The Talus Pile

P. O. BOX 2037

JULY 2002



Jul 3-7 Wed-Sun Scylla, Charybdis, Three Sirens Rockwell
Jul 8 Mon Meeting C. Burge, Riendeau, Franklin
Jul 9-10 Tue-Wed Summer class
Jul 13-14 Sat-Sun Summer class day trips Sakai, Myers, Huey
Jul 16-17 Tue-Wed Summer class
Jul 19-21 Fri-Sun Julius Caesar Runkle
Jul 23-24 Tue-Wed Summer class
Jul 27-28 Sat-Sun Summer class overnights Runkle, Roseman, Finco
Jul 30 Tue Summer class
Jul 31 Wed Summer class party Robbers Roost
Aug 2-4 Fri-Sat Brewer, North & South Guards Runkle
Aug 10-11 Sat-Sun Bolton Brown & Thumb Myers
Aug 14-17 Wed-Sat Heller Rockwell
Aug 19 Mon Summer party Mitchell
Aug 23-25 Fri-Sun Russell Niesen
Aug 30­Sep 2 Fri-Mon Tuolumne Meadows Roseman, C.Burge
Aug 31-Sep 2 Sat-Mon North Fork Lone Pine Creek peaks Rockwell
Sep 7-8 Sat-Sun Agassiz & Goode Rockwell
Sep 9 Mon Meeting Schafhauser, Green, Hinman
Sep 13-15 Fri-Sun Norman Clyde Runkle
Sep 21-22 Sat-Sun Tahquitz Hueber
Sep 27-29 Fri-Sun Sill/Swiss Arête Myers
Oct 5-6 Sat-Sun Tin Finco
Oct 11-14 Fri-Mon Yosemite Finco
Oct 19-20 Sat-Sun Open
Oct 21 Mon Meeting Westbrook, Huey, Renta
Oct 25-27 Fri-Sun Mendel & Darwin Roseman
SUNDAY ROCK CLIMBING coordinated by Mike Franklin

CLMRG is funded in part by United Way of Indian Wells Valley.


02-01 11 April 2002 Incident Last Chance Canyon Ellen Schafhauser
On Thursday, 11 April at 1130, Alice Delp, a former student of mine, came to my classroom at Mesquite High School to tell me that her friend Elena Vitale was missing after driving to the Burro Schmidt Tunnel the previous day. She had entered the Last Chance Canyon area from Garlock Road in a front-wheel-drive Tercel. She had spent the day at the tunnel filming and then got directions how to exit the canyon area on Highway 14. Elena's associate, Randy Halgunseth, informed me that she had left the tunnel in her car at about 1600-1700 on 10 April. That was the last time he had seen her.
I asked Alice to call the Kern County Sheriff's Office immediately. She was told that a deputy would call her back on her cell phone. Within 45 minutes, a deputy called. I was available to identify myself and had Alice give him the information that he needed. Before speaking with the deputy, I called Tom Roseman to tell him about the incident. I was on a cell phone with Randy, so I relayed the information from Randy to Roseman using the cell phone on one ear and another phone on the other ear.
I told Roseman that I believed I knew where Elena would most likely end up if she had tried to take the road out to Highway 14 and that I would drive my four-wheel-drive truck to that area and check it as well as the Burro Schmidt Tunnel area and road.
Last Chance Canyon Road heads down a major drainage, a sandy dry wash, from the tunnel. It meets a road that makes a sharp right-hand turn. It's an easy turn to miss for an inexperienced driver. The wash will continue to funnel the driver into a sandy wash area until it turns into a four-wheel-drive road. Many roads funnel into this wash. If Elena had missed the turn, she would get stuck no more than 3-4 miles down the road.
At Roseman's suggestion, I called Tom Sakai and Al Green as back up and picked up a radio and a cell phone from the rescue hut. I told Sakai that I would go in on the two-wheel-drive road off Highway 14. If I found an empty car, I would head out and call back to activate a search operation.
I left a map on the hut table to identify which road I was heading in on, which roads are two-wheel-drive, which are four-wheel-drive, and where Burro Schmidt Tunnel is. I would check out the road leading to the tunnel and the road headed down Last Chance Canyon that turned into a four-wheel-drive road. Most roads in the area are four-wheel-drive roads.
I left the hut at approximately 1400 with Alice as my passenger. Alice had her cell phone, and I could be reached either by her cell phone or by the rescue phone until we started to enter the canyon. I knew that no phone or radio communications would be possible after we entered the canyon. Being familiar with the canyon and my truck, I knew that I would not have a problem navigating the terrain.
I asked Alice to try her automatic cell directory to call Elena's number. The message on Alice's phone said that Elena's phone was out of range, which indicated that wherever Elena's phone was, it was not in the Ridgecrest area.

We entered the canyon at about 1445.
I decided to head down the wash to the four-wheel-drive area first instead of to the tunnel. Fresh two-wheel-drive tracks led to a van not more than one mile down the road. The people in the van had not seen the car or woman that I described to them. I continued down the wash and saw signs of another two-wheel-drive track. Where the road changes drastically into four-wheel-drive, a right-hand turn leads to a box canyon that I knew of. I could see more of the two-wheel-drive track on that road. I drove on this rough road for a quarter of a mile when Alice and I spotted Elena's car with her waving by its side. I had to navigate a four-wheel-drive wash to reach her.
Elena was in fair condition, coherent, and glad to see us but dehydrated, hot, and anxious. I treated her for dehydration, heat exposure, and hunger. She had had only a few sips of water over the previous 24 hours. Alice cared for her while I looked over her car.
The car was hung up by the rear axle on a large boulder, the tires were sunk into pits from spinning the wheels, and the undercarriage was bottomed out. Elena had tried to dig the boulder out all day with the back end of a hammer. After treating Elena, Alice and I pulled out the boulder with my towrope
I attempted to back the car down the hill after we freed the boulder, but the gears had been ground so much that it was barely possible to engage the clutch. I put a towrope on the back end of her car, attached it to the front end of my truck, and pulled the car out of the rut and down the hill 50 feet.
By this time, I knew this car was not going to get back out of the canyon on its own. A ranger from Red Rock Canyon Park arrived. He had been notified of the incident by the Sheriff's Office, and he interviewed Elena. He informed me that a Sheriff's vehicle with a winch was on the way. He left to report our location because radios don't work well in the canyon. At this point, a Sheriff's helicopter spotted us, circled, and landed. A deputy walked over from the helicopter and interviewed Elena.
A deputy arrived with the winch, assessed the situation, and decided that the car needed to be towed out of the canyon. The Sheriff's personnel involved were Deputy Larry Thatcher, Senior Deputy Lloyd Waters, and Deputy Steve Snead.
I drove Elena and Alice back to Ridgecrest. We arrive at about 1745.
All seemed to go well. The appropriate persons took quick, decisive, and well-informed action. I took it upon myself to do the preliminary road search because I know the area and the condition of the roads well. My truck is always prepared with camping gear, water, and food. I know how my truck performs on these roads, and I know that a major mistake can be made by not knowing the unmarked roads. That one turn in the road can be missed easily.
Last Chance Canyon is a suggested place to explore if you like four-wheeling. The area can be fun to explore and educational. Being familiar with a local "trap" area for drivers as well as hikers, bikers, and horse riders is useful. Maps of the area do not show all the roads that are present.

02-02 20 May 2002 Rescue Pacific Crest Trail Tom Roseman
I received a call at work from Sgt. Diederich around 1600 requesting that we go on alert for a possible rescue on the Pacific Crest Trail north of Walker Pass. The victim, Mitchell Scott Tennison, had contacted the sheriff by cell phone and was suffering from dehydration and severe blisters on both feet.
Janet Westbrook agreed to serve as the coordinator and started the callout. I also announced the alert over the pager system at that time. I received a second call from Sgt. Diederich at 1730 requesting that we change to rescue status and proceed to the intersection of Chimney Peak Road and Highway 178. A Kern County OH-58 helicopter crew had spotted the victim but was not sure that they could land close enough to reach him. I notified Janet to have everyone meet at the hut as soon as possible. The following members left the hut at about 1820: Tom Roseman, Tom Sakai, Linda Finco, Al Green, Debbie Breitenstein, Paul DeRuiter, and Dave Miles. Bob Huey reached me by cell phone as we were driving out of town and was about 10 minutes behind us. Terry Mitchell later took over as coordinator when Janet had to leave.
We arrived at Chimney Peak Road about 1900 and learned that the helicopter had contacted Tennison. They were going to attempt to get him to the helicopter and fly him out. Several members of the Kern Valley team along with a number of sheriff's deputies moved with us to the Cannell Ranch at about 1915 to be in place in case a carryout was required. About 15 minutes after we arrived at the ranch, the helicopter crew lifted off with Tennison and flew to the ranch. We returned to Ridgecrest and were done by 2045.
A couple of things are worthy of mention. First, the pilot of the sheriff's helicopter was very good. Second, we met and talked with Sgt. Moore, newly assigned as head of the Ridgecrest Station. I invited him to join us at our next meeting.


Date Location Participants Notes
2 Mar Mt. Alice Myers, Rockwell, Huey, and guests Sue & Chuck Farris and Dan Bishop Climbed a nice snow gully.
3 Mar Alabama Hills Hueber, Green, and guests Steve & Carolyn Walker Climbing on north side of Whitney Road
6 Mar Owens Peak Green Solo climb
9-10 Mar Maturango Doerr, Rockwell, Huey, Green Camped in a sandy wash. Made it to summit by 1230. Back in town by 2000.
22 Mar French Madam Huey, Rockwell
24 Mar Thor Sakai, Bishop, Rockwell, and guest From Mirror Lake
29-30 Mar Whitney Runkle, Rockwell, and guests Tom Sexton and Roger Turpin See the trip report below
30 Mar Alabama Hills Hueber, Green, Hinman, and guests Steve & Carolyn Walker Climbing on north side of Whitney Road
5 Apr Whitney Runkle Solo climb
7 Apr Malpais Mesa Finco, Sakai, Renta, Bishop See the trip report below.
12-14 Apr Pinchot and Peak 13259 Rockwell, Sakai, and guests Tom Campbell, Bob Oppermann, and R. J. Secor Hiked in to Taboose Pass. Didn't take snowshoes. Sun warmed up the snow on way to peak on second day. Snowshoes would have helped from sinking in so deep.
18 Apr Alabama Hills Hueber, Green, and guest Diane Escobar Climbing on north side of Whitney Road
21 April Telescope, Rogers, Bennett Sakai, Rockwell
24 April Whitney, Wotan's Throne Sakai, Rockwell Sakai climbed Whitney. Rockwell climbed Wotan's Throne.
26-28 Apr Polemonium & North Pal Huey and guest Don Wooley Wind storm and snow. No water at campsite. Wind still blowing on second day.
27 April Jenkins Castro and members of the Hayward Hiking Club Some climbed Jenkins, and some toured the local desert area.
May Thor Rockwell Secret route by Lower Boy Scout Lake. Snow was good
8-9 May Williamson Rockwell and guests Rick Ferris, Chuck & Sue Farris and Dan Frame Rockwell, Ferris, and Frame made it to the summit.
9-12 May Williamson Huey and guest Don Wooley Went up George Creek; got up in 8 hours. Lots of brush in drainage. Camped just below plateau. Summited by noon next morning
11 May Merlin, Demon Green and guest Bill Stronge
12 May Voodoo Dome Green, Hinman, and guest Bill Stronge Climbed Summer Sojourn
23-25 May Whitney & Muir Rockwell, guests Wyatt and Driza, et al See the trip report below.
7-8 Jun Norman Clyde Runkle and Sakai See the trip report below.


Mt. Whitney
29-30 March 2002
By Walter Runkle
Bob Rockwell, guests Tom Sexton and Roger Turpin, and I climbed Mt. Whitney on March 29 and 30. We left Whitney Portal about 0920 on Friday and got to Trail Camp about 1510. The next morning, we left camp about 0630 to 0645 and were on the summit by 1130. We left the summit shortly after noon, packed up our tent at Trail Camp, and were back at Whitney Portal by 1640.
We used our ice axes and crampons for the ascent to Trail Crest. Some snow was still on the trail over to the summit but nothing that couldn't be navigated with a ski pole and careful stepping. It looked like one or two people had been through before us. We melted snow for all of our water above Bighorn Park.

Malpais Mesa
7 April 2002
By Linda Finco
Tom Sakai, Mike Renta, Dan Bishop, and I hiked the Malpais Mesa. The route starts at the Santa Rosa mine. The hike to the north high point on the mesa is about 3 miles with about 1300 feet of elevation gain. The high point is at 7731 feet. From the mine, we quickly gained the first 800 feet. The mesa is sparsely covered with Joshua trees. It is a leisurely hike to the last few hundred feet of elevation to the high point. We arrived at the high point shortly before 1130 and ate lunch. There is a great view of the Sierra (Mt. Whitney) and the Owens Lake valley. The day was clear, so the view was perfect. We hiked back across the mesa and scrambled to the south high point at 7462 feet. We then hiked down through the tailings and upper mines back to the vehicle.

Mt. Whitney
23-25 May 2002
By Bob Rockwell
On Thursday, 23 May, Scott Driza, Tom Wyatt, and I hiked in from Whitney Portal to a nice campsite halfway between Mirror Lake and Trailside Meadow. Scott and Tom were here from sea level and wanted to take an extra day before going for the top, but I had a special reason to summit on the 24th. So the next morning, I left them, dropped my overnight gear at Trail Camp, and went on up.
The summit was deserted when I got there, just like it had been on 24 May 1952, my first of many ascents. Soon, a fellow from Gardnerville arrived from the Mountaineer's Route. Then about noon, some friends started popping up, also from the MR: Walter Runkle, Paul Sigala, Tom Sakai, Doug Thompson, Mike Myers, Roger Turpin, and Micah Myers. They came to say "Hi" having taken about six hours for the stroll up from the Portal.

Mike had brought a bottle of Shiraz and some cups; we had a toast to something or other. Doug gave me a beautiful gift and card from the "WPS crew." I handed out some simple mementos.
After about three hours, the others went back down the MR, and I descended the Trail. I scrambled up Mt. Muir on the way back, glissaded the chute, and joined Scott and Tom, who had hiked up to Trail Camp in the meantime.
The next morning, Tom, Scott, and I were on our way and summited in a little less than four hours. This was particularly sweet for Scott, who had to turn back a year ago. It was Tom's first mountain, and he allowed as to how he was now "hooked." Today, there were a few more people on the summit than the day before when about 15 had signed in. We considered doing Muir or Discovery Pinnacle on the way back, but the thought of those cheeseburgers and fries back at the Portal Store was too tempting. We glissaded the chute, packed up, and, with the help of a few good shortcuts, got back before the kitchen closed.
Anyone interested in looking at pictures of the trip can go to and click on "23-25 May 2002 Whitney & Muir." If your modem is as slow as mine, select "slide show" and do something else for about 5 minutes, then come back and watch them the second time around.
Changes in 50 years? A lot more people now, but the pack trains are gone. Many times, mine was the only car in the parking lot, and many times, I'd go up and back without ever seeing anyone else. I recall beavers at Mirror Lake slapping the water as I passed through. Lower Boy Scout Lake (on the North Fork route) is a tenth the size it used to be. There were no bear problems at the Portal. In fact, I don't remember seeing bears anywhere east of the crest. The Portal road was so narrow, the driver would negotiate it carefully while passengers scrunched down and hid their eyes.

Norman Clyde
June 7-8, 2002
By Walter Runkle
This was originally planned as a trip to Mt. Jepson and Palisade Crest with Bob Rockwell leading. When Bob said he couldn't take it, I jumped at the chance to go to the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. I had been in the area only three times before-a trip to Mt. Sill, an aborted winter trip to Mt. Williams, and a day hike of Middle Palisade. I decided to change the trip to a reconnoiter of Norman Clyde (13920 feet) because I had a trip planned there in September, and R. J. Secor makes the route-finding sound rather tricky.
Because I had been to Finger Lake (10787 feet) only on the Middle Pal day hike, I hiked up to Finger Lake the weekend before (2 June) to check out the snow conditions and refresh my memory of the trail. I had a pleasant day hike and worked out some of the minor kinks in the partially snow-covered trail to Brainerd Lake (10256 feet).
Friday morning, Tom Sakai picked me up at my house shortly before 0800, and we drove to Lone Pine to get our permit for the weekend. We drove on to the overnight hiker parking lot at Glacier Lodge trailhead and were on our way by 1030.

The worst part of the hike in and out was crossing the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. The creek was running at full tilt due to all the spring melting of what little snow was left in the Sierra. The weekend before, on the way up, I had been able to get across on a leg-size branch that someone had placed across some rocks. I was also able to hold on to some tree branches at the same time for balance. On the way back down, I crossed at a place about 100 feet or so farther upstream where I could step on a partially submerged rock about one step into the stream and then jump the rest of the way across to a small rock ledge on the west side. When Tom and I got to the crossing, the branch was gone. The creek also seemed too fast and deep to wade across. So we had no choice but to go upstream, stand on the rock ledge, and jump across to the partially submerged rock. We were able to get one trekking pole in the creek bed to assist us, but it was still pretty challenging to land on the water covered rock and not keep going into the stream rushing around it on the other side.
We went on without further incident from Brainerd Lake up to Finger Lake. We went around the northwest side of Brainerd Lake and continued around to the north side of the northeast ridge that runs just above the lake. This was nice second class all the way. Then when we went to ascend the steeper ridge to Finger Lake, we found a nice use trail just to the left of the trees on the crest of the ridge and just to the right (west) of the talus on the steep slope below the lake. The weekend before, I had missed this use trail because I had stayed right of the trees and went up through the snow on the north-facing slope.
Tom and I arrived at our bivy spot at 1530. We killed some time by chatting and enjoying the great weather and scenery. We met another climber named "George" who was going to climb Middle Palisade the next day. I discovered that my cell phone worked, and about 1900, I was able to call Kelly (my wife) from my sleeping bag and tell her we were done with dinner and were bedding down for the night.
The next morning, Tom and I got up at 0500, had breakfast, and headed out by 0600. It was windy during the night, and we noticed our altimeters had each gained about 120 feet in altitude overnight. But the sky was clear with only some wispy cirrus clouds and no wind clouds so we decided to press ahead and see how the day turned out. I carried a 50 meter, 8.8 mm rope for us to rappel on, and Tom brought the rappel slings. Our plan was to climb the third and fourth class route on the north face of Norman Clyde unroped and then rappel down the steep section near the top on our return.
We went around the south side of the ridge coming out east from Peak 12670. The snow was hard and well consolidated. About half-way around, I told Tom I thought we needed to get up on top of the ridge to reach the saddle between Peak 12670 and Norman Clyde. We ascended an easy second class chute, traversed west, ascended a slope to almost the top of the ridge, and then traversed the rest of the way over to where the ridge joined up with the ridge coming out from the northeast side of Norman Clyde. We took a short break and stashed our ice axe, crampons, and other non-essentials. It was about 0845. So far, so good.
We started across the ridge and thought it was going to be a relatively easy traverse until Tom saw a purple rappel sling. There was no easy way down, and we didn't want to rappel because we would have to come back this same way to retrieve our stuff. We debated what to do. As we came back on the ridge about 30 feet, Tom found a chimney we could down climb on the east side. It was a little tricky and a little exposed, but we made it, and then we did a couple of easier down climbs to get to a spot on the ridge where we could continue our traverse over to Norman Clyde.
At this point, it was past 0930, and we were beginning to doubt that we could make the summit. But the rest of the traverse went well, and we made it over the rest of the ridge without any more difficulties.
The start was relatively easy to find. We continued up until the ridge really started to steepen. We saw a duck at a notch and climbed over this notch and then made a short traverse to another duck and notch. After we climbed over this second notch, we were at the base of the climb up the north face. It was 1030, and we decided to go ahead and have a try at it. Tom suggested we set a turn around time of 1300.
It was actually a nice time to climb the route. The whole north face was getting sun by this time of day, and I was comfortable in just my mid-weight polypro top and Gore-Tex parka. I wore my polypro long johns in lieu of wind pants and found it unnecessary to wear gloves.
Tom lead the way, and we picked our way up the face. We climbed up some green lichen covered rocks next to the ridge and then traversed over about 30 feet or so on a small ledge. We continued up a small ridge and then up some small chimneys to the right that still had some snow in them. We saw a duck, did another traverse to the right, and saw another duck. We climbed up another small chimney, went around on a ramp, and came upon some rappel slings. We continued up to another duck and came to a large boulder.
Here, the way up was not clear. It looked like it went on the left, but we didn't know what was after that. It was 1100, and we had only come up about 230 to 250 feet. Tom came down and explored a route off to the right. Meantime, I thought the right side of the boulder looked better. We vacillated for about half an hour and decided we might as well call it a day. It didn't look like we could reach the summit by 1300, so at 1130, we turned around.
Coming down went much smoother and faster than I expected, and we had no problem finding the duck that marked the notch over to the other side. We took a short break after going through the two notches, and then we went back across the ridge to get our stuff. Climbing up the north end of the ridge was a little easier than the down climbs had been, and we were soon back at our stash. We stayed on this ridge almost all the way back to Finger Lake. It was always easiest to come down on the south and east sides. We arrived back to our bivy spot at 1430.
It hadn't been too windy over by Norman Clyde, but now the wind picked up with a vengeance. We packed quickly and were headed back down at 1500. Tom thought there was a short cut that bypassed Brainerd Lake, but we couldn't find it. We went down a snowy drainage that ran to the north and then cut over to the right to intersect the main trail coming down from Brainerd. We took a break above Willow Lake and were back at Tom's truck by 1800. We stopped at PJ's in Lone Pine for dinner and were back at my house at 2110.

Talkeetna, Alaska: A small, quiet drinking town with a climbing problem.

Ritter and Banner
31 May-2 June 2002
By Bob Huey
Mike Franklin, Dan Bishop, and I went to Ritter and Banner on May 31 to June 2.
The road to Agnew Meadow does not open until June 15, and there is no camping on Minaret Summit, so we paid for a campsite in Mammoth near the Ranger Station on Friday night, May 31.
We departed from Minaret Summit at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 1 with clear skies. We walked down the 3-mile, 800-foot road to Agnew Meadow and hiked to above Lake Ediza by 12:30. Between Shadow Lake and Lake Ediza, it rained and sleeted hard. We found a bivy site above Lake Ediza that protected us from the driving wind and rain and then proceeded to climb Banner with intermittent fog and open skies. There was snow cover from Lake Ediza up, but we didn't need crampons. At the saddle, we got a glimpse of Banner and down to Lake Catherine to the west, but we got fogged in on the way up. We had poor visibility and a driving hailstorm at the summit and wondered whether we would replay the Ritter-Banner tragedy of the 1970s! We didn't find the register although we checked out 3 or 4 peaks on the ridgeline. We returned to camp by 7:00 p.m. and had a windy but dry and starry night.
On Sunday, June 2, we left our bivy site at 7:00 a.m. and climbed Ritter via the Southeast Glacier. We used crampons and had snow all the way to the top. It took us 4 hours to summit and 50 minutes to glissade back to camp. We left camp at 1:45 and were back to Minaret Summit by 6:00 p.m. The last 800 feet took us 1 hour from Agnew Meadow!
Our elevation gains were 5,340 feet to Banner, 3,500 feet to Ritter, and 1,320 feet back to Minaret Summit for a total gain of 10,160 ft.


BORN: 10 April 2002, 9:00 a.m.
HEIGHT: 20 _ inches
WEIGHT: 7 pounds 11 ounces
Baby and mom doing fine. Dad recovering.

Gina Najera-Niesen

CLMRG gratefully acknowledges recent gifts from the following friends:
Lyal D and Marilyn J Viers Ridgecrest, California
CDR Bryson Van Gundy (USN Retired) Sterling, Colorado
Southern California Edison employees Ridgecrest, California


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All telephone numbers in The Talus Pile are area code 760 unless noted otherwise.

Forget harsh chemicals to repel mosquitoes and other insects. Entomologists Chris Peterson and Joel Coats say they have found a natural chemical that's 10 times more effective than DEET, the chemical most commonly found in commercial repellents. It's nepetalactone--the oil from the catnip plant. Cats love catnip, acting crazy when they eat or roll in it, but no one knows why. (Reuters)

Me lonely? Hell, no. I'm half coyote and half wild burro.
æSeldom Seen Slim