I found a hold on a rock above me and started to pull myself up off the ledge when Jamie, who’d apparently taken the route I deemed unclimbable, shouted a warning that the rock was loose. I had tested the rock as a hold a couple times and didn’t notice any movement but I trusted her. So rather than pull down on the rock, I jammed my hands into the crack between the boulder and the bedrock to pull myself up and onto the summit!
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.
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.
Sean had written that he summited at 10:40 am, more than three hours earlier! Even better, according to the entry, he’d left some cookies for us!
At sunrise, I stopped briefly to take a few photos and check the elevation. We had climbed 1,500 feet, and I tried not to think too hard on the fact that this meant we were only about one quarter of the way up the pass.
As I started down Bishop Pass I could hardly believe what I was seeing — the lakes which we had so hurriedly passed in the morning glum were now illuminated by the sun in various shades of blue and green!