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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Aug 23, 2014 - Morgan (S), Mount

 

Partners: (None)

Distance: 12.36 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,344 feet

Trip Time: 8:21

Maps and Stats:
Day 3, the last day of my peakbagging vacation was here and I was ready to go out with a bang. Day 1 I climbed Mt. Hoffmann and North Peak, Day 2 was Cloudripper and Vagabond Peak, and today's objective would be Mount Morgan (South), a peak 13,748 feet in stature. There are two Mt. Morgans located only a few miles apart, which is why the (South) designation is used, so as to not confuse the two peaks which are so close together. In researching the peak I noted that a secondary peak, 12 Flags Peak, was a possible bonus climb after doing Morgan. Morgan is on the SPS and WSC lists, and would be my 25th SPS and 33rd WSC climb.

I woke up at the Motel 6 in Mammoth Lakes at 6:30, and after packing up my stuff for the long drive back to Tracy which I would do after the hike, I arrived at the parking lot at Rock Creek a little before 8:30. The trailhead was easy to find, and I was on my way up. The trail climbs steeply at first, but then levels off and is quite easy and pleasant as it leads all the way to Francis Lake where the maintained trail ends. Although I was only 1 hour into the hike and had gained only 1,000 feet, from here I could see the top of Mt. Morgan, not looking too far off. I knew from reading online reports that there were two options in going up to the peak. The standard option is to head straight up the drainage and rockfall of Mt. Morgan and the second option is to veer off to the right, gaining the ridgeline and following that up. This allows the hiker to skip the rockfall, and is probably the easier method. I decided to try this route, and walked around the lake and through a meadow as a made my way toward the rockfall. The ideal route would leave the meadow just short of the rockfall, or so I heard, but I saw no reason to wait so I just started uphill at this point.

This was of course off trail, and it was loose and steep, although only required maybe 250 feet of elevation gain so it was no big deal. This is not a route I would want to take over a sustained time period, but for this much distance it worked out fine. I gained the ridge and started following it towards the obvious low point in the Morgan ridge ahead. To my left I could see the rockfall that I had avoided, and I believe the route I chose was the better option. While walking on the ridgetop something caught my eye on the other side (right) of the ridgetop...it was a hiker! I couldn't believe it. There were no other hikers on North Peak, none on Cloudripper or Vagabond, and yet here was a hiker, obviously heading towards Morgan. Since I didn't know the best way to the top and he looked like he knew what he was doing I decided to follow him. I felt a bit guilty, like I was stalking him or something, so I tried to keep my distance but he stopped a couple of times and soon I had caught up with him. We exchanged pleasantries, and he informed me that he had attempted Morgan a while ago but had to turn around perhaps 500 feet of the summit due to altitude sickness. He said he had done all of the California 14ers, something that was quite impressive to me. I told him that I wanted to get Morgan and 12 Flags, although I wasn't quite sure how difficult this would be. He told me not to wait, as he was going slower, and so I set off uphill, and although I would see him several times at a distance the rest of the day, we would not be close enough to speak again.

I angled my way up towards that lowpoint on the ridge, with navigation being trivial as it was all laid out in front of me. I arrived at the ridgeline at 11:15, and started following the ridge uphill towards Morgan. This was all fairly straightforward, just keep going up over fairly good rock. Twp hours after I left the hiker I was just underneath the summit, where I topped out at 12:40. More amazing views awaited me. Towards Mt. Tom, to the south , towards Bear Creek Spire, over to Mt. Abbott, the unique looking (and appropriately named) Red Slate Mountain and back to Rock Creek Lake. I was disappointed not to find a summit register, but I did find the benchmark . I spent maybe 20 minutes on top, savoring the views and eying 12 Flags Peak, which looked a bit more difficult than I had hoped.

I was on the fence about whether or not to try 12 Flags, but I told myself that I could just see how far I could get and turn around if things got too spicy. So I angled down toward the right, toward 12 Flags. It wasn't looking any easier and I began to think that perhaps I had enough peaks for one trip. I was constantly eying the peak, looking for potential routes and hazards and as a result I happened to notice movement on the slope. It looked like a few horses from this distance but I knew better. These were Sierra Bighorn Sheep! I quickly tried to get off some pictures, as the sheep were moving and would soon be out of view. I was able to get off 2 shots, and later confirmed with the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife that this was part of the Wheeler Ridge herd. Quite a treat to see! I was pretty excited about this, and started up the slope of 12 Flags, which was easy at first but quickly turned into a narrow traverse. No problem, I made it across all of that, and could see the summit not too far ahead. I continued on, but ran into a problem when a large boulder was blocking my route, and it was too large to scale and required a move to go around it by going below - right above a chute which indicated that the terrain was not too stable. Being by myself I was not comfortable with this and decided to turn around. I wasn't too disappointed, as my primary objective was Mt. Morgan and 12 Flags was a "if I can" peak. I came back down the slope, and as I looked back up towards Mt. Morgan I could see the other hiker on top. We exchanged waves, and I set in for the descent.

I traversed the easy slope below Morgan, taking it back to the ridgeline that I had come up earlier in the day. This was going to be it - the end of my 3 day vacation in the mountains. I took in the scenery as I descended, wanting to come back and visit again soon. I came back down the same way I went up, avoiding the rockfall, and going cross country back down to the meadow just above Francis Lake. I kept an eye out for the other hiker, but I wouldn't see him again, and by 4:30 I was on the final descent back down to Rock Creek Lake and the end of the hike. It was a round trip of about 8 1/2 hours, and a perfect way to end the 3 day trip. It took about 5 hours to get back to Tracy, where I had one final day (Sunday) to rest before going back to work.

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