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Robinson Peak and Sawmill Ridge - more snow than expected

Published by 360 Pro , 21 January 2014, 19h32.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:19 January 2014
Hiking grading: T4- - High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 1300 m 4264 ft.
Height loss: 1300 m 4264 ft.
Access to start point:Highway 395 to Bridgeport, there Head south on Twin Lakes Road to Twin Lake (10 miles)
Accommodation:Several campgrounds in this area, most of them closed in the winter. I stayed at the Trailer park on the right hand side right before you get to the lake. The Trailer park was not really open, but not gated off either.

My plan on this day was to climb Sawmill Ridge and Robinson Peak, they are both north of Twin Lakes (Mono County). I chose these peaks due to the fact, that they have steep south facing flanks, where the little snow which the Sierra got this season should have melted away again in order to allow the ascent without any 'snow-toys'. The route up to the ridge is southeast facing and the rim between the peaks appeared snow free when looking at it on the previous day from Twin Lakes. Unfortunately up on more than 10'000 ft the situation looked a little different and I had to fight with a little more snow than I wished for.

After a very cold night (about 15 F, almost -10°C) in the campground it is hard to get out of the warm sleeping bag, but eventually I am able to face the fact that I have to get out of it in order to climb a mountain today. My hike up to P. 10294 from the east end of the lake is pretty straight forward. Up to around 8300 ft, there is a gravel 4WD access road. From its end at around 8300 ft I then follow the right side of the little river (Spring). Later I leave the main valley on the left hand side and go up to the Sawmill West Ridge more or less in a straight line - in steep, sometimes bushy grass and sometimes rubble. The higher I get the better the view to the Bridgeport Valley and once I'm on the ridge the view to the mountains at the northern end of Yosemite (Sawtooth Ridge) is stunning.

Looking over to my goals, the actual Sawmill Ridge Summit (P. 10325 on the map) and Robinson Peak is not quite as snow free as I expected it to be. The walk over to the Sawmill Ridge Summit is still more or less OK, but already here I get a sample of what the snow on my way over to Robinson Peak will be like: knee deep snow with a breakable crust on top. The steep south facing flanks and ridges are snow free, but as soon as the terrain is not steep and somewhat east facing there's plenty of snow - almost too much. Climbing the last rocky part of Sawmill Ridge is not too difficult, I can leave my hands in my pockets for this summit.

Originally I had planned to follow the ridge via P. 10401, the highest point in the Sawmill ridge (but for some reason not the one which is considered the summit), but the snow situation there is just too bad without snow shoes. Therefore I make a little detour on the south side and try to find stretches with no or only little snow further south. To some extent I'm successful to avoid the worst, but probably only half of the time, the rest is a very tiring and frustrating walk in the knee deep snow with the breakable crust on top. Due to this snow situation, instead of heading straight up the east ridge I traverse on the Robinson Peak south side to the South ridge and scramble up to the highest point in more or less snow free rubble there (T4).

It takes me almost 5 hours to get to the top and all my hopes to maybe reach Victoria - or Eagle Peak on this day as well were far out of question. Instead I make myself comfortable and enjoy the wonderful views and weather.

For my way back down to Twin Lakes, I first follow more or less the same route, but don't climb the Sawmill Ridge Summit any more. From P. 10294 I then walk down the west ridge to about 8000ft and then follow deer tracks (they are very helpful in the bushy terrain!) back to the gravel access road and then back to the campground.

Hike partners: 360

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