2004 Sierra Challenge
by Jim Wolff

29 July - 9 August 2004-

All words and photos by Jim Wolff unless otherwise noted.

My full report.

This year’s 2004 Sierra Challenge was my first time participating in the annual event. The basic idea is that participants climb ten peaks in ten days. I created a modified list of peaks and it turned out that a few other people liked my plan and joined me for several days during the ten day duration. My alternative selctions were based on a desire to hike fewer miles, less elevation gain, and fewer class 3 climbs. Still this alternative plan if completed would involve about 118 miles and nearly 46,000 feet of altitude gain. The Peaks I selected were as follows:

Mt. Conness
Mt. Dana
Mt. Starr
Mt. Basin
Mt. Lamarck, changed to Mt. Hurd, did not summit.
White Mountain Peak
Mt. Jepson, did not summit
Mt. Dragon, took the day off
Mt. Muir
Cirque Peak, went home early on the last day.

Sometimes in the thin air of the high mountains you feel like a fish out of water. Sometimes you may feel like a bug because compared to the mountains you seem very small. Hope you enjoy these pictures.

Mt. Basin from the east. On my way up to Tioga Pass I checked out the road up to the trailhead a few days in advance.

Nearby Mt. Tom.

Composite shot of Mt. Basin and Mt. Tom.

This is as far as I felt comfortable driving my two-wheeled drive truck up the rough Buttermilk road. The Owens Valley is in the background.

I like the way these rocks and branches formed a pattern on the foothills below Mt. Basin.

Lush wildflowers in the meadows at the base of Mt. Dana near Tioga Pass.

Tioga Pass from the south on the lower slopes of Mt. Dana.

Looking south at the summit of Mt. Dana.

Mono Lake looking east from the summit ridge of Mt. Dana.

Exposure on the eastern side of Mt. Dana.

This final sections leading to the summit of Mt. Dana.

Jim on the summit. You can see Mt. Conness just over my left shoulder on the right side of the picture. To the right of this you can see Saddlebag Lake where we will start our climb then next day. Photo by a fellow hiker.

On the approach to Mt. Conness from the east. The summit is not visible.

Approaching the east ridge of Mt. Conness.

Lupin blooming in the alpine meadows.

Mike Looks south as we make our way up just below the east ridge of Mt. Conness.

The sharp summit of Mt. Dana to the south in the distance.

Looking up along the east ridge of Mt. Conness.

From a gap in the east ridge we see North Peak and the lower sections of Conness Glacier.

High on the east ridge just below the final climb to the summit ridge of Mt. Conness.

Summit ridge with the Mt. Conness summit block clearly visible.

Hey look here I am. Photo by Cal Leong.

A composite shot of the western wall of Mt. Conness summit.

Standing on the top of Mt. Conness. Photo by Cal Leong.

Composite image looking south from the summit to the narrow section you climb to get to the summit. Mt. Dana in the distance.

Looking back up the east ridge as we descend.

Little Lakes Valley above Rock Creek Canyon, with views os Mt. Morgan, Mt. Dade, Mt Abbot, and Mt Mills.

Little Lakes Valley on the way to Morgan Pass.

Little Lakes Valley.

Looking back down the valley to Mt. Starr.

More little lakes.

Morgan Pass.

Ruby Finch Peak with Pyramid Peak to the right.

The top of the "Hourglass" to the south (left) of Mt. Dade.


Approaching Mono Pass from the west on the way to Mt. Starr.TBD

Cal and I at Mono Pass. Photo by Peter Sih.

Looking down the north slope of Mt. Starr with Mono Pass below and Peter climbing upward.

Looking north from Mt. Starr.

The summit of Mt. Starr. The wind was very strong that day. Photo by Cal Leong.

Mt. Morgan to the south from Mt. Starr with Little Lakes Valley below.

Heading back down Mono Pass.

Sunrise at the Mt. Basin trailhead.

A few minutes later, Mt. Basin.

Cal and Peter take off up the old mining road leading to the valley between Mt. Basin and Mt. Tom.

More wildflowers in the early light.

Looking south at the north and western sides of Mt. Basin.


Looking back down the trail as we head up to the last lake then the slog up to the summit.

Just one more little climb and we will be there. Right!

Cal leads the way up the final slab.

Summit of Mt. Basin. Photo by Cal Leong.

Two beers please. Photo by Cal Leong.

Looking west from the summit of Mt. Basin.

Looking north at Mt. Tom from the summit of Mt. Basin.

Cal and Mike on summit.

Mike and Peter, Mt. Basin.

Looking north at the Mt. Basin summit ridge and Mt. Tom in the distance, the Owens Valley below and White Mountians across.

Looking back on the way down at the western ridge of Mt. Basin.

Jim, Peter, Michelle, and Cal pose at the Horton Lake. We didn't get back to the cars until after dark. See my report for the gory details.

Hurd Peak on the left from the trailhead at South Lake.

The west slopes of Mt. Hurd. We took the wide gully in the middle.

Peter following on the lower section of Mt. Hurd. Lots of loose rock.

We encountered several class 3 slabs on the way up between the talus and scree. Photo by Cal Leong.

Upward. Photo by Cal Leong.

And upward. Photo by Cal Leong.

No time to rest. Photo by Cal Leong.

Cal does his thing.

Peter climbing with the Treasure Lakes below.

Looking west at Mt. Goode, Mt. Johnson, Mount Gilbert, and Mt. Thompson.

Cal shoots a picture of a "duck".

This is where we needed to go but we ran out of time and turned back about 300 feet below the summit.

We found ourselves on a very thin ridge with this at the end of it.

Looking south on the road leading to White Mountain Peak.

Follow the arrow.

Cal and Peter with White Mountain Peak in the distance.

Getting closer.

Some people think this looks like the moon.

Cal, Jim, and Peter on the summit of White Mountain Peak the third highest in California, 14, 246 feet. The eastern Sierra Nevada in the distance across the Owens Valley. Photo by an unknown hiker.

Looking northwest at the Sierra range and Owens Valley.

The storage box and summit register.

Back at the trailhead. Our fifth peak and fourth summit. Photo by a woman waiting for a bunch of mountain bikers to come down the trail.

I love this picture because it reminds me so much of the Andes and the Sacred Valley of the Inca in Peru. Like the one below.

The Andes Mountains from the Sacred Valley of the Inca, refer to my 2003 Andean Running Adventure page.

4000 or more year old bristlecone pines trees that grow in the White Mountains.

Sunrise on the way to Mt. Jepson.

Dana and Mark making their way up the slabs in the lower part of the canyon on the way to Mt. Jepson.

Norman Clyde glacier below Palisades Crest.

Climbing and more climbing.

Mt. Sill and Jim. Photo by Dana Grenier.

Dana enjoying the awesome views. Lake Elinore on the left below.

Slabs and talus up to the ridge leading to Scimitar Pass. We got to this point and then turned back due to time.

Dana, Jim, and Mark. Photo by Joe Dawson.

Looking south at Palisades Crest.

South to Norman Clyde Glacier.

Glacier Creek drainage looking west.

Glacier Creek near the trailhead at the end of another long day.

Peter hiking up the Mt. Whitney Trail on the way up to Mt. Muir.

Arc Pass with McAdie on the right, Consultation Lake below.

Looking west up the Whitney trail and the summit of Mt. Muir, middle right.

Peter on the switchbacks looking down at Consultation Lake on the right and Trail Camp to the left.

Vanessa and her boyfriend just behind Peter on the switchbacks leading to Trail Crest.

Mt. Muir to the north from the switchbacks.

Looking west across the Sierra's from Trail Crest.

Looking east across Owen's Valley from Trail Crest.

Trail Crest with hikers coming down from Mt. Whitney.

The west face of the summit of Mt. Muir and our path. Photo by Peter Sih

Looking down half way up the face of Mt. Muir.

Peter below on the face of Mt. Muir.

Peter gives the thumbs up sign on the tiny summit of Mt. Muir.

Looking north to Mt. Whitney from the summit of Mt. Muir.

Jim on the summit of Mt. Muir, the thirteeth highest mountain in California, 14,015 feet. Photo by Peter Sih.

South from the summit of Mt. Muir. Mt. Langley in the middle and Cirque Peak to the right (the light colored mountain further south.) Notice the numerous switchbacks on the slopes below.

Mt. Muir above and Peter in the boulder field leading back down to the Mt. Whitney Trail.

While pumping gas early on 9 August caught this shot of Mt. Whitney before heading home.

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