|Looking at Sonora Mountain from near the Pass. This was taken on the second day of Fall!|
Though the Sierras are comparatively narrower range to say, the Rockies or the Cascades, they remain quite remote by 21st century standards. Between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, only four highways actually cross the range and they are only open for about 4-5 months a year. South of Yosemite, no paved roads cross the mountain range for 140 miles. As a wonderful consequence, they remain in pristine condition for exploration.
I've needed to reorient myself to the region. I've decided to focus my recent expeditions to the area around Sonora Pass, crossed by Highway 108 and the second highest pass in California. The PCT crosses at the pass, not to mention probably a hundred other trail-heads and tall summits that can be easily hiked within a day or weekend. My first destination was Sonora Peak.
Sonora Peak is normally quite easy to bag. Its not more than a few miles from the highway and the parking area is easily accessed. The Pacific Crest Trail comes within a mile of the summit and the scrambling route may trigger the nerves of a less experienced hiker but is not too hairy.
Of course, hiking/climbing it in September is a different matter! About 8-12 inches of snow fell on the higher elevations on the first day of fall creating a much more wintry scene-
|Looking towards slopes of Leavitt Peak (not visible)|
|Looking south towards the many high summits of Yosemite National Park|
Though the snow was fairly deep in some sections, the Pacific Crest Trail was stomped fairly well. I encountered numerous hunters during my trek- should have brought blaze orange! Fortunately there were no bad encounters. No wildlife either!
The PCT has a comparatively gentle ascent for about 1.6 miles until the "turn-off" for the scrambling route. Essentially it makes a very recognizable hairpin turn just under a prominent arête. The standard ascent of the summit starts here.
|Nicely packed trail, probably mostly hunters this time of year|
|After the first scrambling section, the summit becomes (mostly) visible)|
|Atop the Arete|
Its simple class II scrambling from here. Its a bit exposed in some sections but I really couldn't imagine slipping too far unless it was a profoundly icy day. The going got a little slower as I crossed the 10,000 foot mark and felt the effects of the thin air. There just wasn't enough time for this sea-level bay area guy to acclimate. I slogged on.
Just bellow the true summit, the terrain flattens out to a small snowfield that is probably permanent except in very dry years. The views get exceptionally clear once here and on top of the summit block!
|Looking North by Northwest towards Stanislaus Peak|
|Looking south towards Mt Leavitt, one of the more prominent summits of the area and just a hundred feet higher that the summit I was standing on|
|Sonora Peak summit, showings its obvious volcanic origins|
|East fork of the Carson River valley and White Mountain|