On Sunday, I climbed Mt. Andrea Lawrence. That is not an official name for the peak … yet. Last week the House of Representatives passed HR 5194, the “Mt. Andrea Lawrence Designation Act of 2010.” People are already referring to the peak by this name, and the political momentum seems to be there to carry this bill to the President’s desk. So with optimism about the outcome, I decided to place a register on the peak with the new name.
I’ve climbed all the named peaks in the Mono Basin, and since I’m confident that this one is soon to join the ranks of the named peaks, it has been on my list of peaks to climb all summer, and now into fall.
I started hiking up the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River at 6:20am, and within an hour the sun was peeking over the Kuna Crest as the moon and Jupiter set over the Cathedral Range. After three hours I left the trail and started up the side of the glacial canyon, crossing Kuna Creek just where it dives into Lyell Canyon down a long cascade. Soon I was above the trees with incredible views of the Yosemite backcountry.
I crossed the flanks of Donohue Peak (the first ascent of which was on horseback), and as I approached Mt. Andrea Lawrence from the northwest, I realized it wasn’t going to be as easy a climb as Donohue. From the saddle between Mt. Andrea and Donohue Peak, I estimated it would take half an hour to reach the top. It turned out that the boulders were large, with challenging gaps between them—after an hour of fun but hard climbing, I finally stood on the west peak of Mt. Andrea Lawrence. A few steps away on the higher east peak I found a little-used register that was placed by Gordon McLeod in 1977, who proposed the name “Gem Peak”—which I thought was strange, since Gem Lake is not visible from the top.
The register was originally placed on the west peak, but in 2000 it was moved to the slightly higher east peak. Only two people had signed the register between 2000 and 2010, one in 2004 and one in 2005. Three had climbed it this July, including the husband of one of our Board members.
On top, you stand on the divide between the Mono Basin and the Tuolumne River. You can see the high glaciated peaks from Mt. Ritter to the Mt. Lyell area. You look across the head of Lyell Canyon to Amelia Earhart Peak, named for another courageous woman who made history. The hot and dry southwest slopes of Kuna and Blacktop Peaks are exposed to the east. And appropriately enough for a peak named after a gold-medal skier, you can clearly see June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain ski areas.
My route down was via the south side to Lost Lakes—referred to as the “sand trap” by many in the register. It turned out to be a pretty quick way down, but I bet the slog up that side would not be fun. After a quick dip in a lake, I descended deeper into the Rush Creek drainage, down the Rush Creek Trail, and eventually reached the June Lake Loop just after sunset.
This is not an easy peak to climb, but it is well worth the effort. The approach alone takes about a day—my hike was 22 miles—but a 2–3 day trip from either Tuolumne Meadows or Silver Lake would be less painful. The climb from the Yosemite side is challenging—those not comfortable with class 3 climbing should ascend the “sand trap” from Lost Lakes on the Rush Creek side.
While I was able to “slalom” down the “sand trap” in my hiking boots, a more appropriate tribute for Andrea would be to ski really fast down this peak in winter. And of course, the best tribute of all would be for the Senate to pass and send HR5194 to President Obama’s desk, and have Mt. Andrea Lawrence grace all of our maps in addition to her gracing our memories.
Top photo by Greg Reis.