Black Peak P500
Peak 9,777ft P300
Peak 9,303ft
Foster Ridge P300
Peak 9,144ft
Chinese Peak P300

Jun 12, 2020

With: Karl Fieberling

Black Peak
Foster Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Dinkey Lakes Wilderness

A week earlier, Karl and I had been stymied when trying to reach the Dinkey Lakes TH on the west side of the Wilderness. Coming up Rock Creek Rd from Dinkey Creek Rd to the south, we'd been stopped by a damaged bridge over lower Cow Creek. In the interim, I'd discovered there was another way to reach the TH from the northwest, which probably explained why there had been no effort to fix the bridge after several years. We would use the Dinkey Lakes TH to tag a handful of peaks north and west of Three Sisters, the highest summit in the Wilderness.

We'd camped the night near the Tamarack Sno-Park off SR168 and spent about 45min getting to the TH. Most of the 10mi drive was well-graded, but the last two miles are pretty rough and require high-clearance. There were half a dozen cars when we pulled in and several more by the time we returned in the afternoon, though we saw only a few parties while we were out hiking. We got started at 7a, hiking almost 4mi on the trail along Dinkey Creek and past First Dinkey Lake. Our plan was to go after the furthest peak first, Black Peak, then hit the other four in turn on the way back. The trails were mostly clear of downfall and easy to follow, the junctions marked, even if the signage was old and a bit decrepit. The entire hike took place between 8,600ft-9,800ft elevation, and consequently there was almost no snow and relatively easy cross-country travel. Black Peak is a pile of dark-colored rubble, but fortunately the SW Ridge is mostly forested and gets one pretty high on the mountain before the rubble needs to climbed at the very end. We spent two hours on the effort to reach Black Peak, arriving just before 9a. The views are quite grand in all directions, though the weather was partially overcast and not conducive to good photos. A large stretch of the Sierra Crest is visible to the north and east with Three Sisters rising prominently about 3mi to the south. A register was found in a plastic bottle containing pages of poetry and some ramblings by folks I'd never heard of. It was the only register we'd find on the day.

Our second summit was unnamed Peak 9,777ft about a mile and a quarter to the southwest. Our all cross-country route took us on a curve around the South Fork Big Creek drainage, a very pleasant jaunt through forest with a moderate climb up granite slopes on the SE side of the peak, in a bit under an hour. Our views took in Red Mtn to the northwest, Three Sisters to the south, and Foster Ridge to the west, all close to 10,000ft in elevation. It seemed a worthy summit for a register. We descended the steeper SW side of Peak 9,777ft to regain the Dinkey Lakes Trail between First Dinkey Lake and Mystery Lake. We followed this back to a trail junction, taking the fork leading south up to Mystery Lake, involving a minor crossing of Dinkey Creek. We quickly left the trail to head more directly to Peak 9,303ft. This was one of the easier summits on the day and the second lowest. We left another register on this summit. I forgot to take pictures of Mystery Lake below us and Three Sisters above us to the southeast. Looming higher to the north across Dinkey Creek was Foster Ridge, our next destination. It was 11:20a when we left Peak 9,303ft, taking an hour and a quarter to cover the mile distance to Foster Ridge. The descent off the northwest side of Peak 9,303ft was steep granite slopes, followed by a recrossing of Dinkey Creek where a group of backpackers looked on us a bit curiously as we eschewed the trail and made our way fairly directly between the two summits. The SE Slopes of Foster Ridge were a mix of forest and brush, the latter avoided where possible. Karl and I separated early on the ascent as he went more directly up to the long ridgeline, while I made an ascending traverse to land on the ridge closer to the summit. I ended up getting to the highpoint about ten minutes before his arrival. The summit is surrounded by trees, offering no real views.

Our last summit, Peak 9,144ft, was about a mile to the south of Foster Ridge's highpoint. Karl noted that it would have been easer to descend to the jeep and drive back up to the saddle between the last two peaks, but I suggested that it would be more aesthetic to do it in a single loop back to the TH. We descended the easy SSE Ridge of Foster Ridge to the saddle, crossed the road we'd driven in on, then made our way through more forest to the easy summit of Peak 9,144ft, again finding no views. From this last summit, it took about 30min to make our way back down to the TH, finishing up by 1:40p.

Chinese Peak

There was still plenty of daylight left, but Karl was mostly ready to be done. We spent the next hour and twenty minutes driving back down to our campsite to pick up Karl's Element and driving both up to the TH for our hike the next day. This would give me the opportunity to climb Chinese Peak, a summit Karl had visited some years earlier. The summit is the highpoint of the China Peak ski area, but there is no public access through the ski area, at least for vehicles. We drove up 8S10 outside the ski area to the west and then partway up spur 8S42 before stopping at a good campsite. The road begins to deteriorate and it seemed best not to press Karl's Element. With a few more miles to Chinese Peak, I continued up the road, nearly to the saddle found SE of the peak. Just as I passed a work camp, I came across a trio of Forest Service workers in an ATV. They politely informed me that the road was closed and they were currently working on reconditioning it for the anticipated opening in a few days. They were kind enough to let me park at their camp and hoof it from there, even directing me to a trail that would nicely bypass having to walk on the road. Approaching the peak from the SE, the easiest way to reach the summit is to walk the road around the south side of the summit that leads to the top of a chairlift just west of the peak. From there it's a short class 2-3 rock scramble to the summit. Not knowing this, I went up from the SE side, finding a tougher scramble along a broken ridgeline before reaching the highpoint. The summit has a nice view overlooking Huntington Lake and Kaiser Peak to the northwest. Red Mtn can be seen to the SE, our destination for the next day. There was a large ammo box stuffed with geotrash that I didn't bother with. There are dozens of spent beer cans and bottles strewn about the summit area, no doubt a favorite spot for ski patrol and lift operation personnel after the lifts have closed. Not a Wilderness location, to be sure. For the descent, I dropped to the aforementioned chairlift, walked down the roadway a short distance, then went cross-country for the remaining 1/3mi to the work camp where I'd started. I exchanged waves with the folks at camp as I drove off.

I was back to our campsite by 4:30p, still with plenty of daylight but no more energy. I would spend the remaining daylight figuring out an alternate way to Red Mtn and other stuff, while Karl was reading next door. Sometime as evening came on, clouds moved in through the trees unexpectedly and it began to rain. This was soon followed by thunder, lightning and much noisy hail the size of peas, though it didn't leave much on the ground the next morning. It was just enough to make the evening exciting and make us happy we weren't trying to keep dry in a tent pitched on the ground...


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