Hiking Stats as of 11/12/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Aug 22, 2014 - Vagabond Peak / Cloudripper


Partners: (None)

Distance: 14.99 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,047 feet

Trip Time: 8:51

Maps and Stats:
Today was day 2 of my 3 day peakbagging trip, having summited Mt. Hoffmann and North Peak yesterday I was ready for some more fun, this time in the eastern Sierra. I awoke at the Motel 6 in Mammoth Lakes at 7 AM (I know, that is pretty lazy) and still unsure about what I actually wanted to hike. I have very little experience with hiking multiple days in a row, and I wanted to stick with something that would be tough but not epic, since I still wanted to hike more tomorrow. I decided on Cloudripper, a peak over just over 13,500 feet. This would be a new experience for me, as I have summited two 14k peaks, then just Mt. Dana at 13,057 as the only peak in the 13k category. This illustrates the big gap I have left in the eastern Sierra that I am going to work on closing. Besides having a really cool name, Cloudripper is also an SPS Peak, and would be my 24th. Vagabond Peak is too close to Cloudripper to be listed on any peak lists, but at over 13,300 feet it would fit nicely into my resume.

I arrived at the parking lot at South Lake at 9:15, and was a bit surprised at how busy it was. Not that this isn't a place that lots of people would want to visit, just that this side of the Sierra is much less populated and is a great distance from large population centers. In any event, I started off on the trail as it wound alongside and above a very dry looking South Lake. This was somewhat confusing, as I wasn't supposed to be going this direction, but I was clearly on the trail....except for that junction right at the start that I somehow ignored. It was only a 15 minute mistake, and I backtracked and started up the correct trail away from South Lake. I followed the signs for the Green Lakes trail, running into a few people along the way but not as many as I feared given the numbers in the parking lot. The trail is very well defined as it winds up the side of a hill before dumping out at Brown Lake where I arrived at 10:45. I didn't visit the Lake, as the trail stays slightly above it and continues on, ultimately leading to the nicer looking (and fuller) Green Lake at an elevation of just over 11,000 where I arrived a few minutes after 11 AM. There were a few people around the lake, camping and fishing and these would be the last people I would see until returning back this way several hours later.

The trail continues around the lake, and heads towards the ridgeline, to the left and away from Vagabond Peak which could barely be seen above the far ridge. This part of the trail was a bit more challenging, as the grade increased although the quality of the trail remained high. The trail switched back and forth several times as it climbed the ridge, and once I got on top I had nice views towards Vagabond Peak, with Green Lake below. At this point Cloudripper remained hidden from view, directly behind Vagabond. From here the trail flattened out as it made its way toward the center of the ridge that marks the route up to Vagabond. I was happy to see a post marking the spot where it became time to leave the trail behind, going cross country the rest of the way. After heading uphill for a while, I entered a flat expanse from where I could finally see Cloudripper (at left) and Vagabond Peak at the same time. The route would take me up and over Vagabond - there is really no way to traverse around the side of the peak. From this spot it looked like maybe I could angle to the right of Vagabond to avoid the elevation gain and loss (on the return of course as I wanted to summit the peak at least once) but later I would see that was not really possible.

So I started up the slope toward Vagabond, trying to carve out an arc rather than a straight line to lessen the steepness of the ascent. It was basically a boulder field, fun to climb and not too lose at all. When I arrived at the top of the Vagabond ridge at 1:30 I finally had my first really good views of Cloudripper, showing the descent that was necessary. But first things first...the summit blocks of Vagaobond were just to my left and I needed to climb those. It turned out to be a bit more challenging than I thought, with some exposure and class 3 required. There wasn't much room to relax on top, but I stayed long enough to get some shots - Thunder and Lightning Lake, down to Green Lake, over to Cloudripper and towards Mt. Darwin. I started down the rocky slope towards the low point between the two peaks which only took a few minutes. I then started up the by now familiar rocks of Cloudripper, but I aimed too far left and wound up on top of the ridge a bit early. While I appreciated the awe-inspiring views, I didn't want to try to traverse the ridge so I dropped back down a bit and went towards the high point.

As I neared what looked like the high point it became evident that this was a false summit (and wasn't class 3 which I knew the summit blocks were supposed to be). The true summit was off to the left, perhaps another 100 feet away. The final blocks were easy class 3, although the ambiance of the jagged peaks and amazing views made me proceed with caution as a fall from up here would be serious. It only took a couple of minutes to arrive on top of Cloudripper where I sat down a few minutes before 2:30. The views were spectacular...Mt Agassiz was straight ahead, North Palisade and its glacier to the south, east to Fifth Lakes, Hurd Peak, which was towering overhead at the start but now looked small, and just, well, mountains everywhere else. I located the summit register , dating back to 2004 and signed in , took a summit shot of myself and after maybe 20 minutes on top got started back down for the descent. Unlike recent trips there was no worry about time, I knew I would be back before dark. I went back up and over Vagabond (although not actually climbing the summit blocks again), and now that I was facing the other direction I noticed views which somehow had eluded me earlier, in particular towards Mt. Humphreys and Mt. Tom.

By 4:15 I was on the final descent towards the post marking the trail which would take me all the way back to the car. Back down to Green Lake, back through the forest, and back to the car where I arrived at 6:15. I really enjoyed this outing, and was pleasantly surprised that I was not feeling any real fatigue after 2 days of fairly significant hiking. These 8-9 hour dayhikes up to the 13ers are something I could really get used to, and with one more day available for peakbagging I was already excited about what I might do tomorrow.

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