Echo Peak

Thu, Aug 13, 2020

With: Fred Zalokar
Iris Ma
Tom Grundy
Clement Guillaume
Grant Miller
Tom Becht

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Unofficially named Echo Peak rises above Echo Lake just north of the Sierra Crest and Mt. Powell. The name derives from Andy Smatko's Mountaineer's Guide to the High Sierra and is given as class 4 via the NW Ridge. It is imposing when viewed from most vantage points and there were no modern records to be found online. Tom Gundy had taken a picture of it from the northwest recently and suggested one possible line. Kristine Swigart and pals had climbed it two days earlier but gave away no secrets, simply describing it as "Fun!" Our starting point would be Lake Sabrina, complicated by construction efforts taking place at the dam that blocked some of the few parking spots available at the trailhead. Because of the late return many participants had the previous day, there were only a handful for our 6a start - Grant, Clement, Fred, Tom B and Zee (who planned to go to Mt. Wallace instead). I was feeling outgunned by the first three heading to Echo Peak as they were all much faster than myself and it took only a few minutes after we started off that I was hiking the trail on my own.

It had been a number of years since I'd last traveled up the trail as it climbs above Lake Sabrina to Blue Lake. It was nice to revisit this area after a seven years' absence. I turned right at the trail junction past Blue Lake that would take me to Dingleberry Lake, following it as it descends one drainage and ascends another. I was a little surprised to see Fred just past the creek crossing beyond Dingleberry, two hours after starting out. He was taking it easy today, hiking with Clement and Grant doing likewise a short distance ahead. We followed the Hungry Packer Trail to Sailor Lake, leaving the trail to traverse into the next drainage to the southeast, past Moonlight Lake and then ascending the drainage towards Echo Lake. Grant ended up ahead of the rest of us, and the next time we saw him he was high on Echo's NW Ridge, though how he got there was unclear. We reached the base of Echo Peak around 9:15a and paused to consider possible routes. We didn't take to Tom's suggested route further upslope - it looked kinda hard with snow potentially blocking it (though later it seemed that might have been the easier route). Fred and Clement decided to explore possibilites on the right (west) side of the ridge while I chose to ascend halfway up the drainage before tackling the ridge. Both routes worked, but not easily, in the class 3-4 range. I was found my route a bit dicey and hoped not to have to return the same way. I met up with Clement on the ridgeline about 40min later. Fred hadn't liked Clement's chute and went and searching around for an alternate. We wouldn't see him again for a while. On the ridge we continued higher until stopped by more vertical terrain. We first explored around to the right (south), but found this cliffed out quickly. We might have been able to drop down a steep chute and up another, but I suggested we try around the left side where a ledge gave some hope. This worked nicely, taking me on a traverse across the north side of the ridge and around a lower west pinnacle where I could then start climbing back up. Clement appeared atop the lower west pinnacle via a much harder route. He could see that my route offered promise above where I couldn't see. More class 3 scrambling got me to the chute on the north side between the west and east summits. From there, it was a fun bit of scrambling along the ridge to reach the highpoint. Clement was right behind me and soon joined me at the summit around 10:30a.

We looked around for Grant but saw no sign of him. We knew he planned to follow the ridge south to Mt. Powell, but this looked like a very difficult prospect. Clement had wanted to do similarly, but after surveying the terrain, decided against it. Later we learned that Grant had indeed gone that way, describing it as a little desperate but doable. I looked around for the register that Kristine had told me she'd left, finding it wedged under a rock near the summit. It was hidden quite well such that Grant never saw it. We signed it and left in the same location. With some discussion, we thought we could make our descent easier by dropping further down the chute we had ascended near the end. As we started down, we spied Fred making his way up. I had to chuckle because this was the first summit I'd beaten Fred to in seven days. He was nothing if not relentless. We continued down as he went up, figuring he'd soon catch up to us. Near the bottom of the chute where it begins to drop away, I found a rap sling on the eastern edge. The descent beyond that seemed a difficult enterprise, so I recommended not doing so. Fred would later report that he had descended this way and it worked well, and Tom G would also report ascending/descending the same. After descending further in the main chute, Clement and I began traversing the ledge system I'd used earlier and returned to the NW Ridge. From there we went all the way northwest to the edge of the shoulder and looked for a way off that side towards Echo Lake. Finding only cliffs, we backtracked and used Clement's class 3-4 chute partly-filled with snow that made for an interesting descent. After we descended to the easier class 2 talus rubble, we split up, Clement heading west to Picture Peak while I started back down the drainage.

I spent the next 20min or so enjoying the easy descent through the grassy valley, eventually spying a figure in yellow making his way up. I veered over to intercept Tom G and spoke briefly with him. I was surprised (but shouldn't have been) when Tom told me he'd just spoken with Fred. Seems he'd figured out a much quicker way down from Echo and had gotten ahead without me even suspecting. Tom and Iris had gotten a late start because of the long previous day. Tired and moving slowly, Iris decided to stop at Moonlight Lake and let Tom go ahead. The weather was looking pretty threatening over the Echo Peak by this time, but Tom shrugged it off. He would get lucky with nothing other than a few drops over the next few hours as he made his way up and back. I continued downstream, soon finding Fred taking a break to get some water. He was in fine spirits, describing his fortunate descent route and overall enjoying the day a good deal. He was in a social mood, choosing to hike with me the rest of the day rather than run off ahead. We ran into Iris and Tom Becht by Moonlight Lake. Tom had returned after getting as far as Echo Lake. He had watched the rest of us ascend the various routes on Echo Peak, hung out for a while and then returned back down the drainage, finding Iris at Moonlight Lake. They came over to meet us for and we talked for a few minutes before everyone continued down. Fred and I got well ahead and soon on our own again. It would take us another two hours and change to make our way back down the trail to Lake Sabrina and the TH, finishing up at 2:45p.

I hung around the TH for an hour or so, enjoying an early happy hour with Tom and Iris up their return. Afterwards, I headed back to Bishop where I got a few supplies, found some free wifi to get some pictures uploaded for the Challenge, then headed to Big Pine and the South Fork TH where a number of us would spend the night. Another big day tomorrow...

There were no changes or significant developments in the jersey standings. Grant had had another big day, tagging all three of the Powells, Mt. Thompson and Ski Mountaineers Peak to give him 36 peaks in seven days now.


Tom B comments on 09/20/20:
I actually started the hike with you and the others but fell behind before Blue Lake. I did make it all of the way to Echo Lake and then spent the next 90 minutes watching you first go up and then try to pick the best route back down (pictures at and It was actually nice to relax at Echo Lake for a change instead of always pushing past this High Sierra gem
One of the dangers of waiting too long to write these - I forget details.
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