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SIERRA CLUB BULLETIN, VOL. X.
THE CREST OF THE SIERRA, LOOKING SOUTH FROM MOUNT WHITNEY
Keeler Needles in foreground
to bring the climax of the outing. Swinging up a gradual rise toward Shepard's Pass, we paused often to admire the wild majestic beauty of the Great Western Divide
Table Mountain, with its mesa-like summit, Thunder Mountain, dark and sulky, then farther southward that unique shaft of granite, Milestone. Suddenly, rounding a rocky crag, we were almost overwhelmed by the glorious spectacle before us-dazzling snow-fields with the trail descending in zigzags across their gleaming surface on toward a retreating cañon whose walls were hung with purple shadows. Farther down this rugged gorge opened out into Owens Valley, a shimmering desert, whose farther margin merged into the foothills of the Inyo Mountains, broken and undulating. Slowly we clambered down this slippery way to a pyramid of rocks which bore this significant message, written on a slip of paper: “Sierra Club, turn here and work toward the plateau covered with trees." Now the route became rockwork. Scrambling and jumping from boulder to boulder, we eventually reached the storm-beaten stunted pines cowering on the upper edge of the timber-line. Here we found ourselves on the recently completed portion of the John Muir Trail, one of the most worthy results of the Sierra Club's concerted efforts. At such an easy grade is the trail built that the ascent to the highest point, Junction Pass (13,200 feet), was surprisingly comfortable. This route from the Kern River basin over Shepard's and Junction passes into the Kings River watershed is through one of the most impressive and utterly wild regions of the High Sierra.
At the summit of the pass, where all were to await information concerning the safety of the pack-train before advancing farther, we snuggled down among wind-breaking rocks and with the satisfaction that comes after such a climb serenely enjoyed the elemental wonder of it all. Spread before us in splendid diversity were alpine lakes, sparkling streams, glacial slopes, somber cañons, precipitous crags, grassy meadows, wind-swept forests, and silent peaks. On the left Mount Stanford loomed boldly, while to the right was a sharply serrated ridge culminating at intervals in peaks—Mount Keith, a few hundred feet higher than the pass, Mount Bradley, and finally University Peak. Above timber-line one is submitted to direct actinic rays and glowing embers when at 4:30 the rising call sounded and we found ice in our water-buckets for the first time on the trip! With numb fingers we tied our dunnage-bags and rolled them down-hill for the last weigh-in.
Although we were early on the trail to Kearsarge Pass, silhouettes of earlier climbers were already outlined against the sky. From this famous pass another comprehensive panorama made us loath to be en route. The desert lay in misty haze. Directly below us was Pothole Lake, still frozen over; behind us, whence we came, was a marvelous wonderland of faintly flushed peaks, hung with snow and partly hidden alpine lakes. The discomforting assurance of an 8000-foot drop in our fifteen-mile tramp, and half of this distance across sand and sage, forced us to proceed downward. Passing by Pothole and Heart lakes, we came into Onion Valley, whose name belies it, for it was more truly a natural hanging garden where all mountain flowers bloomed in profusion. Especially fine was the delphinium, or giant larkspur. Following Pine Creek, we finally came to Independence, which eluded us as long as possible, and our weariness was forgotten in the reviving effect of fresh fruits and ice-cream. Our invasion on all food supplies will doubtless be remembered, and we hope the preparedness" of the Ladies' Aid Society was amply rewarded. A day and a night on the train and on a Sunday morning we were back again among the worries and conveniences of every-day life. This month in the mountains is a singularly rich experience which "strengthens one's appreciation of the beautiful world out-of-doors and puts
in tune with the Infinite."