Day 1 (Hike in + Tyndall): 7/15/2018
Elevation Gain: 9,800′
We arrived at the trailhead the evening of the 14th and car camped, knowing that we needed to start early the next day to avoid hiking in the desert heat. This trailhead is another that starts pretty much at the valley floor. We woke up, put on our overnight packs, and got on the trail at 3:30. The trail quickly crosses Symmes Creek 4 times and then starts up 54 switchbacks through the forest. The sun came up right as we got to Symmes Saddle, an area where you begin a disheartening 500′ descent. The trail continues through scrub and sparse trees until finally reaching a forested area and Anvil Camp, where some people choose to stay overnight. We did not have this opportunity since this would be such a quick trip with a lot to accomplish. It was pretty buggy too, but also the last good place to fill up water for a while.
The trail breaks out of the trees and continues for quite a ways through rocks before Shepherd Pass comes into view, over 10 miles into the hike. During the record snow year of 2016-2017, a small herd of mule deer got stuck coming down the pass in a migration gone wrong and their rotting carcasses now litter the trail in a few places. I was slightly prepared for this, but it was really bad. There are a few further down, and then a bunch near the bottom of the switchbacks, possibly caught in an avalanche. It’s rancid. We hurried through this area and to the top of the pass. We entered into Sequoia/King’s Canyon and enjoyed the impressive view to the west. We then left the trail and turned left towards Williamson Bowl to set up camp.
We took a not so efficient route towards where we assumed the bowl would open up, and followed a somewhat confusing talus hop down towards the ridge that goes through the center of the bowl. There are several gorgeous blue lakes in here, but you would have to descend quite a ways to camp near them so we found a few nice flat pads on rock slabs just below the left side of the ridge. We set up camp, tried to nap in the hot midday sun, and then decided it was time to go up Tyndall. We had originally planned on having two nights here so we wouldn’t have to do the approach hike and summit in the same day, but no such luck.
Mount Tyndall’s impressive north face above a crystal blue lake
I had a guidebook that recommended taking Mount Tyndall’s long northwest ridge, so we did. Do not do this. It is a waste of time and effort for nothing but talus and boulder hopping. The ascent took forever. We finally summited and we were exhausted! We looked over at hulking Mount Williamson and thought it looked unclimbable, but decided that we would reevaluate the next morning.
How the heck do you get up this beast?!
We descended down the obvious rock rib on the northeast face, which was fine. Easy class 3 with some tippy talus, but nothing that was too bad. We got back to camp just in time to watch an incredible sunset behind Tyndall, and as we ate dinner I saw a fiery green shooting star in the twilight sky. It was a nice end to a tough day. We went to bed and set the alarm for the next day’s climb.
Day 2 (Williamson + hike out): 7/16/2018
Elevation Gain: 3,800′
The alarm went off early, but we decided to snooze and await the sun. We were exhausted from the day before. We headed out at 6 and walked along the ridge crest through the Williamson Bowl. I don’t have a good photo of the route, since you can’t really see it from Tyndall or elsewhere in the Bowl. Follow occasional cairns through some ups and downs on a path of least resistance towards the base of Williamson’s massive west face. Do not try to cut up too soon or you will face a scree and talus nightmare. Once at the base, look up and see an area of rocks stained black from water. This is your approximate goal. Head up the talus, around and over the black stain, and up a gully that is the easiest way up the west face. There are cairns and signs of previous travel through here. It’s a bit loose in places but not too steep.
At the top of the chimney
Eventually you will reach the base of a chimney to the upper right. This is the crux of the climb. It’s definitely California class 3! Work your way up the chimney on good, featured granite and then top out on the left. Here you will see a plateau the size of a football field with Williamson’s sub summit to the east. Walk along the right side of the plateau and rock hop up the right onto the summit ridge. Take in the views and marvel at how small Mount Tyndall looks from its 14,375′ neighbor!
Tiny Tyndall and much of the route seen from the summit
Descending the chimney
It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed hanging out on the summit for a while before descending. We made pretty quick work of the gully on the way down, got back to camp, broke down, and hiked out. We took a more efficient way out to Shepherd Pass, hurried past the deer, and labored up the 500′ to Symmes Saddle. It felt good to be past that in the afternoon heat. We got through the 54 switchbacks, crossed the creek, and couldn’t have been happier when we saw the car at 5:30. This is not a trip for the faint of heart, and I would definitely recommend doing it over 3 days if you have the time. We had another motel room for the night, so we raced down to Lone Pine and had a fabulous dinner at Merry Go Round and tended to our blisters before bed. We had another full rest day the next day, which we would need to recover and get ready for our final endeavor of the trip – Whitney and Muir.