When many Southern Californians head to the beach during the hot summer months I prefer that glorious drive up the 395 to the Eastern Sierras. The goal of my latest trip was to summit Mt Morrison. Morrison is a 12,000 foot peak which is perched above Convict lake. It’s about an 8 mile round trip and there is no designated trail head so it involves some bushwhacking and game trail navigation. The views are worth the work.
I drove up with a few friends and enough gear for one night of backpacking. After a quick pitstop at a local hot spring we parked at the overnight lot below convict lake and started our hike in. A little more than a mile into the hike I heared some rockfall across the canyon, I search the talus slope looking for movement and suddenly a mountain lion came into focus. I’ve never seen one of these large felines; although I’m sure they have seen me more than a few times. The muscular cat ran diagonally up the slope, I could see its muscles straining under its tawny coat as it gained the ridge and disappeared from sight. This is the ideal way to see a top predator; from far away with it moving in the opposite direction from you. After the excitement of our wildlife viewing we continued up to the hanging valley that will be our home for the night.
The worst time to figure out your rain jacket needs new waterproofing is mid thunderstorm. We were aware the forecast called for storms but planned on getting to our campsite before the worst of it. We should have started earlier. Less than three miles into the hike it started to sprinkle, then rain, then hail. Stopping was not an option as we were slogging up a steep hillside, we headed towards a stand of trees in the distance which were in a low spot and provided some cover from the storm. The mind has a way of downplaying unpleasant experience after the fact. Looking back now I think “what an adventure that storm was” at the time though I was wet, cold and could barely set up my tent because my fingers were frozen. Luckily I had the foresight to pack a warm change of clothing and after a few minutes of uncontrollable shivering in my sleeping bag I was able to warm up. Eventually the storm moved off and all our suffering was rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
We woke in the morning to blue skies and semi dry boots. A perfect day to summit. From our campsite Mt. Morrison was a short but very steep hike. The best part about high sierra summits are the views, the worst part is the talus slope navigation it takes to get there. For every two steps forward you slide one back luckily the higher we got the more solid the ground became making the progress a bit easier. Once we reached the summit we had views of the surrounding peaks and Convict lake. It was funny to feel so far away from civilization when we could see pontoon boats floating on the lake below us. As we made our descent the clouds started to build again but after a quick rain shower the sun came out for the remainder of our hike. Once we made it back to Convict lake we undertook the important business of dipping our toes in the icy water and re-hydrating with cold beers.