To the southwest, Mt Ritter and Banner Peak rose up above the north shoulder of Carson Peak. From this angle, the slightly taller but more distant Ritter appears to be the same height as Banner and their sloping summits mirrored each other with impossibly symmetry.
After climbing one particular waterfall, the entire forest suddenly transitioned to zombie cedars and the sunlight filtered through the toothpicks providing a magical light. Rafee and I agreed that it felt as if we’d just stumbled into Rivendell!
I started downhill toward the parking lot, ignoring a few groups of people gaping at my running down the hill. Unfortunately the trail dwindled and soon disappeared before I realized that they weren’t surprised by my running but by my running down a dead end!
From the top of Bodie Mountain we could see all the way back to the ghost town. Mihai and I struggled to identify Sierra peaks through the haze, but some were very familiar including Dunderberg Peak which I’d climbed earlier that week.
Eventually the rock became loose enough that we could plunge step, but this also meant that it was loose enough to pick up momentum. I was fortunate to happen to look back up the slope just as the rock was starting to slide on its own and shouted to Rafee to take cover. We managed to jump to the side as several soccer ball sized rocks came hurtling past.
Along the shore where we stood, the trail happened to be littered with great skipping rocks (a rarity in the Sierra!) and Rafee and I spent a couple minutes lobbing rocks out onto the ice and reveling in the alien sounds produced.
Although I didn’t recognize many peaks in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness, I spied The Three Chimneys and Granite Dome in Emigrant Wilderness as well as now familiar Tower Peak, far south in Yosemite. I also spied a distant peak between Sonora and Stanislaus Peaks and was amazed to later identify it as Mt Lyell, 60 miles distant on the far side of Yosemite!
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.