Ascent of Mount Williamson on 2021-10-05

Climber: Matt Varney

Others in Party:Jerald R.
Trevis R.
Date:Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Mount Williamson
    Elevation:14373 ft / 4380 m

Ascent Trip Report

Returned to finish this route after running out of time in October 2017. In an attempt to maximize daylight on the more critical sections, we started at 12:22 AM. This was successful in that we were out of the couloir well before dark. It wasn't so great in that it made routefinding much more tedious on the traverse through the 7200' Notch and along the creek, as well as on the ridge from the creek crossing at ~7420' to the 9200' level. On the way down, we were in the dark from just below the top of the ridge out to the car. The darkness may have added several hours onto the trip, as we had to frequently check the existing GPS track and navigate around obstacles that would have been visible from a distance in daylight. It was also harder to avoid slipping on unstable rocks and soil in the dark than it would have been in the light. On the previous attempt, I know that the traverse through the notch and along the creek was quite fast in daylight and much longer in the dark, so I assume that it applies to this trip as well.

The upper portion of this route, including parts of the ridge, involves negotiating thousands of boulders of varying sizes. The steep sections include very loose soil and/or rocks. All of this combines to make this route much more time-consuming than the statistics would suggest.

This time, the east couloir was 99% free of snow and ice. As others have mentioned, it's full of very loose rocks and soil and is tedious to navigate safely, especially with multiple climbers. The top section of the couloir is split into two very steep chutes. We ascended the left chute as it looked better from below the fork, but found it to have little safe footing in the upper stretches, which might involve Class 4 moves due to the excessive distance between places with stable footing. It also seemed too dangerous to downclimb without protection. On the descent, we used the other chute (on climber's right). It was moderately treacherous, but offered more reasonable spacing between solid footing.

Between 11,900' and 13,040', the couloir took 2 hr 10 min on the ascent and 1 hr 32 min on the descent.

At the top of the couloir, in the east plateau, we stashed most of our equipment and headed for the summit, as it was nearing 1 PM. The talus slope between about 13,150' and 14,000' looked a little daunting, with cliffy areas in the upper section. We found that that the worst of it can be bypassed by using a series of use-trail switchbacks toward climber's right of the slope. Once on the summit plateau, I hit the summit rockpile to the left of the summit proper, gained the ridge, and then scrambled along the ridge to the summit. I took 1 hr 5 min from 13,050' to the summit.

Earlier on the 5th, we drove out Foothill Road to North Fork Bairs Creek to check the flow, which turned out to be decent. In fact, the waterfall at the second stream crossing, where we got water on both trips, seemed to be flowing almost as well as in 2017. This was surprising in that 2017 was an unusually high snow year, whereas 2021 was unusually low. Due to the decent flow, I started with 1 liter and then filled 4 liters at the waterfall. This proved to be sufficient, although borderline. The upper portions of North Fork Bairs Creek also had audible flow, although we didn't fill there due to the impending darkness and unknown ease of getting to the water (the upper portions of the creek are often below the surface of the boulder field).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8958 ft / 2730 m
    Total Elevation Loss:8958 ft / 2729 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.4 mi / 20 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3+
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
A few scattered snowflakes above 11,000 ft
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:8738 ft / 2663 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 8438 ft / 2572 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Route:North Fork Bairs Creek
    Start Trailhead:Foothill Road  5935 ft / 1808 m
    Time:13 Hours 36 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:8658 ft / 2638 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 8438 ft / 2572 m; Extra: 220 ft / 67m
    Gain on way out:220 ft / 67 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:North Fork Bairs Creek
    End Trailhead:Foothill Road  5935 ft / 1808 m
    Time:8 Hours 53 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Matt Varney
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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