking an exposed spine that headed SW, crossing a flat snowfield, then turning east to gain the ridge above the saddle/Hanging Valley. While climbing up to that ridge was the recommended route from Gable Lakes, it was a mistake for us. It took us two hours to get to the saddle, a huge time suck with difficult route finding and many class 3 moves. If we do it again, we'd go up the head-wall - it also has plenty of class 3 moves but at least you go in a straight line.

From the Hanging Valley, we took the south west ridge up to the peak. It was harder than we anticipated, more class 3 moves, no route we could follow. We were on top by 10:30, only 30 minutes later than we had planned. Hey, we're 42 and 53, live at sea level and were on the first climb of the year! Other than a big patch in the Hanging Valley, there was no snow on the west side of the peak. We descended the peak down a gully, pushing scree ahead of us as we dropped to Hanging Valley.

We descended the head-wall to Upper Gable Lake, unlike the group of 10, it only took us 20 minutes to get to the bottom. We were back at camp by 1:30. We packed up and headed out, getting to the trail head by 5:00 pm. That's a 6,000 + foot drop in a day.

For a first hand look at the snow levels and the route check out these pictures: ... aree-_-Top" onclick=";return false;

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:18 pm
by rlown
nice report. not sure why your pic gallery doesn't load..

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:31 pm
by giantbrookie
Interesting report. I've been up Tom twice and both times from Horton Lakes rather than the Gables, but the finish is still more or less the same because one finishes the climb from the hanging valley. Folks see the class 1 rating for Tom and few realize that most will end up doing the class 3 on the spurs or ridges on the final summit climb rather than do the class 1 or 2 treadmill scree/talus in the chutes on the way up. The latter are a fine descent routes but are miserable on ascent, hence folks go to the ridges or spurs and these cannot be done without class 3 moves. My first time (1981) I think I weaved on and off the spurs across chutes going more or less directly to the summit from the hanging valley and the second time (1991) just stuck to the SW ridge.

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:09 pm
by maverick
Hi Tbone

Welcome to HST!
Thanks for the fun TR,(photo link not working) would love to see the views from the
top, and the way up, but you really have me wanting to see the Shooting Stars!

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:24 am
by tbone
Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad others found that spine bordering on class 3, I thought I was just a wimp :D

Here's another link to the pics, hope it works: ... A677622927" onclick=";return false;

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 4:28 pm
by maverick
Yeap, that links works, thanks. Liked the views from the top, but especially like the
photo's of the moss on the rocks.

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:48 pm
by gcj
Hi tbone,
I really enjoyed your trip report- especially since I went up Mt. Tom via nearly the same route in spring of 1984. Even though it was Memorial weekend, I didn't see another soul until I saw a small party drag themselves up over the saddle from the Horton side just as I was leaving the Hanging Valley. Otherwise I seemed to have the entire mountain, lake basin and canyon to myself- rare on a holiday weekend. I'm glad to see the lakes are as beautiful as ever. Congratulations, this is a pretty cool way to climb this mountain (IMHO).

Re: Mt Tom via Gable Lakes Trip Report

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:30 am
by Snow Nymph