Ascent of Sonora Peak on 2015-10-20

Climber: William Inman

Others in Party:David W. McKinnon
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Sonora Peak
    Elevation:11459 ft / 3492 m

Ascent Trip Report

Had been having trouble all year getting a climb scheduled with my buddy, Dave McKinnon, but finally we were able to get one - Oct. 20, 2015. Too bad the weather decided not to help out. A cold front and storm moved in two days before, and by the time we got there, some snow was on the ground all the way down to the trailhead at Sonora Pass, and a stiff wind was blowing out of the NE. We'd been watching the weather though, so had warm clothes with us and showed up already wearing long johns.

It looked like the shortest route was to just follow the ridge up all the way from the trailhead, but took the Pacific Crest Trail north, thinking we'd be sheltered from the wind a little better. But once we reached the ridge about 2 miles in, we didn't see much choice but to take it, and take the beating. Fortunately, it didn't get really bad until we entered the clouds at about 11,000 ft. From there on, we couldn't see well enough to be sure we could duck off on the west side of the ridge like we had been doing, so just gritted our teeth and followed the path right up the ridgeline.

One false summit before the real one was a bit of a dissappointment, but fortunately it wasn't too much farther to the next one which, happily, was the true one. The gusts were so strong, we literally had to devote all our attention and energy to just remaining on our feet when they hit. The rock ring wind shelter on the summit was built more for protection from the WEST wind, but it seemed to help a little bit, anyway. I told Dave that if he just wanted to get his butt off that peak and not bother with trying to sign-in on the summit register, I wouldn't argue, but he opened it up and made an entry anyway, trying to write with half frozen fingers across the page with snowflakes constantly being deposited on it.

The clouds would break just long enough to give us a peek, and I could see the western slope looked like we could traverse it, at least somewhat protected from the wind. So that's the way we went down, and it worked to a degree, but we ended up getting a little lost, since we couldn't really see in the cloud and hadn't been there before. But we kept going down, and pretty soon were back below the clouds and could see bits of the highway down below, meaning we were at least on the right side of the mountain! Eventually, we made our way down to the PCT again, and followed it back to the cars.

In all, even as miserable as it was, we didn't really get cold. Guess we were dressed well enough to fend it off, even though that wind felt like it was being blown at us right out of a deep freeze. It was quite the grand adventure, and the first climb Dave and I did together since Boundary Peak way back in 1984!!!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1816 ft / 553 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1816 ft / 553 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.6 mi / 10.6 km
    Grade/Class:1 and 2
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cold, Very Windy, Low Clouds
40 degrees and about 60 mph wind on top. About an inch of snow on the ground above 11,000 ft.
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1816 ft / 553 m
    Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Route:CA.Co.HP . PCT, then south ridge
    Start Trailhead:Sonora Pass trailhead  9643 ft / 2939 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1816 ft / 553 m
    Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Route:PCT, then south ridge
    End Trailhead:Sonora Pass trailhead  9643 ft / 2939 m
    Time:2 Hours 35 Minutes

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