Ascent to Mount Williamson-Williamson Bowl on 2015-10-23

Climber: Phillip Katzmann

Others in Party:met Niki and Simon on base of Shepard's switchbacks.
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, October 23, 2015
Ascent Type:No Summit Goal
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Point Reached:Mount Williamson - Williamson Bowl
    Elevation:12000 ft / 3657 m

Ascent Trip Report

Headed out from the standard TH at Symme's Creek Thursday afternoon planning to make the lake at Shepard's Pass, yet snow began to fall around four in the afternoon. Decided to camp the night at Anvil Camp and see where my options lay in the morning. By the way, at the Visitor Center there at Lone Pine Renee, the Park Service gal issuing the permits said no one had been up here in weeks. I didn't see any footprints past Symmes Saddle. Cold night there at Anvil Camp. Wow. In my typical rotisserie style of sleep I thought if the weather remained the same in the morning, I'd head south to Owens and Jenkin's Peak there at Indian Canyon.
Got up in the morning and headed up toward Shepard Pass and to check the pass conditions out. Left the camp intact with the sleeping bag out to dry on a small pine branch. Just check it out was my objective.
Up and over Pothole the weather was perfect - windless,cool and clear. Began the accent of the switchbacks one step at a time with few doubts and hesitations. About one third up the switchbacks I saw a beautiful healthy deer looking at me, maybe 30 ft away. Sharing the same path we observed one another for a good 3-4 minutes with little movement - just decided who was to move. Well, she made the move. Within three seconds she effortlessly bounded past me straight down ignoring the path. I pushed up the switchbacks without incident until the final 150 ft which were covered with snow. I only had trekking poles and gaiters, yet thought nothing of continuing on in the frozen snow.
Rounding the final 50 ft the trail narrowed to 8-10 inches with frozen drift piled to a 60 degree angle. Just dig out each step 4-6 inches apart and stick like glue close to the granite on my right. One step at a time, inches apart slowly approaching the remaining 30 feet. I planted my right boot firmly between the granite wall on my left. The snow there was frozen and would offer secure purchase. Glancing down at the long face of frozen snow with pointed granite below I thought I wouldn't stop if I slipped and began a slide. Just keep moving.
I then brought up my left boot and pole five to six inched at most. When I did plant my left foot down the frozen snow gave way with the weight of my body pulling me over the edge. As I slowly toppled over I cried out in terror knowing this is it. My son and caught flashed through my head as they needed a dad and Katy would miss me. As my legs bent beneath my toro my right boot twisted to the right making contact with a small lip of the granite wall. That one inch held me there with my head below my waist, arms over head flailing about calling out to someone, anyone to pull me up. I had to pull myself up. If I let go of my right foot hold to roll over I'd begin the deadly slide. Each time I attempted to grip the snow with my right hand I came up with nothing but a handful of snow. My single option was to lift my toro up and then scoot to the granite wall. Fourth attempt I was there. As I pulled myself up and over the fourth or fifth rib crunched and and emitted an excruciating pain. As I lay there, my initial though was turn around and go home. I'm neither mentally capable or equipped for this. However, after 30 seconds of breathing I stood up and continued up and over the last few steps. I'll deal with the descent after I get to the lake.
Getting to the first over the saddle the view of Tyndall was once again beautiful. Was good to she her again. I had climbed Tyndall the previous summer and loved every step of it. Tyndall is fairly straight forward and easy. At any rate, my next objective was to slog up the rise to Williamson Bowl and just look at the peak of Mt Williamson. Just get a small view of it. I followed the use trail on the west side of the lake up and over toward Williamson Bowl with Tyndall rising up on my right. Clear, blue and chilly all the while Williamson Peak rising before me. I turned around to catch my breath and the view behind me and noticed two hikers walking their way from the west toward Shepard's Pass. A tall male and much shorted female plodding, stopping and restarting several times. At one point I waved, yet they simply continued on. I continued up and over as far as I could to find an unobstructed view of Willimason, Vorsteeg and others. Just awe inspiring. Wow. I counted four lakes in a jumble and tumble of glacial moraines, piles, etc. The way to the base of Williamson was another hour up and down over and through. Not today I told myself. Too much snow and not enough necessary equipment. Just enjoy the view. Saw four different sets of tracks of what look like cat prints headed from Tyndall to Polychrome.
After what seemed to be an hour I returned the same way back to Shepard's Pass to encounter the frozen path... Rounding the point I noticed the couple used crampons and worked their way through the section. They took some time as the dangerous section had many, many boot prints with the snow covered granite wall and covered with arm and pole imprints. I simply followed their path all the while glancing to my left at the harrowing drop.
I caught up with the couple, Niki and Simon about an hour later. Good people. They had entered at Cottonwood Lakes and were to emerge at Kearsage Pass, yet decided to cut it short by descending Shepard's instead. What a designs that was. We went out together the following day.
Great two night excursion.
Will bag Williamson next summer.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5701 ft / 1737 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5701 ft / 1737 m
    Round-Trip Distance:24 mi / 38.6 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2-3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5701 ft / 1737 m
    Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route:Symme's Creek to Shepard's Pass
    Start Trailhead:Symmes Creek TH  6299 ft / 1919 m
    Time:1 Days 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5701 ft / 1737 m
    Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route:Sheard's Pass to Symme's Creek
    End Trailhead:Symmes Creek TH  6299 ft / 1919 m
    Time:1 Days 

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