Sep 16, 2012The stats of our epic scramble doesn't say anything about it. After we've got to the parking lot we thought that the rest of the way to the top might be quite short and we were wrong big time. The route finding skill and our willpower this day were put to the test and we succeeded with quite an adventure.
To warn people who might want to try it. There is no trail whatsoever, it's a completely wild hike. Due to multiple cliffs in the area GPS device doesn't work well (the satellite signal bounces off the cliffs and the position jumps every several seconds in a radius of 20-40 meters) despite you're on the open. Therefore, you cannot reliably backtrack, which was quite a problem for us in the dark. It took me quite a while to clean up the track at home for it to be useful.
After a long drive via Tahimi FSR me and Pardeep stopped near the crater in the road that blocked it even for SUV almost strictly north of the mountain (see the GPS track). The end of the road itself was close by and it wasn't a big deal. We hiked till the end of the road and entered the forest and using the path of the least resistance started mild bushwhacking south eventually going under the cliffs on the left side. There were some sections of black currant bushwhacking, which is not very pleasant because it's a spiky plant but at least it smells awesome. We traversed under ridge that at some point become cliffs and forced us to go west for a while and at some point we reached the boulder field, which led us to rather flat but short section. Then we came to another ridge which we gained and started descending from the other side. As soon as it was not too steep to traverse we turned south and after reached the flat forest area with large and broken dead trees. Here we had a food break. So far the only difficulties we met were bushwhacking and traversing steep slopes. There was almost no elevation gain, so we barely even sweat, however we could not go fast because of bushwhacking. The steep part was yet to come.
We checked the general direction to the small lake north of mount McGuire and headed for it. After some steep bushwhack through the scree overgrown by salmon berry and black currant bushes we saw the lake through the trees. Reading other reports we decided to use NW ridge to the right of us to get to the summit. Jumping forward a bit, it's not the route one would like to use, so read my description below about the easiest approach via the ramp on the west side of the north wall further report. But that time we had no idea where we might end up and turned west. We easily reached NW ridge and started hiking along it upwards. After a while it turn into scramble and then into the solid class 3 scramble with obligatory usage of veggie belays because the rock is quite crumbly there and doesn't provide good handholds by itself. It is possible to go around it using the steep traverse through the grassy slopes but we thought the rocky scramble is better.
Reaching the sub-summit about a hundred meters away from the real summit we ran into the 20 meters cliff. It was really frustrating because it was so close to the summit. There is a possibility to go over a class 4 traverse around the cliff from the west side towards the steep gully that leads to the summit. The traverse material is a soft soil mixed with small rocks. Any stumble on that traverse would result in a long tumble to the very steep chute that goes to the very bottom of the mountain and likely death. Initially, I wanted to put my crampons on for better traction and go for it but Pardeep refused to go there under any circumstances. I backed off and we decided to just go back after a food break.
Observing the area, we thought that, may be, we can find a better route down descending eastwards from the ridge into the bowl beneath McGuire's north face. So we did and descended into the bowl over the scree slope and then over the snow field. Almost at the bottom we noticed a passable approach towards the ridge at the north side of the mountain and couldn't hold off the temptation to summit.
From the snow field we ascended to the ledge and traversed along it to the gully. Pardeep went on the left side I went on the right side. My ascent initially was easier but then in some sections I had to rely on veggie belays too much. Then he scrambled on the top of the ridge and I used scree filled gully to ascend. Close to the top our paths joined and we traversed one more ledge west around the summit block to get better terrain. The final little step to the summit was trickier but it was very short. You can't even imagine the satisfaction from summitting after a hard route finding. Unfortunately we could not relax as it was already 5 pm and we had to go back asap to prevent hard scrambling in the dark.
After making pictures and having some food we started scrambling down to the bowl. We took Pardeep's route over the rocky class 3 scramble on the way down because it seemed safer than very steep vegetation with sketchy run-out that I took on the way up. In an hour we were at the bottom of the bowl. We spend another hour looking for a way to descend back to the lake without climbing and downclimbing the NW ridge where we came from. Finally we ran into the short ramp on the left (west) side of the wall that led to the decent scree slope going 1/3 of the way to the lake. It appeared to be a class 3 scramble with mild exposure and we were happy to be able to find the short way down.
Down the scree slope Pardeep injured his ankle, which made him seriously slower on the downhill. Giving him due, he endured the pain and continued walking. At the end of the scree slope we crossed tree stripe to the west and proceeded first down alpine meadow then through the steeper slope covered by a forest. At 8:12 pm, right before it got very dark, we were at the lake.
Bushwhacking back to the car through the forest traverses was very difficult especially since our GPS gave only very vague idea where we are. It was very long and annoying section. At one point we've got cliffed out trying to shorten the path and at the same time both our head lamps required a battery change. It's a good thing we had spare batteries otherwise we would have gotten stuck in the very sketchy terrain where we had to use spiky bushes as a veggie belays (that sucked but there was no other choice). We didn't have spare batteries for GPS though but it was good throughout the trip. However, just in case, Pardeep turned his GPS off to have extra batteries for emergency and we continued with only mine on.
We carefully got out of the cliffs and found our own track forward visually observing faint bootprints on the ground. That was a huge relief. As soon as we passed black current bushes the walking became many times easier in the dark. At 1:40 am we were back at the car finishing our epic 16 hours hike.
A few notes afterwards: if you're ever sleepy after a hike, don't drive, ask non-sleepy person to drive, have an energy drink for such emergencies and if it doesn't help just sleep a bit to make sure you won't die stupidly.
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