The Dardanelles West
The Dardanelles North
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I was at the County Line TH ready to head out by 6a. Several trails start from here heading north and northeast into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. I started briefly on the wrong trail, correcting it as I recognized I was heading the wrong way. I followed the trail heading northeast into the high valley formed by McCormick Creek. Portions of the day's route had burned in the 2018 Donnell Fire, but this was mostly in the beginning portions of my route. I was on the trail for about half an hour before turning north for Dardanelles West. I was aiming for a gap between the summit and Pt. 8,796ft, roughly following Marcus Sierra's PB track. The route is a good one, through forest then steeper slopes with low shrubs and no real bushwhacking. Near the top, I followed the dry creekbed which held less brush than the slopes on either side. Pt. 8,796ft, southwest of the highpoint, is an impressive pinnacle of lava rock, at least when viewed from the ascent route where it looks quite difficult. At the gap, one gets a fine view looking northwest off the other side to Spicer Meadow Reservoir. From the gap, the highpoint of Dardanelles West is an easy class 2 walk to the northeast over broken talus.
I arrived at the summit by 7:30a with hazy views around the area. There was a register left by Ron Moe in 2015 with only one other entry from 2020. Looking northeast towards Dardanelles North, I though it would be interesting to traverse the ridge between the two. Dardanelles North has a serrated western edge that would need to be skirted around, but that seemed a minor detail at this point. The bigger question was whether I could get off the northeast side of Dardanelle West. Just getting off the immediate highpoint in that direction was a little tricky, but I found a narrow, talus-filled chute that cut through the cliff band on that side. Then it was a long-ish, but pleasant walk across the summit plateau to the northeast end where the major cliff band is found. I started down what looked like one possibility, but the gully curved left to the steeper north side and seemed to drop off. I backed out and tried something else to the south, but that, too, was a dead-end. I spent the better part of an hour on the effort but had to go back over the highpoint and down the gap I had ascended initially. From the gap, it probably would have been best to return to the trail via the ascent route, but I thought I could cut off some time and distance by descending southeast and east to intersect the trail higher up the valley. This worked for the most part, but it had a few sections of very heavy brush and I doubt I saved any time in the end.
Happy to be back on the trail, I followed it upcanyon, losing it several times before eventually losing it for good as it seemed to peter out without reaching any particular destination. I was keeping an eye on Peak 9,070ft to the south, hoping to get a good view of my proposed route up its north side. All I could tell from a distance was that it looked challenging. I could see snow fingers in the middle section and guessed it was likely hard as ice - I would need a a way around the snow without axe or crampons. The start seemed like the crux - I might find a small cliff at the beginning of the route that could prove problematic. I then turned my attention to Dardanelles North, my next stop, a bit less than a mile away to the northeast. As I climbed out of the forest and onto steeper but more open terrain, I could see that west side of the summit had an array of teeth-like pinnacles. I guessed the one furthest east was the highpoint but it looked difficult. Turns out I wasn't looking at the highpoint at all - that was blocked by an intervening rib and it wasn't until I was less than half a mile away that I could see across the rib and realized my mistake. I had planned to follow Marcus Sierra's track, but I was climbing the rib to the west of his and had to make due. I traversed below Pt. 8,948ft on its SE side, aiming for the gap between it and the highpoint. All of this route and the easier gradient once the gap was reached was class 2, save for the very top which I would put at class 3 with a bit of exposure via the route I used. Now almost 10:30a, I found more fine views, particularly looking west where there was less haze and less glare from the sun. I found no register here, so left one of mine.
Upon leaving Dardanelles North, I descended to the southeast, initially following the ridgeline connecting it to Dardanelles Cone. After descending about 200ft, I turned south to drop more steeply into the McCormick Creek drainage, roughly making a beeline for the third and last summit, peak 9,070ft. There was quite a bit of elevation loss, but I'm pretty sure it was quicker than trying to contour higher, below the west side of Dardanelles Cone. I found very little brush all the way down to McCormick Creek, then a steep climb through forest and talus to the base of the route I planned to use on Peak 9,070's North Face. It was 11:45a by the time I reached the start of the route. As hoped, it looked much better up close than it had from a distance. There was some exposure on the class 3-4 start, but the holds were solid and I felt pretty comfortable getting past the expected crux, about 20ft in all. Once above this, the route becomes easier class 3. The snow finger blocked what would have been the easiest way up the middle portion, but I was happy to find there was an alternate gully just to the left that had little snow in it. The two gullies converged near the top of the snowfield, leaving most of the upper part of the convergence blocked by the snow. Luckily, I was able to skirt around it in the moat between the snow and the adjacent rock, chimneying my way out at the very top of the snow. Easier class 2-3 scrambling then leads to the summit. In all, I took 15min to work my way up the route.
A tiny glass jar held two scraps of paper with some scrawlings, including Rob Houghton the previous summer, but no pencil. I decided to leave one of my registers to provide more pages as well a writing implement. The summit certainly deserves more love. After a short break to catch my breath and take in the views, I reversed my route back down the north side. I then spent about 30min descending the slopes down to the creek to pick up the trail on the other side. I had something less than an hour of hiking back along the trail to return to the TH by 1:40p.
I continued driving up the main road, then turned right on FR5N39Y. This road had not yet been driven on this season and I soon came to a large downed tree that I would be unable to move. At this point I was a mile from the summit, but close enough to get myself up and back before my cutoff time. I hiked about half a mile along the road, then headed west cross-country where the road turned eastward. A spur road shown on the topo map labeled "B" no longer exists, probably at least a few decades since it was last viable. The cross-country went through forest understory, brushy in places with plenty of downfall to slow me down. In about 20min I got to the forest edge where I had a pile of volcanic rubble to climb. I thought this was the summit pile, but it was just a ring of rock around what was a surprisingly flat summit plateau, not all that large, but providing open views if one walked around the perimeter. I found a small cairn at the highest point, but no register. I hastily left one before starting back down - I didn't want to disappoint the supervisor after he'd been kind enough to let me come up here. I was back with half an hour to spare, waving to the guy as I drove past him on my way down.
Back on the highway, I continued down a few more miles to Herring Creek Rd, a paved forest road that climbs high into the forest northeast of Pinecrest. A good dirt/gravel road makes a scenic loop starting at the end of the pavement, climbing to nearly 8,400ft. There were a handful of peaks along this loop that I hoped to do the next day, perhaps get a jump on them this afternoon. Unfortunately, the road was gated at the end of the pavement. A Forest Order was posted at the gate, indicating it would be closed the entire month. No reason was given, but I'd guess it's because they haven't cleared the road as yet. I took this as a sign to call it quits and decided I could still get home to San Jose before sunset. I could come back for these another time...
This page last updated: Thu Jun 17 15:14:56 2021
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