Mt. Agassiz

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Location: San Diego

Mt. Agassiz

Post by jkenagy » Sat Aug 09, 2014 11:45 pm

I'm surprised that there isn't an entry already for this 13er (almost 14er) but since there doesn't seem to be one and since I was just there, I reckon I'll try to post my story.

Difficulty / Route we took: class 2 with maybe a bit of class 3 up the west side of Mt Agassiz from Bishop Pass. I understand that there are more difficult approaches from the north west and north side.

Distance / Altitude / Terrain: from Bishop Pass, which is a 6 mile hike from the South Lake trailhead, its only about a mile up to the summit. Altitude of summit is 13,889ft. Altitude of pass is 11,980 so its ~2k more to the Agassiz summit. Altitude of South Lake Trailhead is around 9800.

Location: HST Map

Four buddies and I summited Mt Agassiz on July 31, 2014 at the tail end of a 5 night backpacking trip from South Lake through Bishop Pass then loop through High Sierra and JMT back to Bishop Pass. Note: I plan to post a trip report of our entire route, since I haven't seen much recent and combined on our route through Knapsack, Potluck, and Cirque passes but here I'll just talk about the climb up Mt Agassiz.

We started the day from our campsite at the South Side of Bishop Pass, in a nice upper part of the Dusy Basin. After a delicious mountain house breakfast skillet and tortillas, we packed up and made the 700ish foot climb up to the pass where we left our big packs and grabbed our day packs for the summit climb.

On our first crossing of Bishop Pass, 6 days before, we'd met some folks, Bishop area locals, that claimed experience with climbing Agassiz a few times and they gave us some tips. From the summit, you can see a HUGE boulder sitting at the base of Agassiz and they told us to head straight for that boulder and then head pretty much straight up the mountain into "the banana" chute that hooks/curves in a right-to-left arc to the summit. The info on the chute approach was consistent with what I'd read online and so we agreed with that advice.

On the way to the giant boulder, we came across a clear trail though and decided to follow it. That was a mistake. It took us way to the left side and we eventually gave up on that trail and started heading up the mountain and then had to traverse over for a while to get to the start of the banana. So first tip: for this easiest route up the west side, follow what the locals said; from Bishop Pass, head straight for the huge boulder at the base of the Agassiz climb (see below pictures).

Once we got in the looonnng chute, it was just a matter of scrambling over the big boulders upwards and upwards. Its was nicely steep and caution should be exercised when climbing with friends so you don't send a boulder down on your buddy. There are some loose ones.

There is a bit of a trail visible every once and a while on the way up, with a cairn-like pile every once and while, but its really just a matter of finding the route that you like best since its all hands and feet scrambling up.

After about 2 hours, we made it to the summit with relative ease. Amazing views from up there and this year, to no surprise, there wasn't much snow to be seen although we could see the beautiful and impressive Palisade Glacier and nearby other glaciers. I reckon its one of the best ways to see the Palisade Glacier. We had some grub and then noticed a bunch of clouds headed our way and so we started to head down. We also found the log box, an ammo can, but the lid was missing and the materials inside were wet and I don't care about summit logs much anyway. So we headed down in an attempt to beat the rain.

While on the way up, I recommend looking for some of loose soil semi-switchback because its easier than jumping up from rock to rock. But on the way down, I recommend the opposite: the soil parts are slippery and slidey; its much easier to walk down the big rocks/boulders like stairs of sorts. It rained on us on the way down which made the rocks a little slippery but they still maintain a decent tread.

Out route down was even more of a straight line and we made it down, back to our packs at Bishop Pass, in about an hour. So about 3 hours up and down from the pass.

As you can see, this is a pretty quick climb if you're in decent shape and it was a lot of fun. Although its not too tough, I do stress that you should still be careful since it is quite steep and there are some big ole' rocks that could come tumbling down.

From the pass, we were planning to head to one of the lakes above South Lake, like Long Lake or Lake Ruwau, for one last night before an exit at South Lake trailhead but it was not to be. It started raining and hailing like crazy and so we decided to make the 6 mile descent to our cars and civilization.

We had some car problems but were fortunate to make the acquaintance of some true trail angels, the owners of Parchers Resort, Steve and Judy. These wonderful people helped us out in a very generous and caring way and I can't say enough good things about them. While helping us out, I got to check out their place, Parchers Resort, and it was a very cool place. I'd like to stay there someday. The cabins were nice, the people were nice, and I saw that some good sized trout were being pulled from the creek there. Thanks again Judy and Steve!

I'm posting photos and some trail data collected from my schmancy Garmin Fenix GPS watch. The images are made from using the Garmin Basecamp app to show my route in Google Earth, so the photo is not time-accurate (notice the snow). Also, the elevation seems to be a little off too: it showed us at around 13,700 at the summit although it was supposed to be 13,899. Oh well, I still like my watch.
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