July 24-25, 2013
Mt. Haeckel and Mt. Wallace are two thirteeners that lie along the main Sierra Crest, the two tallest points between Mt. Darwin to the northwest and Mt. Thompson to the southeast. Mt. Haeckel, the taller and more picturesque of the two, is often seen by tourists visiting nearby Lake Sabrina who admire its sharp serrated ribs and ridgelines from afar. Both peaks are very popular with local climbers and peakbaggers, especially Haeckel, due to a plethora of technical routes on its north side.
Getting to the trailhead: From Bishop, head west on West Line St/State Route 168 for 18 miles towards Lake Sabrina. Lake Sabrina Trailhead is on the left, about 0.2 mi before the lake itself. Parking in dirt lots by the trailhead is for day use only. Overnight parking is permitted a little ways back where a double yellow line divides the road.
Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 37.213617, -118.610096
Tommey and I started at Lake Sabrina Trailhead (9,050 ft) on Saturday morning at 8:09 am loaded with full packs. Our planned route was to take trails from Lake Sabrina 6.6 miles towards Moonlight Lake and Hungry Packer Lake (11,050 ft), leave the trail just before Hungry Packer Lake, and ascend a small ridge that separated Hungry Packer and Moonlight. Once on the ridge, we would follow it southwest until it ended above Echo Lake, contour around Picture Peak to intersect a wide canyon south of it, and follow this canyon northwest to a bowl containing a tarn at 12,750 ft between Haeckel and Wallace. From there, Wallace (13,377 ft) would be climbed via its class 2 North Slope, and Heackel (13,418 ft) via its class 3 Southeast Face. After climbing these two peaks, we would camp somewhere and consider traversing Mt. Fiske, Mt. Warlow, and Mt. Huxley on Sunday.
The air was cool and humid at the start of our hike, indicating a possibility of afternoon thunderstorms. For now the weather was very pleasant, resulting in some clear panoramic views of Lake Sabrina. The trail gently contoured along the southeast side of Lake Sabrina for a little more than a mile, then began gently switchbacking up towards Blue Lake.
views from switchbacks
Blue Lake (10,400 ft) was a very scenic and serene area. Several excellent campsites lined its west side. It would've been an excellent place to camp if it weren't located so far from our peaks.
Shortly after Blue Lake was a trail junction (3.2 miles from trailhead). We branched off right towards Dingleberry Lake 1.4 miles away.
Many people first mistaken this unnamed peak, seen just after the first junction, as Picture Peak.
Just before reaching Dingleberry Lake (10,500 ft), Mt. Haeckel came into view as the "two pointed triangle" shaped summit in the back.
Dingleberry Lake- "dingleberry" in this case almost certainly refers to the Southern Mountain Cranberry, which grows in this area, but it can also refer to a small clump of poo clinging to an animal's anal hairs. I guess the moral here would be to filter the water around this lake before drinking it?
Just after Dingleberry Lake lake, we came upon another junction with one trail labeled "hiker trail" and another labeled "stock trail." Having read a trip report that recommended taking the stock trail because it was faster, we made no hesitation to take it. After a few moments, the trail seemed to disappear, and we searched back and forth for about 15 minutes, eventually realizing that the "trail" went straight through a wide shallow creek. Slapping ourselves, we took off our shoes and waded across, making sure to take the hiker trail on the way back. After the two trails merged shortly after the stream crossing, we hiked 0.7 miles to another junction, at which we took the branch towards Hungry Packer Lake. We would hike on trails for 1 more mile after this junction before starting on cross country terrain.
The trail now twisted and turned across alpine meadows full of blooming wildflowers, consisting primarily of lupines. Picture Peak soon appeared, looking indeed very picturesque.
As we passed Sailor Lake, the ridge which we would ascend to came into view. Just before reaching Hungry Packer Lake, we took off cross country and aimed for the ridge.
As we ascended the ridge, something strangely colored began appearing on the other side. It turned out to be Moonlight Lake, which had turquoise-colored water due to glacial minerals.
We stayed on top of the ridge, which consisted of class 1-2 slabby terrain, following it southwestward towards the left of a saddle northeast of Picture Peak. We stayed on the ridge as long as we could, since its slabby terrain offered less tedious climbing than the many rock fields surrounding it.
nice views of Hungry Packer Lake
Eventually the ridge merged with and disappeared into the surrounding boulder fields. Boulders began to gradually increase, but it was still generally easy terrain. We continued southwest towards an obvious gap that was the canyon heading towards Haeckel and Wallace.
Wallace came into view shortly before the canyon.
Upon reaching the canyon, we followed it northwest towards the bowl between Haeckel and Wallace. There was some tedious boulder hopping here, but the boulders were generally pretty solid.
looking southeast towards Clyde Spires and a tarn at 12,200 ft
A river flowed through this canyon, but most of its water was unreachable as it gurgled under rocks. There were a few small waterfalls containing refreshing ice cold water.
Pretty soon we came to the bowl between Haeckel and Wallace, complete with its own mini-glacier and tarn (12,750 ft). Haeckel lay to the northwest of this tarn, and Wallace lay to the southeast.
At this point, we began ascending Wallace's North Slope. The first 200 ft of gain consisted of solid rock, which then turned into a loose class 2 scree gully. Not enjoying this crap gully at all, I moved onto some considerably more solid class 3 rock while Tommey continued up the gully. Partway up the class 3 rock, I heard a scream coming from the gully, and rushed over to see Tommey bent over in pain. He had dislodged a boulder with his hands, which then smashed into one of his knees. He assessed the damage, decided it was nothing serious, and resumed ascending at a much slower pace.
As we continued to ascend, bits of smoke began drifting over from the west. The smoke grew stronger every minute, to the point where we could see it obscuring distant peaks. Though we didn't know it at the time, this smoke was blowing over from the Aspen Fire near Fresno, which had been sparked by lightning two days prior.
I topped out on the summit of Mt. Wallace at 3:36 pm, amazed with its spectacular views southwestward towards Mt. Fiske's prominent Northeast Face. Wallace contained an interesting 10 ft class 3+ summit block, which could be surmounted by a few small footholds on its west side. A few moments later, Tommey had reached the summit, his knee really bothering him.
Wallace North Slope viewed from 12,900 ft
view southwest towards Mt. Fiske
Wallace's summit block
Crumbly Spire to the southeast certainly looks pretty crumbly.
We descended back down Wallace's North Slope and began looking for a place to camp. Thick clouds were moving in, and we did not want to be caught in a storm. Tommey needed to rest up his knee, so we certainly were not going to climb Haeckel that day. After a little searching, we managed to locate a camp spot on the east side of Tarn 12,750 ft. It was a small sandy flat spot, only big enough for a 1-person tent which we could both fit in. Someone had previously padded out the spot and removed any lingering rocks, so the tent was up in no time.
It was sometime around 5:30 pm when we finished dinner and crawled into the tent just as it started to rain. A steady drizzle lasted for about two and a half hours, then cleared. We went to sleep early, with each of us receiving at least 10 hours of sleep by Sunday morning.
Sunday morning came with partly cloudy skies, with sunlight filtering through a layer of cirrus clouds that had moved in overnight. The smoke had mostly cleared, but still lingered throughout the area. Tommey said that his knee was much better and he wanted to climb Haeckel, so up Haeckel we went, leaving camp at 6:33 am. Since our campsite was right at the base of Haeckel's Southeast Face, we began climbing almost right away. Directly above Tarn 12,750 ft were some scree deposits, which had to be climbed in order to get up onto solid class 3 rock. Once on the rock, we found ourselves enjoying the climbing. Every so often a hold might wiggle slightly, but overall the rock was relatively solid. Once on the Southeast Face, there were many options of where to climb. As long as we stayed left of the more whitish looking rock, the climbing remained class 3.
view of Wallace from Haeckel's Southeast Face
We reached the windy summit of Haeckel (13,418 ft) at 7:10 am, surprised that the climb had seemingly took no time at all.
Mt. Darwin dominated the northwestern horizon.
south towards the Black Divide
Darwin with his head in the clouds
descending Haeckel's Southeast Face- Peak 13080 and Picture Peak can be seen to the right
After eating breakfast back at camp, we broke camp and began heading back. I was interested in tagging two nearby peaks: Peak 13080 and Picture Peak, both located on the north side of the canyon (opposite of Haeckel and Wallace). Tommey had no interest in those peaks and said he would slowly make his way back while I climbed them.
Peak 13080 was merely a highpoint on the ridge between Mt. Haeckel and Picture Peak. It did not have the sufficient prominence to be considered a peak by USGS, but was still seen as a peak from a peakbagger's perspective, which is evident in that Peak 13080 contains a register at its summit. The climb was nothing tricky, consisting of nearly all class 2 terrain with a few class 3 moves near the summit. I left camp at 9:10 am and summited at 9:22 am.
route to Peak 13,080 seen from camp
view towards Hungry Packer Lake and Moonlight Lake from Peak 13080
PVC summit register
The seemingly class 3 traverse on a ridge between Peak 13080 and Picture Peak looked very fun, but it didn't seem too appealing to me with a full pack, so I descended Peak 13080 a climbed Picture Peak separately.
After descending Peak 13080, I contoured along the southern side of the ridge between 13080 and Picture, walking on loose talusy terrain.
Upon reaching the base of Picture's Southwest Face (12,400 ft), I noticed a class 3 scree chute heading directly up the face. This was a good a route as any, and I took off up the chute. This chute was far from fun, composed of loose crappy scree. There were some areas of rock that seemingly offered a respite from all the scree, but it too crumbled and flaked away as soon as I set foot on it. Luckily, this chute wasn't long, only gaining 450 ft from its base and ending at a prominent notch at 12,850 ft on Picture's West Ridge. From this notch, I followed the West Ridge to the summit, enjoying the multitude of solid class 3 granite that it offered. After a few false summits, I came to the true summit (13,120 ft) which was composed of several low-angle slabs.
looking down the chute from Notch 12,850 ft
route up Picture Peak (viewed from Wallace)
views from West Ridge
Picture Peak summit, 10:13 am
Picture Peak certainly lived up to its name. There were excellent views from its top and bottom, especially towards Hungry Packer and Moonlight lakes.
I retraced my steps on the descent, following the ridge back to Notch 12,850 ft and down that awful chute. I thought to myself that the chute would probably make a nice winter snow climb.
After getting down the chute, I retraced my previous days route. This time, I stayed a little higher while contouring around Picture Peak, which was faster, but involved much more loose scree. After hitting the trail, I began jogging, catching up with Tommey near Dingleberry Lake. We hiked the remaining distance without a hitch, reaching the trailhead at 1:30 pm.
back at Lake Sabrina
7,400 ft gain/loss
Moonlight Lake, Hungry Packer Lake
Wallace, Haeckel, 13080, Picture
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Inyo National Forest