Deadman Peak BM P900 TAC
Deadman Peak TAC
Peak 7,700ft P500
Peak 7,794ft P1K

Thu, Sep 15, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Day five of my six-day roadtrip found me back at the northern edge of the Trinity Alps. In his book, Trinity Alps Companion, Wayne Moss describes two Deadman Peaks 1.4mi apart and the confusion surrounding them. To be safe, he suggests, climb both. LoJ has the eastern peak as Deadman, citing BGN documentation that shows the name had been erroneously applied to the western one at one time, the most recent change order done to correct this. The error must have been very old, because there is a 1927 benchmark on the western peak that was stamped "DEADMAN PEAK" by a subsequent survey party in 1943. There is also a P1K, Peak 7,794ft 2mi northeast of Deadman Peak. I planned to make a large loop of my outing to tag all three of these and another unnamed bonus peak, ascending by one gulch and descending another. This too, has confusion I came to find. The two gulches are adjacent to each other on the north side of the crest. The topo map shows the western one as Trail Gulch and the eastern one as Long Gulch. Each has a lake in the cirque at the head of the canyon, named after the gulch it lies in. Oddly, the western one is a good deal longer, though it is the eastern one labeled "Long Gulch" on the 7.5' & 15' topo maps. The Forest Service has seen fit to correct this, with trailhead and trail signs swapping the names of the two gulches and the corresponding lakes. I will refer to these by the Forest Service names since those are the ones that you'll see out there, but one should be aware that the topo map you reference might be different...

I'd spent the night camped at the Trail Gulch TH, in an adjacent horse campsite that was unoccupied. It got cold during the night, close to the limit of the cloth sleeping bag I use in the van during the summer. When I got up around 6:30a, it was registering 36F outside, the coldest morning yet - and here I was worried that I'd having trouble sleeping at night because it might be too warm. I was in no hurry to get started, knowing it would be a moderate day, and with the car's heater cranked I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching an episode of the The Americans from the second season. I eventually got my act together and with an extra fleece for protection, I wandered outside around 7:30a to start my hike.

I followed the gravel road for 3/4mi around the toe of the ridge separating the two gulches to the Long Gulch TH. It was cold and shady and not unpleasant hiking up the canyon for the first 2.5mi, passing the Wilderness boundary along the way. The sun came out and the fleece went back in my daypack as two backpackers returning from Long Gulch Lake passed at a trail junction. Another half mile saw me to another trail junction at the crest around 9:15a. I paused here to take a better look at the map on my GPSr. Up to this point, I hadn't looked at the route since I had loaded it into the GPSr a week earlier. My route would split here. Deadman Peak is located about 0.7mi to the SE, Deadman Peak BM about the same distance to the SW, the latter being my first destination. I followed the trail branch that headed west and southwest, traversing the east side of Deadman Peak BM from one saddle to another found on the southeast side. Rather than follow the trail around to the second saddle and follow the SE Ridge up, I made a more direct ascent when I was east of the peak and only 0.3mi away. The cross-country starts off rather easy, soon growing steep and then very steep. Much sand made for some tediousness, but thankfully very little brush to contend with. By 10a I had found my way to the rocky summit.

It was only upon reaching the summit that I found the benchmark which had helped create the naming confusion. There was also a glass jar with a small pad of paper for a register, with 8 pages of entries. The oldest was from 2005, the most recent in 2014 from firefighters battling the Poison Fire in this area. I snapped a few photos of the views looking south and northeast before starting back down. I took an even more direct route down from the summit, this time the sand working in my favor and making quick work of the descent. Back on the trail, I returned to the saddle I had first ascended out of Long Gulch.

I now turned SSE and followed the ridgeline to the official Deadman Peak, up and over two intermediate bumps before landing on the summit by 11:20a. Along the way there is a fine view north into Long Gulch and Long Gulch Lake 1,000ft below, the ridge going easily at class 1-2. The register here was a messy collection of loose pages from a notebook that had fallen apart, the oldest entries going back to the 1980s. A newer book from 2002 still had some blank pages. I straightened up the register some, removed a handful of business cards and other detritus and tucked it back in the glass jar. Oddly, Deadman Peak doesn't have much prominence, something like 200ft. 0.4mi to the NE is the higher, unnamed Peak 7,700ft to which I set off on the next leg of my journey.

Traversing between the two peaks was a snap, taking but 20min. The SW Ridge of Peak 7,700ft in particular was a smooth slope with low brush and few rocks until the final hundred feet or so. Long Gulch Lake, blocked by trees from Deadman Peak, can be seen unobstructed to the west from Peak 7,700ft. To the east is the N. Fork Coffee Creek drainage descending in the distance towards the Trinity River. Peak 7,794ft, my last stop lay another 1.5mi to the NE.

I descended north off Peak 7,700ft over and around several rocky gendarmes until easier ground under forest cover was found taking me to a saddle 1/3mi from the summit. A trail comes up the west side from Long Gulch Lake and then down the east side to Coffee Creek. Another fork traverses the crest on its SE side, exactly in the direction I wanted to go to reach Peak 7,794ft. It takes one almost a mile between the saddle with Long Gulch to a second saddle that goes down into Trail Gulch, my return route. But first I needed to head cross-country for 0.6mi to reach the last summit. This started easily enough, but gets trickier higher up. Brush and rock combine to slow things down and prevent the direct line approach. A careful read of the brush can find deer trails through it to keep bushwhacking to a minimum. The upper third is characterized by dark, lichen-covered rock that becomes a scramble to reach the summit. It was 1p when I landed atop the P1K, finding a small stack of rocks and a FS benchmark, but no register. I took a few photographs before starting down.

Rather than return along the somewhat complicated ridgeline I'd ascended, I decided to drop down the west side and intercept the trail lower down. I had to backtrack along the ridge a short distance until I could find a line that did not present problematic cliffs. The going was quite steep, but with care and good use of both hand and foot placements, I descended almost 900ft down a rocky gully until I hit easier ground in the forest below and eventually the trail. Once on the trail in Trail Gulch, it was a short 2mi north down the valley to return to the Trail Gulch TH and the van. It would be the shortest outing in the last four days, but that was by design - the next day's outing to Thompson Peak promised to be a long one.

I drove back out to the pavement and then up to Carter Meadows Summit where I found a PCT trailhead. I showered and then parked alongside the road at 6,200ft in the cool of the afternoon. Bob Sumner came driving by about an hour later, stopping when he spied my van. He was here to join me for the Thompson outing the next day. We drove west to the East Fork Campground, and not liking the busy, dusty place we found, drove partway up to the China Gulch TH before finding a suitable place to camp for the night. It was the first time I'd seen him since the previous November, so we had lots to catch up on while we ate dinner and whiled away the evening hours...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Mon Sep 19 15:04:19 2016
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: