| Clinton, McNamee, Traver loop
Clinton Peak (13,857)
McNamee Peak (13,780) unranked
Traver Peak (13,852) unranked
From Montgomery Reservoir: 10.8 mi, 3460 ft
As of late Thursday night I still hadn't settled on whether or not to take advantage of my Friday off and climb something. There was nobody to climb with, but the weather was looking very good. Clinton Peak had been kicking around in the back of my mind ever since Jamie and I set out to climb it two weeks before and got sidetracked climbing neighboring Wheeler Peak instead. I rarely venture onto terrain that poses even the slightest avalanche threat alone, but I decided that I just had to get out and give this one a try. I'd play it as safe as possible with an earlier than normal start to catch the snow at its firmest before being weakened by the hot sun.
The roads on the way to the TH indicated that I'd have a little bit of fresh snow to deal with. I started hiking from Montgomery Reservoir at 6:35, slightly disappointed by the bitter cold wind that was blowing. The first mile of the trail was very well packed. After that the going was still fairly easy – the trail was still well packed, but covered with several inches of new snow that got deeper the higher I climbed. Eventually, snowshoes were welcomed. After about 3 miles, signs of any previous tracks disappeared and I left the gentle basin and climbed northwest to Wheeler Lake. Wheeler Peak again commanded attention. I could see that there had recently been a small slide that ended several hundred feet above the route we had taken (see photo).
The next step from the lake is getting up into the basin encircled by Clinton, Traver and McNamee. The gentlest slopes leading to this basin run southwest from the westernmost point of the lake. I'm not great at judging snow angle, but from past experience this felt like 25 degrees with maybe a bump approaching 30 degrees. The snow condition was very good, but I could see that this short 200 foot section deserved a bit of caution.
I had planned on gaining the ridge near the McNamee – Traver saddle because the slopes were gentlest there, but once I was in the basin it looked pretty far away. Although Clinton's south slopes are very steep, I started noticing an enticing ramp leading up them similar to the ramp system we'd ascended on Wheeler Peak. I began climbing quickly in anticipation of what I'd see over the next bump, and the next one. I was really expecting my luck to run out and to discover an undesirably steep slope or other barrier, but that miraculously never happened. There were steep slopes close by and I would recommend taking this route with caution. After 400 feet or so I found myself on easy slopes again. I slowly gained Clinton's simple east ridge and followed it to the summit. Strangely, snowshoes were beneficial all the way to the top.
The views from the summit were grand… Wheeler, "Drift", Fletcher and Quandary to the northwest, Arkansas and Tweto to the southwest, Democrat and Buckskin to the south. Nobody had signed the register since October. The short stroll along the ridge to McNamee was no sweat and it was nice to be standing on peak #2 after such little effort. The ridge from there to Traver was also easy, but there was some large talus to negotiate near Traver's summit. I finally had to remove my snowshoes.
It was still well before noon when I decided to head back. I followed Traver's gentle northwest ridge back down into the little basin. The ridge's mix of talus and sometimes rock hard snow kept me entertained. Once in the basin I strapped on my snowshoes and descended until I found my tracks which were mostly blow in. From there, it was cruise control back to the trailhead. When I finished around 1:30 the snow was starting to get slushy.
pictures & route map: