Ascent of Mount Brewer on 2018-09-03
|Others in Party:||AJ Kaufmann -- Trip Report or GPS Track|
----Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Monday, September 3, 2018|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||13570 ft / 4136 m|
Ascent Trip ReportHaving completed a solo day hike of Mount Williamson a couple weekends earlier, I was starting to gain confidence in my ability to crank through some of the longer days required by the SPS list. Even though Mount Brewer is easier than Williamson on paper in a lot of ways, I was more apprehensive about Brewer due to the lengthy off-trail on the way up Sphinx Creek. Nonetheless, I was anxious to give it a shot, and the long Labor Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity. I met up with AJ at a turnout near the Deer Cove trailhead around 7pm on Sunday night. We had thrown around the idea of climbing all three of North Guard, Brewer, and South Guard, but I was feeling a bit fatigued from my longer-than-expected outing to Whorl on Saturday. We decided that we would head to Brewer first and, time and weather (and energy) permitting, add on the others.
Our alarms went off at 2:30am, and after a quick breakfast, we drove the fifteen minutes to Road's End and started up the Bubbs Creek Trail at 3:08am. The trail grew impressively steep once we were on the Avalanche Pass Trail and climbing out of the canyon, but perhaps more impressive were the giant steps that were carved into the mountainside. Across the canyon, we spotted what looked to be a campfire, but realized that it was the North Bubbs Creek Fire that started a month earlier. Luckily there was only a faint smell of smoke and it wouldn't have any impact on our day. We reached Sphinx Creek after three hours and made our way up the west side of the creek. We repeated the process of climbing a talus slope followed by a flat area numerous times over the next four hours as we steadily gained elevation towards Sphinx Col. Once above the treeline, we had a great view of the Sphinx Crest, which reflected almost perfectly in the lakes.
We topped out at the windy col at 10:23am, and we got our first views of Mount Brewer, still a little ways away over the next ridge. We took an extended break to have a snack, but got going again pretty soon after we realized the clouds had started building significantly in the half hour we had stopped. We dropped down from the col just enough to get around the ridge separating us and Brewer, then contoured over many boulders to flat granite slabs leading to the base of the northwest slopes. The final talus and scree slog was tedious but straightforward, and I arrived at the lower east summit at 12:47pm. I enjoyed the incredibly expansive views while I waited for AJ before attempting the short but exposed scramble of the summit block. AJ arrived a few minutes later and made easy work of the scramble, and I followed shortly thereafter. We flipped through the register books and found many names that we recognized.
The clouds continued to build, and we started our descent at 1:38pm. We more or less followed our same path back to the col, which we reached at 3:15pm. Thunder rumbled through the Sphinx Lakes as we hopped down the boulders and granite meadows. Sprinkles gave way to a steady drizzle, and we needed to take extra care as we descended the talus. The rain stopped by the time we reached the trail at 6:15pm, and the skies cleared enough to make for a beautiful sunset in the canyon. The low-lying clouds, yellow leaves, and chilly breeze reminded me of an autumn evening back in Pennsylvania. We passed two backpackers on the final flat section of the trail, the first people we had seen all day (and night). We reached our cars at Road's End at 8:45pm, and I prepared for the drive back to the Bay while AJ planned to stick around for the week. The drive out of the canyon was pleasant as I enjoyed a show of lightning and thunder as well as my final peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which never tasted so good. I arrived home at 1:30am and managed to shower and unpack before finally succumbing to sleep.
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