The Ascent of Mount Williamson

By Thad Kellam.

A number of guys expressed interest but in the end it was just us three hardy souls that tackled one of the toughest mountains in California. David Frederick, his son and I achieved the summit of the 14,375 foot Mount Williamson on July 12, 2006.

A 5:00 AM wakeup call on July 11 got us started on this adventure. After breakfast in a 24 hour restaurant, we arrived at the 6000 foot level trailhead and took off at 7:00 AM.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that David and his son were in excellent shape and soon left me trailing behind.

 The next 9 hours of hot and very strenuous hiking saw us crossing the same creek four times and hiking up and down over steep mountain ridges as we made our way to the climax of the first day: climbing up and over Shepard’s Pass (12,000 foot level) after 9 exhausting hours. Climbing the Pass was every bit as bad as I’ve read. In order to avoid the snow field, we traversed a very steep incline that was covered with loose talus where we slid down one step for every two steps up.

At the top of the Pass and after 10 hours we called it a day (see the picture of David at the top of the Pass). We made camp at a small lake still partially covered with ice and with an enormous oddly shaped snow drift along its southern shore.

The next day we woke with the sun and after a typical backpacker’s breakfast, we starting hiking the final three miles to the base of Williamson. It was three hours of climbing up and down over a series of terminal moraines and traversing snow fields while avoiding numerous small lakes of trapped runoff.

We choose a chute on the west face as our route of ascent and while strenuous and steep, it was a safe route. Near the top of the route we were forced to do some class three climbing over rock formations to avoid unpredictable snow climbing.

The chute comes to an abrupt end near the summit and a class three chimney must be climbed to get over the wall and reach the summit plateau.

After a break at the top of the chimney, we worked our way over a steep boulder field to the actual summit. HALLELUJAH BROTHER SAY AMEN!! (See the picture of me at the summit with Mount Whitney in the background.)

 Knowing we were only half done, we spent just a few minutes at the summit taking a few pictures and signing the register. The down-climb was uneventful but retracing our steps back over the moraines after two very exhausting days was really something special.

It was willpower alone that enabled us to get back to camp. I’ve run a marathon and that was a walk in the park compared to these two days.

Day three was easier as most of the hiking was downhill. The mountain gods weren’t through with us yet though.

After loading up my truck at the trailhead, we started off and after about 30 seconds (in 100 degree heat) I hit a stake in the side of the road and got a flat tire. I won’t repeat what I said at the time.

After a 2 hour drive, that evening was spent at David’s beautiful mountain home near Groveland where we sat around and talked about, what else, mountain climbing.

© 2006 Gay Outdoors ; All Rights Reserved.

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