I had just spent a few days relaxing at Pine Creek, reading, soaking my feet in the ice cold water, and enjoying some well-earned rest after climbing Mt. Clarence King and Mt. Cotter. I figured it was time for another peak, so I set off south for Mt. Abbot, an SPS Emblem Peak. This peak is typically climbed earlier in the season when the glacier rises higher up the peak’s cliffy eastern shank, allowing the climber to ascend safely on snow and ice before turning off onto the treacherously loose rock to the right. I decided to check it out anyways, as I was trying to climb all the Emblem Peaks by the end of the season.
I headed out from Pine Creek along the 395, down to the Mosquito Flat trail. Apparently, I was anxious to get to the trailhead because when I looked in the rearview mirror of my van a cop’s lights were proudly flashing behind me. I checked the speedometer and realized I was going a little over 80 miles-per-hour, which is easy to do on this downhill section of road. I pulled over, bracing myself for the cost of the ticket. An attractive female cop sauntered up to my passenger window. I rolled it down about a third of the way, apologizing to her and explaining that if I roll it down anymore, it won’t be able to go up again. It’s a finicky window. She was sympathetic to my plight, and was quite kind in general. She casually glanced in the back of the van, and I assume realized I was living in my car. The front of my car was a real mess too, and I worried she would think I was a tweaker or some sort of criminal. She asked if there was any reason for the speed, and I said “no, ma’am, and I have no good excuse because I’m not in a rush at all, just off to climb some peaks!” She grabbed my license and registration, and asked dubiously if I had insurance. I answered in the affirmative. Her next question was if my license address was up to date. I paused for a few seconds, and said “Hmmmm. Let’s see. Well, it’s the best address I have I think. If you send a ticket there I’ll definitely eventually get it.” The address is my buddy’s place, which I visit often enough to pick up mail and parking tickets.
She clearly took pity on me and thought I was quite down on my luck, since when she came back she told me to watch the speed and drive safely. No ticket! I thanks her profusely for her sympathy. She saved me about a month’s worth of living expenses by not slapping me with a ticket. I drove away in an ecstatic frenzy, marveling at my good fortune. In about thirty minutes I found myself at the trailhead, a really beautiful spot. I backed the car into a comfy turnout, did some stretching and calisthenics, and cooked some dinner. I packed my bag for the next morning and then knocked out.
Abbot's "glacier" centered in the frame. The chute goes up and right from the glacier
I rose early the next day and started hiking well before sunrise. A trail led to Ruby Lake, where I greeted some backpackers who were rising with the sun. The lake was quite beautiful, with cliffy ridges lining its western shores. From there, I followed the inlet of the lake up towards the east face of Mt. Abbot. The remainder of the route would be cross country. The glacier eventually came into view, and it was a sorry excuse for a glacier at this point. It was little more than a patch of snow. I boulder hopped my way to the base of the chute, climbed on the snow for as long as I could, and then gingerly stepped onto the horrifyingly loose dirt and rock that usually lay under the glacier’s cover. The terrain was terrible. It was not fun at all, and extraordinarily sketchy. It was like trying to find purchase on a slick cement floor covered in marbles on a 45 degree downslope. I backed off a few routes, down-climbing horridly sketchy terrain. Finally, I found a route that I could slowly make my way up. But the higher I climbed, the longer the fall would be, with no hope of arresting myself.
Eventually, I made it to the ledge system where the top of the glacier normally sits, and happily cut over to some more solid class three terrain. It was still chossy and loose, but orders of magnitude better than what I had just been navigating. The labyrinthine ledges led to the ridge north of the summit. I picked my way over exposed terrain, dropping off the ridge proper when necessary to keep the climbing in the class three range.
Views looking north from the summit
Eventually, I found myself on the summit plateau, and made quick progress to the true summit on the easy terrain. The summit was beautiful, with striking views west to Lake Italy and its surrounding summits. I flipped through the summit register, finding a few old signatures of friends from seasons since passed. Despite the remote setting, I felt at home, enjoying the very same view that many of my comrades had before me. I ate a snack, and begrudgingly headed down. The downclimb would prove to be much more precarious than the way up, as usual. Eventually though, I made it to safety. Once off the summit and below the main chute, I skipped across the easy terrain down to Ruby Lake. Before long, I was back at the van, victorious. I put my gear away, ate some lunch, and planned my next climbs. I was glad to have climbed the peak, but I would never do it again in conditions like that. Climb Mt. Abbot early in the season!