PREFACEMount Dade is a 13,600 foot peak in the Abbot group sitting along the Sierra Crest between Mount Abbot and Bear Creek Spire. It borders both the Inyo and Sierra National Forests and has been accessed from all sides. However, the peaks least technical and most popular approach is the east Coulior (otherwise known as the Hourglass Col). The Coulior can be reached via the Little Lakes Valley; a gorgeous glacier carved valley that hosts a chain of alpine lakes and offers ease of access to the rarified High Sierra as the Mosquito Flats trail head starts at an altitude of 10,300 ft.
Months before our outing, we obtained permits for Thousand Island Lakes months in advance and intended to reach Banner Peak, but were challenged by heavy snowfall. A secondary plan was to ascend Mount Dade via Little Lakes Valley. Although we had not struck a permit, we were confident that we could obtain one at the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine.
HIGHWAY 395Approaching the weekend, Victor had mentioned that he was planning on leaving early Friday morning for a relaxed drive including visiting the local hot springs and breweries. This was a no-brainer and we were on the road by 6:30 AM with an initial goal of collecting permits and having breakfast in Lone Pine. By 9:45 AM, we had reached the Visitor Center. We approached the counter and a young ranger monotonously asked "...Are you here to climb Mount Whitney?" "No, we were wondering if we could get some permits for Rock Creek." The rangers face lit up and he was immediately far more interested in helping us. He went on about what a great area it was and probed us more regarding our plan. As we elaborated on our attempt to summit Mount Dade, he gradually became less concerned with whether or not we had a bear canister and seemingly more interested in joining us. We shared his stoke and took to the road.
Victor and I must have set the record for the shortest amount of time spent dining in the Alabama Hills Cafe. We hardly shared any words once the plates hit the table and even had room for a liquid brunch at Mountain Rambler Brewery by the time we hit Bishop. Our next goal was to pick a campsite at the East Fork campground located along Rock Creek. By the time I had set up my tent, I was spent from accomplishing all of the stressful errands of the day, so we decided to head over to the hot springs for some soaking. This would be my first time visiting Mammoth's local hot springs and they were pretty damn amazing. Right as we finished a couple of beers, a huge family of maybe ten showed up and we took our cue. After returning to the East Fork Campground, we cooked up some steak over an open flame and enjoyed dinner. Just as we finished up, we were joined by Gil who was able to drive up earlier than the remaining four in our group. He mentioned that they were held back due to some last minute inconvenience and we all headed for bed.
ROAD CLOSURES TO ROCK CREEK TRAIL
Saturday, June 8th, 2019 -- At 7:45 AM, we made it to Rock Creek Lake. The recent snow activity was cause for a road closure up to this point. We would walk an additional 1.3 miles on a relatively flat and somewhat icy road before reaching the Rock Creek trail head but the plethora of restrooms along the way were a nice bonus.
HARD BREAK AT HEART LAKEWe traveled for 2.6 miles, passing two lakes and playing leap frog with two very attractive day hikers, eventually arriving coincidentally at Heart Lake (2.6 miles, 700 feet of cumulative vertical gain). The day hikers were parked near the toe of the lake along with a couple of fisherman, so naturally we decided it looked like a good place to enjoy the view as well. From here, Bear Creek Spires's North Arete stood center stage between the obviously named Pyramid Peak, and Pip-squeak Spire while Mount Dade was still hidden further east behind Treasure Peak. After twenty minutes of staring at the jaw dropping beauty...of the lake of course, we made some moves for the trail which continued along the western side of the valley.
LEAVING THE TRAIL AT LONG LAKE
A NOT SO ALPINE STARTSunday, June 8th, 2019 -- I awoke to the sound of crunchy foot steps by my vestibule. My phone read 5:15 AM. I hurried out of my tent expecting to see everyone packed and staring silently at me, waiting for me to get my shit together, but they weren't too far ahead. I prepared most of my gear the night before and in good sense, since I would need to spend at least ten minutes trying to cram my feet into my frozen boots.
TIME SLOWS ON THE HOURGLASS COULIOR
THE FINAL APPROACHWe had just climbed nearly 1,300 feet in under three quarters of a mile from the bottom of hourglass col. I plopped myself down on the first boulder that looked remotely comfortable. Flanked by Treasure Peak and Mount Morgan, the Little Lakes Valley was now completely visible. I glanced east toward Pip-squeak Spire and then west at the final approach to Mount Dade.
Danny (@mountainfiend), excited to reach the summit of Mount Dade.
I used the extra time at camp to pack for both myself and Victor and as soon as the rest of the group was ready, I bolted for the trail head. I felt a lot more comfortable once I reached dry ground and set up a camping chair to await the others. After saying our goodbyes, Victor and I headed for Convict Lake to snag another campsite. Neither of us had to get back to reality quite yet and decided we needed another night of hot springs and camping under the stars to recoup before the long drive home.
Total Elevation (feet): 4,200 ft.
- Class 1 heavily trafficked trail up to end of Long Lake (mile 4). The trail to Treasure Lakes is probably still obvious, but it was covered in snow for us and we traveled as the crow flies for the most part.
- Class 2 steep scree and snow depending on time of year.