Thu, Nov 1, 2018
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The Nipple previously climbed Fri, Jan 13, 2006|
Deadwood Peak previously climbed Thu, Sep 27, 2012
My initial focus was on the Nipple which by then had been abandoned by the SAR effort. As I started up the 4x4 road that starts at the CG where Brad's car had been found, I was soon overtaken by an ATV. Clint, the SAR commander, had come out looking for me. I had arrived at the command post before the morning briefing and Clint wanted me to have a radio with me in case anything turned up. I thanked him and promised to return to the command post when I was done, likely before noon. I continued up the road to the PCT and then east to the Nipple's west summit and then the Nipple itself. The north side of this ridge is a maze of steep cliffs with very loose rock, especially the north side below the west summit. I spent time looking over edges and at these cliffs from various angles. Though the footing along the ridge is generally good (even a use trail in places), it is not hard to imagine one could slip through inattention or a wind gust and fall onto some hidden ledge below. I dropped north off The Nipple to study these cliffs more from below. Unfortunately, it is harder to see a prone figure lying on a ledge from below, and the steepness and looseness makes it unsafe to explore these cliffs on foot and unroped. I then paid a visit to unnamed Peaks 9,374ft and 8,902ft. The former is wide-open terrain, most of it easy, save for the loose talus slope on the south side. I wandered about there thinking about someone taking a forward-falling slip onto the rock. It's a pretty big talus slope but it seems likely that he would have been spotted in here. Peak 8,902ft is forested but very benign - hard to imagine anything befalling someone there. I continued west from Peak 8,902ft, wanting to get a look at the cliff faces on the northeast side of Deadwood Peak and Peak 9,626ft, as one possibility was that Brad may have chosen to visit one or both of those from Peak 8,902ft. I had thought this highly unlikely when looking at the maps, but now that I was looking at it, I had to admit the route looked interesting, probably class 3.
I returned back over Peak 8,902ft and then to the jeep at Upper Blue Lake. As promised, I went back to the command post and talked with Clint and some of the others. It was suggested that I might explore the route from Meadow Lake up through Snow Canyon to Deadwood Peak. This is one of the possible routes between Deadwood and Peak 9,205ft, both P1Ks and of general interest to peakbaggers. I drove out to the end of the dirt road east of Meadow Lake where I found the parking lot nearly filled with SAR vehicles. Teams were working on nearby Peak 9,205ft as part of today's search efforts. I headed west to Meadow Lake, the water level low as is usual this time of year. I walked around the muddy shore to the west end where I began the long climb up through the Snow Canyon drainage. It seems unlikely to have a mishap in this heavily forested area, but I kept my eyes open. Higher in the canyon I ran into Sheriff Stevens from Alpine Co, and soon after into a group of 5-6 family members that were out searching the same area. We spoke for a while, the big mystery perplexing everyone, before I continued up canyon as they were heading back down. I found the headwall of the canyon, between 8,400ft and 9,000ft to be a class 2-3 maze of rock scrambling, another place where one could get hurt and not be easy to find. Above about 9,000ft, the slope lessens and the terrain becomes wide-open. I crossed the Grouse Lake Trail and continued up to Deadwood Peak where I arrived around 2:15p. I was thinking all this time about that Northeast Face of Peak 9,626ft, and figuring I had time to check it out (Clint had asked that I return by 5:30p as he didn't want anyone out in the dark). As I made my way north to Peak 9,626ft from Deadwood, I noted the northeast side of Deadwood was rather cliffy and another potential area one could fall. I scanned the cliffs and talus below them as I made my way north, but it would be very easy to miss a prone body lying in the rocks there.
Once at Peak 9,626ft, I started off the northeast side, finding steep, loose rock mixed with slab areas. The face is very large and there are a handful of possible routes one might take up it. I explored only one of these given the time constraint, finding the descent tricky and a bit unnerving in places due to an abundance of loose sand and gravel on sloped surfaces above drop-offs. This is another area one could get both hurt and lost in, though it seems doubtful Brad would have tried this mostly unexplored route. Mine certainly wasn't the first up or down it - in fact I found an old, weathered jacket half-buried in the dirt on my way down. I spent about an hour on the descent, eventually reaching the canyon below called Devils Corral. This was pretty much the end of my exploration of possible Brad routes. I now turned upcanyon to head southeast and then south cross-country back to where I'd parked at Meadow Lake. I came across many footprints enroute, no doubt from the many searchers that had already combed this area in the past few days. I got back to the parking lot not long after 5p as the family members were just returning from their descent down Snow Canyon and back along Meadow Lake. We had more discussions before returning to the command post, debriefing with Clint and then it was time for me to head home.
Postscript: I had to be back in the Bay Area for a family wedding on Friday. During the reception, I got a call from one of the SAR team members. A partial roll of toilet paper had been found on the NE Face of Peak 9,626ft that looked like it had not been rained on and fairly recent, and they wanted to know if it might be mine from my descent down that face the day before. I had all my gear in my jeep out in the parking lot since I was planning to return to the mountains on Saturday evening after the last family event. I went out to check, finding that my own roll of 'mountain money' was still in my daypack. The next day I got another call with the sad news that Brad had been found higher on Peak 9,626ft, most likely having fallen during an ascent of that face.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: The Nipple - Peak 9,374ft - Deadwood Peak
This page last updated: Sun Nov 4 21:24:49 2018
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