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The SPS peaks in the northern Sierra are a good deal easier than their brethren in the High Sierra to the south. Consequently, Matthew and I were able to climb most of them as winter hikes over the past few years. English Mountain was the one peak in the area that had eluded the winter climb - far from any road open in the winter, it's a pretty tough haul to get there. It can probably be done, and probably from I-80 to the south, but in the meantime I still needed to climb this peak. So on the last day of a 4-day road trip, Ryan and I found our way to Catfish Lake quite early in the morning, about 6:30a. We had slept in Quincy the night before, so we were up just after 4a in order to get to the lake. The plan was to fish for an hour or so, then climb English Mtn before we had to get home to San Jose in the afternoon. Ryan, my 10yr-old son, doesn't care much for peaks that aren't county highpoints, but he really loves fishing. What we found at Catfish Lake were - surprise - catfish! They were the only type of fish in the lake, they were all about 6-7 inches in size, and there were quite a few of them. The clear, shallow water made it easy to see the fish close to shore, and it was the type of fishing Ryan loves best - dangling a line in the water and watching the fish go after it. We hooked the first one in the first couple of minutes, and plucked another directly out of the water using just the net. We had no plans to eat them (aside from the fact that they were too small), so they simply got tossed back in after getting harrassed. It was all great fun for Ryan, so I suggested he might stay and fish while I went off and climbed English Mtn. He was all for that option. It was probably a good thing since I'm not sure we'd have had enough time if he'd joined me.
I started off by following the road down from Catfish Lake as described in Yamagata's Northern CA guide. I didn't have a topo map with me as is usually the case because I didn't expect we'd be in the area on this trip. So I had to go from memory what I had read and what I could recall from looking at the maps. I became impatient to find the flat spot he describes after two miles, and turned off the road after the first mile. It seemed to me that a more direct route ought to work to the summit. Where I turned off, an old logging road ran partway up the hill, abandoned for some time now. Signs along the main road indicated much of the area is owned by private logging interests, so it wasn't surprising to find a number of roads on various hillsides. Where the road ended, I followed a traversing path up and left towards the southwest. This landed me on a local highpoint north of Echo Lake. To the southwest rose the summit, maybe a quarter mile distance. The Yamagata route went up from the lake's outlet to the south side of the summit ridge, but it seemed a good deal out of the way from where I was. So I turned my attention to the north side of the ridge and spied a break in the ridge that I could probably use to get up.
I had only to downclimb a short ways, traverse over to the base of the NE Face, then the break I had seen in the cliff turned out to be a pretty straightforward class 2 chute leading up to the ridge. Five minutes later I was up the chute, and another ten minutes I was at the summit, the whole climb taking about an hour and fifteen minutes. I took some pictures of the surrounding areas, surprised by the number of lakes that were visible in most directions. I also noted how close Black Buttes looked (where Matthew and I had hiked to earlier in the year), and thought it might just be possible to get here from the Interstate.
Heading back down, I went back along the ridge to the north, dropped off the northwest side of the ridge, then traversed around the north side in an attempt to head back to Catfish Lake in a direct line. It was a fun try, dropping down through several alpine meadow areas, following stream courses, some dry, some wet. I never could see Catfish Lake, but I had an idea where it was in the trees below. I eventually found my way back to the road about half a mile south of the lake. Having a map would probably have let me make the return in a more direct manner, but it turned out fine without it.
When I got back to the van, I found Ryan still at it, tying on a new lure. He'd been having a ball for more than three hours now, and he didn't want to leave. We stayed another hour or so before heading out, leaving with a fish count of some six or seven. It had been a good day for Ryan - and for Dad as well. We'd had a good trip, though short - only four day - but we'd gotten six peaks and more than ten fish, a most successful tally.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: English Mountain
This page last updated: Fri Jun 29 18:31:58 2007
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