Mt. Brewer climb, July 22-26, 2003

Here is the story of the hike from preliminary stuff to the story of the hike afterwards

photo of peak
Mt. Brewer taken by Mike from Mt. Silliman in 2002

(Click on most images to get larger versions)

The Trip Report
The Hike
Wilderness Permit
Photo Essay
Back to our Brewer-trips overview page

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The Trip Report

Well, to make a long story short: As Justin, Jon, and I were seeking shelter in a cave from being pelted by hail, the first thunder clap convinced us that 12,300 feet what high enough. We were 3/4 mile away and 1,300 feet of elevation from the summit. There is a nasty little angle-of-repose headwall at the top of Ouzel Creek and we were about half an hour from the beginning of it when the first of the lightning began. I would have hated to have gotten to the top of that thing and had to turn back; it looked like the most difficult part of the climb.

So the trip was a great success. You can't beat hiking among mountains and following creeks for five days with loved ones. Maurie was a champ; we ended up hiking the entire way out the last day and she did the 14 miles just fine. That's three more miles than she has years .

Click here to see the photo essay of the trip.

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The Hike

This is a five-day, four-night backpacking and mountaineering trip to the central Sierra Nevada's Kings Canyon National Park. We will start at the end of the road in Kings Canyon, hike up Bubbs Creek to East Creek, and make a base camp at East Lake. From there, some or all of us will climb Mt. Brewer.

Wayne wants to get plenty used to the altitude so he will drive up a few days early and car-camp at Lodgepole, south of our roadhead.

  • Sunday, July 20, Maurie gets home from Kansas.

  • Monday, July 21, drive to Lodgepole and meet Wayne and any others who went early. Car camp with them there.

  • Tuesday, July 22, drive down into Kings Canyon and east to the end of the road at... uh... Roads End. Park the car, load up the packs, and hike off into the wilderness. We expect that it will be past noon before we get all that finished. We will hike in just a few miles (I think about four) to where Charlotte Creek enters Bubbs Creek. We can make camp there easily because the valley floor is still fairly broad.

  • Wednesday, July 23, hike up Bubbs Creek a couple more miles, cross the creek, and hike up East Creek to East Lake. There are large bear boxes there but we will have brought our own backpack models. We will set up a base camp at this lake where we will stay camped for two nights.

    My friends Carol and Chris took their girls up to East Lake 5-6 years ago. A gorgeous area, but a strenuous hike up a steep incline at the upper end of East Canyon (?) just below the lake. Goes through a beautiful Red Fir forest, however, at the lower end of the canyon.

  • Thursday, July 24, is the summit day for those who wish to climb; others may wish to sleep in, read, swim, fish, or take a day hike. The climbers will get up before dawn, having packed our day packs the night before, and begin walking at first light. We intend to get to the summit for lunch. If the weather holds, we can hang out up there for a long time enjoying the sights, reading the register, and taking pictures. If a typical afternoon Sierran thunderstorm comes in, we hope that we will have summited so we can be driven off the mountain having bagged the peak. Once back at base camp, we can just crawl back into our tents and call it a day.

  • Friday, July 25, we break camp and hike nearly all the way back to the cars. A good spot to camp, besides Charlotte Creek, might be Sphinx Creek. It's a little farther out but we'll be in shape and our packs will be light.

  • Saturday, July 26, we get up, get going, and reach the cars for a nice lunch in a restaurant at Cedar Grove Village. We can take off after that and drive home.

  • Sunday, July 27, have our film processed and do our laundry .

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    The idea for this trip began last year. Well, OK; it began about five years ago when my friend Jim Moore was writing his book for Stanford Press on the Sierra and he told me the story of William Brewer. Brewer was working for Josiah Whitney and needed an help for his 1864 exploration of the Sierra Nevada. He contacted his major professor at Yale, Benjamin Silliman who recommended Clarence King.

    photo of four men in field garb taken in portrait studio
    The field party of 1964

    Brewer, King, James Gardner, and Richard Cotter climbed an 11,188-foot peak to get a reconnaissance view to the east. They named that peak Mt. Silliman. Last year, Wayne, Justin, and I climbed Mt. Silliman and share Brewer's vantage point. View our climb story from our Silliman trip.

    head-and-shoulders drawing photo
    Benjamin Silliman; Mt. Silliman taken by Mike with Wayne and Justin

    From Silliman, Brewer's group observed the high country in general and a particularly high peak in particular. They thought it might be the highest point in the Sierra and with that in mind, set off to climb it. When Brewer and Charles Hoffmann got there, they saw farther off to the east, even higher peaks whereupon Brewer may have said something to the effect of "oh rats!" He is said to have said "Such a landscape!" He also may have indicated to King back at camp that "you can't get there from here" whereupon King said something like "...I'm leaving in the morning." The peak they climbed, though not the highest in the Sierra, is named Mt. Brewer now (13,570'). So when Wayne, Justin, and I were on Silliman looking at Brewer, we wanted to continue to follow the 1864 expedition and climb Brewer next - hence this trip.

    head-and-shoulders drawing photo
    William Brewer; Mt. Brewer (pyramid on left skyline) taken by Justin from Mt. Silliman

    What was that higher peak they saw? Well, it was, as yet, unclimbed and unnamed. King and Cotter set off to climb it and got forced north due to weather so they climbed Mt. Tyndall instead (14,018'), naming it after John Tyndall, the Irish scientist and mountaineer. I had formerly misidentified Professor Tyndall as "English" but happily I received a correction from a fellow in Ireland named Denis O'Brien. He found this Web site and emailed: "A correction for you're website. John Tyndall was as British and as English as I am. He is in fact Irish. He was born in a little Village called Leighlinbridge County Carlow in Ireland and was educated in Ireland. He worked on the Irish railway system and then became a teacher before moving to England to become a professor. Just a small detail but us small fry countries have to claim all the fame we can. "

    head-and-shoulders drawing photo
    John Tyndall; Mt. Tyndall taken by Mike and Anna from Mt. Williamson

    King tried to climb that highest peak again in 1871, but ended up on the wrong peak by mistake. After claiming to have made it, it turned out that he climbed Mt. Langley instead (14,042') now named after Samuel Langley, the astronomer and physicist.

    head-and-shoulders photo photo
    Samuel Langley; Mt. Langley taken by Mike from Sky Blue Lake

    That highest peak was finally climbed by three fisherman who, I guess, were not catching anything and decided to do something else that day. Charles D. Begole, Albert H. Johnson, and John Lucas made the first ascent on August 18, 1873 and, since they got their first, the local townsfolks named it Fishermans Peak (14,496'). Well, as the peak was discovered, if not climbed, in 1864 by Brewer and Hoffmann, they named it after their leader, Josiah Whitney. That is the name that stuck but if you hear me mention Fishermans Peak, you'll know what I mean.

    head-and-shoulders studio photo photo
    Josiah Whitney; Fishermans Peak taken by Mike from Mt. Muir

    King finally summited Mt. Whitney on September 19, 1873; he made the forth ascent. John Muir pioneered the Mountaineers Route up Whitney on October 21 that same year.

    head-and-shoulders drawing photo
    John Muir; Mt. Muir (14,012') taken by Mike from below Fishermans Peak

    Now don't get me wrong; Clarence King was really quite a good guy. My friend Jim tells me that he was the first to recognize glaciation as taking place in North America when he observed what he named the Whitney Glacier on Mt. Shasta in 1870. He led the geological survey Fortieth Parallel expedition (1867-1878) and went on to organize and become the first Director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

    head-and-shoulders studio portrait photo
    Clarence King; Mt. Clarence King (12,905') in the background behind Fin Dome; that's Mt. Cotter on the left. - Photo © Bob Carney

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    We have half a dozen people going on this trip:

    Photo Wayne Penn
    Photo Jon Penn
    Photo Justin Rolfe
    Photo Deanna Buhl
    Photo Maurie
    Photo and me, Mike Diggles

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  • Such a Landscape! by William Brewer (1864) and Bill Alsup (1999)

  • Exploring the Highest Sierra by Jim Moore (2000)

  • Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada by Clarence King (1872)

  • The High Sierra : Peaks, Passes, and Trails by R. J. Secor, (2nd ed., 1999)

  • The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project: An ecosystem evaluation to provide a scientific review of late-successional forests, key watersheds, and significant natural areas on federal lands of the Sierra Nevada. See Geology and Mineral Issues by Mike Diggles and others (3.4-MB PDF file).

    Bill Finch's site - a comprehensive collection of Kings Canyon and Sequoia trip reports and links

    Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, NPS home page

    Bears, food storage, and how to protect bears from us

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    Wilderness Permit

    On March 1, 2003, the first day the National Park Service accepts wilderness-permit reservations for this area, we send in this info:

    The dates you wish to begin and end your trip.
    Tuesday, July 22, 2003

    The trailhead where you will be entering and exiting the park. (Send alternate entry points and/or dates to avoid delays in getting reservations)
    Roads End

    Method of travel (foot, horse, ski, snowshoe)

    The number of people in your party (maximum is 15, except in Redwood Canyon where it is 10).

    The number of pack and saddle stock in your party, if applicable (maximum is 20).

    Your best estimate of where you will camp and the number of nights in each location.
    1. Charlotte Creek confluence with Bubbs Creek
    2. East Lake
    3. East Lake
    4. Charlotte Creek confluence with Bubbs Creek

    The name of your organization or group (if applicable).
    (private trip)

    Your name, address, and phone number.
    Michael F. Diggles
    154 Rutherford Ave.
    Redwood City, CA 94061-3500

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    Click on the map to get a larger version

    map showing East Lake and Mt. Brewer

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    Photo Essay

    CLICK HERE to see the photo album. There are 100 photos in this collection and I thought I had better put them in a separate page.

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    The entire hike was on the same rock unit: The Late Cretaceous Paradise Granodiorite. This is a porphyritic granodiorite and granite that contains potassium feldspar phenocrysts 1 to 3 cm long that are characterized by abundant, zonally arranged inclusions of biotite and hornblende. It has a biotite K-Ar age 78 Ma and a hornblende K-Ar age 84 Ma (Evernden and Kistler, USGS P-623, 1970). It has Pb-U ages 86 to 83 Ma (Chen and Moore, JGR, 1982). It contains an average of about 70 weight percent SiO2.

    As we drove to the roadhead up Kings Canyon, we passed the Granite of North Mountain, a septum of pelitic hornfels and schist, and the Granodiorite of Long Peak but we never walked in those units. On the hike, when we got to Junction Meadow and turned up East Creek, we were just shy of a septum of Jurassic or Triassic metavolcanic rocks that separate the Paradise Granodiorite from the Bullfrog Pluton. The Paradise Granodiorite is one of the outer parts of the Mount Whitney Intrusive Suite with the inner parts being the Whitney Granodiorite and granite porphyry dikes and sills including the Golden Bear dike. We were fewer than four miles from these units. When we go back and climb Mt. Brewer some other year, we plan to go up Sphinx Creek and do the west approach for a change of scenery. We will then be within a couple miles of the Sugarloaf Pluton which is the outer part of the Mount Whitney Intrusive Suite.

    I got this information from Jim Moore's Lone Pine Peak (USGS I-2617, 2000), Marion Peak (USGS GQ-1399, 1978) Mount Pinchot (USGS B-1130, 1963), Mount Whitney (USGS GQ-1545, 1981), and Triple Divide Peak (USGS GQ-1636, 1987) quadrangles.

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    cartoon of man and woman in a backpacking store.  She says:  Buying a tent won't make you a camper, Arthur.  It will, however, make you a shopper

    cartoon of man and woman in the woods with heavy packs.  He says:  It's a good thing this is a leisure-time activity, because you couldn't pay me to do it

    cartoon of family starting a hike.  Dad tells the little boy there is more to hiking than heavy packs, steep trails, and wild animals.  mom tells the boy 'Your dad's right.  There's also the foot blisters, mosquitoes, and the possibility of torrential rains

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    Date created: February 10, 2003
    Date modified: September 23, 2012
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