The Bairs Creek Cirque — Page 2

Mount Williamson - Bairs Creek Cirque


Climbing Mount Williamson is about as pure as it gets. Park at the base of the mountain. Start hiking up. With a trail, as is the case of the Shepherd Pass approach, many backcountry travelers will face the most strenuous climb of their lives.

Without a trail, as is the case of the George Creek and Bairs Creek approaches, the climb becomes something else entirely, a transcendent experience that would perhaps best serve its clients, in the end, if it directed them through the gates of an asylum.

Mount Williamson Cactus


Heading Up

Heading up

Looking Down

Looking down toward the car

According to my National Geographic Topo! software, Foothill Road crosses the north fork of Bairs Creek at an elevation of 5906'.

This is where you park your car and begin hiking.

At 5906 feet, the Owens Valley is hot, dry desert, and the mere thought of putting skis on your back and tromping around in the dust seems absurd.

I had tried without success to recruit a partner for this endeavor. But now, as I stared upward and contemplated the challenges that lay ahead, I decided I was better off solo.

Misery loves company, to be sure, and it would seem that bringing a partner could only make success on Williamson more likely.

But choose your would-be companion wisely.

If you are unlucky enough to bring along a man or woman with even a semblance of sanity, they will almost certainly turn back far, far, from the summit, swearing never to return.

In this way, your own aspirations would be thwarted.

If, however, you remain determined to share Williamson's trials, you are thus put in the unfortunate position of having to bring along a person as crazy as you are—and this is always a dangerous proposition.

As I began hiking up the loose sandy ridgeline, already panting in the dry desert air, I realized I was beginning to get a sense of the purpose that had thus far eluded me.

This was a test.

I was doing this hike to see if I could. And what clearer result could there be than to do it solo, where success or failure would be entirely my own doing?

next: Looking for the Notch