Today’s official goal was the lowly Stanton Peak, a highpoint on the ridge west of Virginia Peak in northern Yosemite. It being the first weekend day of the challenge, there were 20-something people at the leisurely 6 AM start. A few new faces, including Vitaliy and Dave, set a fast pace at the front, and I forced myself to keep up while Bob and several others kept a more moderate pace. We forced our way to the old trail north of Green Lake and, after a break for water, reached the pass in just over two hours. From the pass, there is a good view of Stanton and most of the route, so we talked and waited until Bob arrived.
The other side of Virginia Pass goes the wrong way, so we soon left the trail, heading cross-country toward the saddle between Stanton and Virginia. After starting along the wrong side of a lake, I got slightly ahead on the boulders above it. The slabs below Stanton looked inviting, so it seemed pointless to climb directly to the saddle and along the ridge. Instead I angled diagonally across the face toward where I though the summit should be. While the route wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, it was fairly smooth sailing on mixed 2nd and 3rd-class.
There was no register, so I had a snack and headed back toward Virginia, passing Bob near the summit. Once again, staying below the ridge was easier. From Stanton, Virginia looks like a horrid mixture of fins and scree, so I was not expecting to have fun. I contoured upward, crossing the loose gullies and passing through gaps in the fins, until two or three gullies after reaching the red rock that forms Virginia’s summit. This layered rock, when steep enough, fractures into clean stairs, so I cruised up a fast 3rd class fin to the summit ridge and on to the summit. Surprisingly, I was only the second person this year to sign the register.
Descending the north ridge was loose, but not as bad as I had expected, and the first long stretch of ridge toward Twin is an easy, flat hike. This was followed by a more-or-less stable pile of black-and-green striped boulders, then the complicated ridge up to the summit plateau. The crest itself is serrated, so it is easier to traverse upward on ledges to the right. When the gullies became too deep for this approach, I climbed to the ridge and followed it up a short class 3 pitch to the summit plateau.
It is not clear which point is the highest, but I headed along the north ridge, checking each until I found the register. The summit held two pleasant surprises: a 1964 register, and a delicious Murray Mint. The last entry in the register was from “William Nelson,” which sounded like a joke (Willy?), dated “Friday, August 16, Sierra Challenge 2010 day one,” which made no sense, and said he had day-hiked from Mono Lake, which would be really far. Who knows. I wasn’t that hungry, but I had my tomato-and-basil sardines, then killed the aftertaste with the summit mint as I started down the chute between the two peaks.
This chute would be a nightmare to climb, but it wasn’t bad going down: a long, mostly-stable boulder hop followed by a loose, steep descent where I half-walked and half-slid while holding onto the rocks. I cut across some meadows to Virginia Pass, saving both distance and elevation, and reached the pass before 1 PM. Camiaca (and some other stuff) was just right there to the south, but it looked like a lot of boulders, and I thought I was ahead of Bob for the day, so I cruised back to the trailhead around 2:40, talking with Dave along the way. As it turns out, I probably should have tagged those other peaks, since that crafty Bob, after sounding ambivalent in the morning, tagged Camiaca and one of its neighbors on the return, giving him four for the day.