The hike lead us through quite a spectacular variety of terrain, including granite of all shapes, sizes and angles, and meadows, both lush and dry.
We arrived at the crux of the climb where I had read that the standard route ran up the gut of this gully and was called “The Staircase.” I could indeed see the large 3-5 foot ledges and agreed that this was probably the easiest way up, normally. At that moment, however, the steps were buried in 3 to 12 inches of snow.
The top of the peak appeared as if cast from a single piece of granite, with wonderfully bubbly and creative shapes.
The conglomerate was contorted into all sorts of interesting and unusual shapes and it reminded me of Kirkwood. Suddenly I was dreaming of returning back to this area when it would be buried under several feet of snow.
I dropped over the saddle and down large talus and granite slabs, jogging along a babbling mountain stream, brimming with scrub and overripe wildflowers, arriving at the Volcanic Lakes basin. A dozen lakes of various sizes sat in yawning bowls of polished granite, their outlets flowing along the sturdy canyons and dropping off out of site to the Middle Fork Kings.
We chatted a while longer, enjoying the rain and the thunder from the comfort of the porch. By 3:30, the rain started to let up and I decided I should turn around and head home. 26 miles was plenty of hiking for one day.
Eventually we found ourselves at Sphinx Col and for the first time in five hours were rewarded with something other than one more cirque to climb. Mt Brewer and the Great Western Divide extended southward before us.
The other group was watching me and based on their comments I must have made it look particularly difficult. I assured them that I was not a great climber and that the route probably was not as bad as I’d made it look, but they seemed unconvinced.
Underwear notwithstanding, the view from Flagpole Peak is quite spectacular. Not only does the peak tower above Lower Echo Lake, but it also soars high above the north side of Echo Pass.
Richard’s goal for the day was to swim in every lake we passed. I wasn’t so keen on swimming in every lake, but I was more than happy to test the waters.