Mariposa County Highpoint Trip Report

Parsons Peak Ridge (12,040+ ft)

Dates: September 8-9, 2006
Author: Christopher Randall

This was a wonderfully glorious climb in almost complete solitude. Used this two-day climb as acclimatization for my two-day climb of Mount Whitney later in the weekend.

Drove in and parked at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Permit Office parking lot, picked up my permit (without a reservation, woo-hoo!) and required bear canister. Hiked on the JMT through Lyell Canyon to the Ireland Lake junction, and headed up the hill. Saw a steady stream of people on the JMT but things thinned out rather sharply after turning off onto the Ireland Lake trail. After turning south at the junction with the trail that heads off to Eveyln Lake, I saw only a couple people. Once I reached Ireland Lake and set up camp for the night, I didn't see another soul until heading out the trail the next day.

The climb up was initially easy over meadowy talus. Water was everywhere and ice or snow in some spots. Up near the saddle, the wind picked up perceptibly. Then the tough grind up the steep, class-2 boulder field to the official summit of Parsons Peak (12,147 feet). This climb was very similar to my assault of Sonora Peak directly up the southwest face in mid-August.

A blockbuster view, 360 degrees, and a special treat, the backside of Half Dome! Chilly but not too bad. The view couldn't have been any better if I'd asked for it! This weekend was a banner weekend for views and nice weather in the Sierra Nevada!

Couldn't make out Mount Lyell from the viewshed (not familiar enough with its features) but I'm sure it is there in my panoramic pictures. After not finding the summit register, I decided to head down the ridge to the Mariposa County highpoint and see if I can find the cairn and the register. The cairn was exactly where my GPS said it should be, kudos to Edward Earl for putting it up in 2000. New summit register placed mid-August by Charlie and Diana Winger of Montrose, CO. Thanks!

Instead of climbing back up the 100 vertical feet and back over Parsons Peak to the saddle, I decided to continue northwest along the ridge and drop down the boulder field on the northeast face of the mountain. Small glacial snowfields dotted the area and I needed to skirt a couple of them, not carrying axe or crampons. I found the route to be far more "exhilarating" than I had hoped (why do slopes look so much easier from the top than from the bottom?) and found myself cliffed out just above the lake near where the stream cuts a deep groove into the canyon. I had to down-climb through a couple of spicy class 3 moves between snowfields but made it back to camp without much further trouble.

My recommendation - follow Gary Suttle's advice and just go back the way you came up. A hundred vertical foot climb is nothing unless, of course, you're fond of descending steep class 2+ boulder fields and down-climbing class 3 rock. If this is the case, you can save yourself the trouble of backtracking and get a nice loop trip and some rock exposure at the same time!