Rae Lakes Climb – Stuck!

27-My-Climb.jpg ... Click image for 1024x768 desktop file.

I’ve had this photo on my desktop for a couple of days and thought I ought to share it. This is a small unnamed mountain in the Rae Lakes Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California. It sits practically in the shadow of Painted Lady, a more celebrated mountain in the vicinity of camp. I camped in a nice site overlooking the Rae Lakes in 1972, my one luxurious layover in a tough 7-day solo circuit.

The story behind this mountain, I suspect, has been told somewhere before: looking for a nice non-technical rock climb and an opportunity for some hard-to-get photographs, I climbed up this mountain with my little Rollei B-35 camera and  a T-shirt. I am not a trained rock climber but I used to be pretty good at free-climbing my way up some interesting ascents. I did get some nice photos, once of which is linked here.

Trouble is, I’m not as good climbing down, and I got stuck.

I attempted to retrace my ascent going down, but found I hadn’t paid attention. If you can right-click the image to “open in a new window”, you’ll get a 1024×768 desktop image. You can pretty much see how I must have gotten up: zig-zag up the side frontally, as you see it in this picture, to the 45-degree slab near the top, and then ascend carefully to the top.

Going down, I believe I got stuck on the ledge that’s lined with stunted trees about a quarter of the way down. The trouble turned out to be,  looking over the edge, you can’t see which part of the ledge gives the most favorable holds for climbing down. I suspect I originally got there by zagging in from way over to the right. I have no idea where in that ledge I was on the descent down, but it was too steep to climb, I couldn’t see, and frankly I was beginning to panic. It was getting darker, and COLD.

I finally picked the shortest sheer drop I cound find, climbed down a few feet on the seat of my pants, and jumped. I landed safely on a ledge below, and the rest was easy sledding, or, well, scree sliding.

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