Mount Goode, Mount Agassiz, and The Mighty Chocolate Peak From South Lake

  • Updated: June 03, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

  Chocolate Peak (11,682')
  Mount Goode (13,085')
  Mount Agassiz (13,893')
When: June 1st & 2nd, 2013
Where: Sierra Nevada, South Lake TH
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jen Blackie, Stephanie Gylden
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Track]

The initial thought for this weekend was to do an easy recovery trip after the previous weekends Memorial Day Massacre.

In 2012 the 100 miles and 20k gain over 5 days Massacre had gone fairly well until the last day where 26 miles with bad blisters and sore feet made things somewhat...memorable.  The following weekend on the thankfully gentle Excelsior and Dunderburg was so painful I had to drop back from the group and limp back on my own.

This year the Massacre went much smoother and I was pretty much back to normal after the three short days back in Orange County working.  All the better to enjoy an easy two day trip with east side resident Stephanie Gylden to grab the (relatively) easy Goode and Agassiz from Bishop Pass.

Jen and I drove up Friday night and bivyed in the Buttermilks while Stephanie enjoyed her nice soft bed nearby in Rovana.  After a few short hours of sleep we all met up at South Lake and got ready to roll.

The first big surprise was just how low South Lake was.  I know they control the water levels and drain it a fair amount in anticipation of the spring melt but it hardly seemed like the amount of snow left up high was going to be sufficient to get it back up to normal.  It didn't seem to be bothering the fisherman we saw scattered around the shore.

I like the trail above South Lake so much better than Sabrina.  It just seems to go faster while the later has some rather frustrating switchbacks just when you think you're making progress.

As always the initial few miles went quickly once we got going and we soon found ourselves looking up the drainage at Bishop Pass.

It's a pretty area and for a 12k pass the trail is very gentle.  And best of all the mosquito hoards were still in the developmental stage.

While no one would claim Chocolate Peak (pictured above from our hike out Sunday) towers over anything it is a significant little bump in Bishop Pass and I'd eyed it before when we strolled by during the Devil's Crag trip a few years back.  That particular trip was hard enough neither Jen nor myself were up for any additional bumps so I figured today was as good a day as any.

We did it from the north which doesn't appear to be the easiest.  Not that your going to find much in the way of difficult terrain but the southern ridge has trail for a few hundred additional feet and appeared to have less annoying talus.

Still, minor or not, pain in the butt or not, it was a peak (an 11,600' peak no less) and so deserved a dramatic victory pose.

We strolled back down the way we came, reclaimed our overnight gear, and continued on to our planned camp at Margaret Lake.

The lake is a ways off the main trail and while we found a number of ducks and use trails it wasn't nearly as heavily trafficked as some of the more accessible ones.  Since I dislike camping in congested areas it seemed perfect and provided a shortcut over to our other peak of the day Mount Goode.  We dropped our gear, the ladies meditated briefly, and it was time to climb again.

Instead of returning to the main trail we cut cross country to Saddlerock Lake.  This proved not to be the best idea.

Late in the day with the warm weather the snow was a postholing mess.  We saw and heard several dramatic avalanches on the north face of Goode as cornices gave way.

Alas the slopes on the west side of Saddlerock were snow covered and looked a bit precarious so we ended up circling all the way around the lake before heading up the drainage negating any benefit from our shortcut.

Along the way Stephanie decided she was too tired to do Goode (which she'd done a few years back as a dayhike anyway) and so she turned back to relax in camp while Jen and I charged on.  At least as much charging as we could manage on the three or so hours of sleep we'd managed the night before.

The route to Goode was surprisingly pleasant once we were above the lakes and scattered snow fields.  Easy sand gave way to good scrambling rocks until the last hundred feet or so below the summit.  Here a smattering of snow had stuck and we slowed to a crawl as we postholed our way up.

We made it to the summit about an hour and a half before dark.  We could just make out our camp a few thousand feet below a the base of Hurd and had an epic view of Devil's Craig off in the distance.

We didn't dally long but still had to resort to headlamps while descending the snow above Saddlerock.  It took quite a while to make our way back to the trail which itself was at times covered in snow and not the easiest to follow in the dark.

We reached camp around 10 pm and found Stephanie awake but comfortably ensconced in her sleeping bag.  She was nice enough to stay up and keep us company as Jen and I made tacos and then at long last collapsed exhausted into our sleeping bags.

We did our usual relaxed wakeup the next morning and stashed our overnight gear near the main trail before heading for the pass.

We'd been somewhat worried about how much snow we'd find on the trail right below the pass but it turned out to be almost completely passable with only a few short sections of crappy snow.

On top of the pass there were some significant snow fields which we skirted as well as we could before starting up the slope to Agassiz.

You can see the actual summit in that picture.  It's the thing right above 1900 feet or so of various size rocks.

The rocks were admittedly pretty solid and while we had to avoid some really slushy snow fields the light 3rd class bits on the rib we climbed were pleasant enough.  I still wished we could have done it with decent snow coverage as it looked like it would have been a lot faster / more fun.

We were on the summit at 3 pm and finding the register hopelessly waterlogged we settled on some epic summit shots before heading down.

Down really made me wish we had decent snow coverage as a 1900' glissade sounded a lot better than the slow descent we managed.

Eventually we were down and all quite happy to regain the trail.  We picked our way down the pass and grabbed our gear where we stashed it.  The trail down felt about five times as long as it did coming up the morning before.

We did get to use headlamps (yaay!) but sadly we made it to the cars around 9 pm which was a bit too late to enjoy post trip Mexican food in Bishop (boo!)  Instead Jen and I went off for quick post trip Denny's (sigh) and then drove the 6 or so hours home.

Three trips in this year and I've had two of them get me home at 4 am.  This could be a long summer at this rate...

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