Basin Mountain

Basin Mountain Trip Report (#16531)

How not to climb a 13,000-footer: stay out until 2:00 am the night before, in Los Angeles, siging bad karaoke and drinking many beers before hitting the highway for a 4+ hour drive to the trailhead; attempt to climb at the very end of the summer climbing season, having barely left sea level in the past six months, with a group of climbers who have spent virtually every summer weekend in the Sierra; try to drive a very low clearance sedan to a trailhead that really demands at least 12-14 inches and, ideally, 4WD; not having packed the backpack in the aforementioned past six months, hit the trailhead with a bag that weighs 78 pounds for a 2-day/1-night trip (I packed _out_ 12 pounds of food).

Well, despite my failures of preparation, I showed up at the trailhead on Saturday morning, ready to go for my first trip above 11,000 feet (let alone over 13,000). After a couple of barbed comments about the weight of my pack, we set off. The hike from the trailhead to Horton Lake, which sits right at 10,000 feet, is no picnic, but it's not too tough either. It runs over an old dirt road (the area is littered with abandoned mines, including an operation right at the lake) that has long since been abandoned to the rocks that are now unevenly strewn about the area.

Horton Lake basin is truly spectacular, though. Mount Tom towers to the north, Basin Mountain to the south, and Four Gables to the east, while the creek leaves the lake and slowly meanders down towards Bishop to the west.

The plan was to summit Basin on Saturday afternoon, then get up early Sunday and take an untried, untested route up Four Gables, via Upper Horton Lakes, Sunday morning. Actually, the original plan was to pack to Upper Horton Lakes and set camp there, but we quickly abandoned that plan once we saw the terrain. It would have been an ambitious undertaking, to say the least.

The trip up Basin was relatively uneventful. I had to stop every ten steps or so to convince myself that I wasn't going to pass out, but with a bit of encouragement, the elevation crept by, until we were standing at the base of the headwall of the false south summit. Someone knew that the Sierra Club peak register was on the north summit, so a traverse was in order.

A little scouting revealed that the easiest way around was to head through the saddle between the two summits and approach the north summit from the southeast. We went through a 20-foot downclimb, which required a slightly airy, somewhat awkward stem maneuver (lots of fun, even in my light-headed state), a couple of 3rd class scramble moves, and then were were on top of one of the biggest rock piles I'd ever seen.

Apparently, it's not a great summit, but it was my first, so I kind of dug it. The east/northeast face of the mountain drops away impressively, and might make a decent class 5 climb, but at that point I was ready to head down for happy hour.

Unfortunately, on the way down, I ran into some trouble with an old achilles tendon problem (later discovered to be a partial tear, since taken care of), so I didn't make the Four Gables trip the next day. Neither did the rest of the group -- unfortunately, they got within about 100 yards of the top and the route pooped out completely. Still a fun trip.

Basin Mountain Trip Report Index