August 8, 2017
Shortly after sunrise found us standing atop Porphyry Peak, a small and insignificant highpoint which took 10 minutes to ascend from camp. To the west, the Clark Range loomed overhead just a few hours away, marking the end of our easy section.
view south from Porphyry Peak
We descended the west side of Porphyry which actually turned out to be a short bit of unexpected fun exposed class 4. Toshi apparently did not see the fun as much, commenting that he almost lost his breakfast over the brief section of exposure. Easier terrain could be found further south.
Now it was a series of low angle ups and downs along the connecting ridge to Walton Peak. This was to be the last of our easy smooth sailing ridge. As we continued west, the ridge became increasingly made up of large smooth slabs. At the lowpoint between Porphyry and Walton, several thin but deep (10-50 ft deep) cracks appeared in the slabs, forcing us to spend a few moments weaving around them. These cracks vanished once we began ascending Walton's northeast ridge, a standard class 1-2 granite rock hop. Sean was feeling a little lethargic, having contracted a stomach bug somewhere on the traverse. He had started feeling it later in the previous day and it had not gotten better today. On top of this, his ankle was acting up. The onslaught of painful body parts would only continue. There were many miles of ridge left to be traversed.
view northwest from Walton
Just northwest of Walton, the ridge went over a couple bumps which involved fun class 3 scrambling. After crossing an initial snowfield, we remained on the crest of this ridge for the best quality climbing.
Eventually we began the long ascent northwest towards Triple Divide Peak which turned out to be less tedious than I hard originally thought. I stayed as close as I could to the ridge crest since the rock was pretty solid there. We took a short food break upon reaching the summit plateau, walking up Little Divide Peak in the process.
view northwest from Little Divide Peak
Another short slog brought us to the summit of Triple Divide Peak which marked the start of the Clark Range. I had been on this peak three years prior on the Fernandez Traverse, gazing longingly at Convoluted Bliss knowing that the next time I stood on this peak it was to be during that traverse, whenever that would be. We dug around looking for a register that I had recalled finding, but it was no longer there.
looking south from Triple Divide Peak towards the Fernandez Traverse
Triple Divide's northwest ridge was a long mess of clinky talus which shifted with each step. It wasn't difficult, just annoying. After crossing a brushy saddle began a seemingly long class 3 ascent of Giant Fist Peak's east ridge. Our heavy packs seemed to weigh a hundred pounds as they anchored us down as we ascended boulder after boulder. Sean was somewhere behind having the shits from his stomach bug, feeling much more physically worse than we were, likely severely lacking in energy.
The summit was pleasant with a cool breeze. Both Toshi and I sat there enjoying the views and cool air. Columns of smoke could be seen rising in two different directions. We had noticed these starting yesterday but they were not as pronounced as they were now. Later we would find out that they were caused by lightning only a few days ago, and they would end up burning out of control for a month.
view east from Giant Fist Peak
A short and easy rock hop brought us to the summit of Merced Peak further west. This was the tallest peak in the Clark Range, but definitely not the hardest. A network of sparkling lakes were scattered to the west, and I thought of planning a few easy future backpacking trips just for the sake of visiting them.
views from Merced Peak
smoky Yosemite Valley
The descent of Merced's north ridge looked agonizingly steep on the topo, but turned out to be only class 2 in difficulty (but still steep tho). After making it to the lowpoint before Ottoway Peak's south ridge, we located a good snowfield and spent over an hour melting snow and cooking food. This was a good rest that many of us were looking forward to.
With our packs now slightly heavier with extra water, we set off up Ottoway Peak. The south ridge was pretty straightforward with a little class 3 at the top. The northwest ridge was long and undulating, containing mostly a jumble of large shifty boulders which were tedious to climb through.
Ottoway summit views
somewhere along the jumble of boulders
Red Devil Peak was a noticeable bump at the end of Ottoway's northwest ridge. It was pretty easy to walk up and back down this bump in no time.
looking northwest from Red Devil Peak
There were still a couple hours of daylight remaining, but we decided to drop down into Ottoway Basin and camp for a relaxing evening. All of us were looking forward to rest. We descended about 800 ft of elevation southwest, stopping at a babbling brook at an elevation of 10,600 ft, the first water source we encountered which was still above the highest Ottoway Lake. We set our tents up in daylight and ate around a large boulder before sunset. The temperature was dropping but it was definitely not cold yet. After a relaxed dinner, we were all happy to fall asleep shortly after sunset.
go to day 7