Ascent of Mount Cotter on 2018-10-05

Climber: Rafee Memon

Others in Party:Daria Malin
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, October 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Cotter
    Elevation:12713 ft / 3874 m

Ascent Trip Report

I was reaching the end of my weeklong trip to the Eastern Sierra, and it was looking like I may only have one pleasant day left with snow predicted for Saturday and high winds for Sunday. I wanted to finish with a tough hike, and I coordinated with Daria so that I wouldn't be solo. We initially planned to hike Mounts Hale and Young out of Whitney Portal, but to my surprise I wasn't able to get a permit for Friday, possibly because of the Lone Pine Film Festival. We considered going anyway and risking it, but it made me slightly uneasy, especially given the wealth of other options available to us. We settled on Mount Cotter out of Onion Valley, which would be one of my toughest yet: 30 miles and 10,000ft of gain, over 3,000ft of which comes on the return over Glen and Kearsarge Passes. Even though it was sure to be a death march, I was excited to go to an area of Kings Canyon that I'd yet to visit.

Daria met me at Ray's Den in Independence, and we took one car up to Onion Valley and were on the trail at 4:45am. It was a chilly morning, and I wore all of the layers I had with me, but at least it would warm up significantly throughout the day. We reached Kearsarge Pass at 6:25am just as dawn was approaching, and we took shelter behind some rocks to protect from the wind and cold. We headed down the other side of the pass and stopped several times to watch the sun touch the peaks of the Great Western Divide. We took the turnoff towards Glen Pass and Rae Lakes, reaching the top of the pass at 8:27am. I was particularly glad to have a trail through this section, which is otherwise a huge morainal boulder field. We took in our first views of Mount Cotter and the much more striking Mount Clarence King next to it. At the pass, we met a group of five PCT hikers from Canada that were heading into town. We descended into the beautiful Rae Lakes Basin and took the trail to Sixty Lakes Basin. We continued through Rae Col and eventually arrived at a lake at the base of Mount Cotter around 10:50am, where we took a break for a snack to muster the energy for the climb.

We ascended up the southeast slopes, which started as a series of grassy ledges but soon turned into more exhausting sand. I tried to stay close to the ridge, which seemed to have slightly more solid and enjoyable rock. We took a break at a small plateau around noon and made the final push to the summit. We aimed for a point that looked very summit-like but was actually just a few hundred feet south of the true summit. We stayed close to the top of the ridge, which was class 3, including a fun knife edge that Daria insisted that I cross. Somewhere along the ridge, I jammed my head and shoulder off of a boulder, and I stopped to collect myself for a couple minutes as I waited for the nausea and pain to subside. Daria summited a few minutes before I arrived at 1:00pm. The views were some of the best I've had with Cotter's central location in Kings Canyon. There was a short catwalk on the north side of the summit with a 1,000ft+ dropoff on three sides that I wasn't keen on, but made for great photos for Daria.

We descended down the sand slopes to the lake and stopped for lunch before the 14-mile walk out. Slowly but steadily, we made our way back through Rae Col, Glen Pass, and Kearsarge Pass. Thick clouds were rolling into the canyon as we reached the Kearsarge Pass Trail, foreshadowing the approaching storm and making for eerie sunset photos. We reached Kearsarge Pass at 7:40pm, exhausted but thankful that the climbing was finally complete nearly fifteen hours after we began. A couple miles from the end of the trail, we caught up to a backpacker who was hiking the JMT but severely injured his leg coming down Muir Pass a couple days earlier. We offered to give him a ride to his car in Lone Pine. Shockingly, he was able to hike at our pace, but he was clearly in a great deal of pain. We reached the trailhead at 9:25pm and drove to Independence, and Daria drove him the rest of the way to Lone Pine. We spent the drive down from Onion Valley explaining peakbagging and our long day hikes, and as we articulated it, it struck me that we sound absolutely insane to an outsider (or backpacker). I will keep the insanity going for as long as I can.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:10097 ft / 3076 m
    Total Elevation Loss:10097 ft / 3076 m
    Round-Trip Distance:31.4 mi / 50.5 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2s3
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Low clouds/fog late
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6800 ft / 2072 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3503 ft / 1067 m; Extra: 3297 ft / 1004m
    Loss on way in:3297 ft / 1004 m
    Distance:16 mi / 25.8 km
    Route:SE Slope
    Start Trailhead:Onion Valley TH  9210 ft / 2807 m
    Time:8 Hours 12 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6800 ft / 2072 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3503 ft / 1067 m; Extra: 3297 ft / 1004m
    Gain on way out:3297 ft / 1004 m
    Distance:15.4 mi / 24.8 km
    Route:SE Slope
    End Trailhead:Onion Valley TH  9210 ft / 2807 m
    Time:8 Hours 0 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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