Tony Krizan

Climbing Amelia Earhart Peak

Campsite at Ireland Lake with Amelia Earhart Peak in the background.
Campsite at Ireland Lake with Amelia Earhart Peak in the background. Special to the Sierra Star

A few years ago after researching numerous famous Yosemite peaks, Fred Cochran and I decided that a climb to Amelia Earhart Peak would be our next adventure. Getting to the trailhead would require driving through Yosemite National Park to Tuolumne Meadows on the east side.

If you have interest in early 20th-century aviation, you will find Earhart was one of the early pioneers and first women setting aviation records. She was born on July 24, 1897, and on Oct. 22, 1922, she was the first woman to fly to an altitude of 14,000 feet. On May 15, 1923, she was the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. She also was the first woman to solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her carrier was shortened on July 02, 1937, on a round-the-world flight. Her final leg was to cross the Pacific at the equator. While flying from Lae Papua New Guinea to the Howard Islands (2,556 miles) her Lockheed Electra Aircraft with copilot and navigator Fred Noonan perished somewhere along the flight plan. To this day their crash site is still a mystery. The mountain in Yosemite National Park that bears her name was purposed by the Rocketdyne Mountaineering Club and approved by the Board on Geographic Names in 1967.

The trailhead is located in front of the Ranger Station at Tuolumne Meadow. It also serves the Lyell Canyon, Pacific Coast and John Muir Trails. We’ll follow this slightly elevated trail 5.5 miles until arriving at the junction to hike south toward Ireland Lake at 10,735 feet. As we followed this easily marked trail, above us is Potter Point which leads directly toward Amelia Earhart Peak.

This trail also follows Ireland Creek through the forest until breaking out of the tree line before arriving at the lake. Amelia Earhart Peak at 11,986 feet is located behind Ireland Lake. We set up our base camp on the treeless shore line west of the lake. From this location we have a panoramic view of the south and north ridges leading toward the summit. Early tomorrow morning we will start our ascent to the summit.

No matter how much time is spent on researching an adventure, one can be the victim of weather reports. Fifty percent of the prediction of clear sunny skies was correct, but they failed to mention evening and night time conditions. That evening we had rain which turned into hail and snow that accumulated on the peak. Hopefully the warm morning temperatures will melt the snow before we reach the summit around noon. Overnight temperatures were around 40 degrees but the warm morning sun melted most of the remaining snow accumulated on the summit. After studying the mountain we decided to approach the south slope to the summit. We later found that there were not established routes and one must pick their own line of travel.

From the lake we followed the mountain drainage to the upper saddle, skirted the ridge until crossing over to the east face. One major disappointment was when realizing that there are two false peaks. As we climbed to what we felt was the summit, looking along the ridge line to the north was another higher peak. Once we mastered the second peak, looking north again, we now realize we had one last peak to climb which was the highest peak on this mountain. The metal canister to log our climb was on this summit. I was not disappointed in our climbing time, even with the few surprised we were only one hour behind schedule.

From the summit one could see the glacier slopping down the east face of Banner and Ritter Mountains. Mammoth Mountain was in the distance to the west. Also facing west was White Mountain, Ragged and Tioga Peaks.

Since there are no established routes we decided to look of a shorted route descending the west face. After some trial and error a shorter route was found and we saved over an hour descending.

That evening and through the night the wind gusted so hard it uprooted a few of my tent stakes. Needless to say sleep was difficult that night. I survived the night and the following morning we broke camp and hiked the 12.6 miles of trails back to the trailhead.

Technically this was not a difficult adventure. But one should have skills of reading a safe passageway climbing over these jagged rocks. Once on the summit the views will help you forget your strenuous climb.

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