Thu, Sep 23, 2021
Anyone contemplating a climb of Peak 10,620ft from Wolf Creek should reconsider. Following the route described here will only lead to misery. You have been warned.
Peak 10,620ft is found in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, about 2/3mi east of Highland Peak. It is probably best climbed in conjunction with this higher neighbor, but having already done Highland, I was looking for an easier way. I was camped at the north end of Wolf Creek Meadows, at the High Trail/Carson River TH. Kristine met me in the early morning, well before our 7a meeting time. We left her car at this TH and drove the Jeep to the Wolf Creek TH at the south end of Wolf Creek Meadows. We were heading out on the the trail just after 7a, thinking we would get 2, perhaps four summits today (which is why we'd set up a car shuttle). We were lucky to get the one. We plied the Wolf Creek Trail for three miles until we were almost due east of Peak 10,620ft. With less than 2mi as the crow flies, we turned off the trail and started up the slopes through forest cover, thinking we'd be there in a couple of hours.
It started off well enough, though the slope steepened sharply soon after starting out. We were less than 30min up from the trail when we hit the first of a series of cliff areas. The rock we encountered along the creek had been mostly granite, but away from there, everything is volcanic conglomerate, terribly loose. Our upward trajectory thwarted, we began traversing left around the base of the cliff, looking for ways around or through it. Our forest had given way to dense brush, making for slow going. We tried one gully, only to be stopped by a chockstone. More traversing through dense brush followed. A second gully proved more passable, though the heavy brush slowed us down. We followed this line for half an hour or so, making upward progress but eventually stopped by impossible cliff faces. We retreated, descending a different gully, but losing half of the gain we had made. More traversing through heavy brush eventually brought us to more brush-free slopes, but terribly loose and tedious. Up we went. When the slope got too steep, we traversed left to gain a less-steep slope, covered in low brush. I thought this would give us some relief, but the stuff was mostly riddled with thorns, not the sort of stuff you could grab onto, even with leather gloves. Our slope leveled off, revealing an entirely new cliff face above us, our hopes fading. Looking around, we decided to head right, where it looked like we might find a way through the cliff band. More brush and loose rock along the way wore us to the point of taking a most unusual rest break. We were both close to calling it quits by this point, though neither of us suggested we turn around. This was easily the worst outing of the year, and yet we kept holding out hope that things would improve. They stubbornly refused to do so.
After our break, we resumed our way through the brush and loose rock, finding sketchy going through the cliff band with one particularly dicey chockstone we eventually surmounted. Above this, the cliffs relented, but the slopes remained steep, much of them covered in soft, gray sand. More ugh, ugh. We were moving very slowly by now, happy with any progress. At the 10,400-foot level we finally reached the summit ridgeline, now at least there were no more steep slopes. Halfway across this ridge we came across the scattered remains of a single-engine plane that had slammed into the slope decades ago. The main fuselage and wings had been removed, but there were lots of small parts littering the slope as well as the engine, mostly intact. It seems someone had had a worse time on this mountain than ourselves.
It was 12:20p before we finally reached the summit, more than five hours of effort - this was a toughie. The views were quite nice, and we relished the longer break at the top. The higher Highland Peak and its neighbor Peak 10,824ft were to the west, the twin summits of Silver Peak to the northwest. There were few other peaks we could properly identify, mostly because our brains were befuddled with the exertion and had little interest in engaging more fully. A register had been left in 2003, calling this Patterson Peak. The next and only other entry was Chris Kerth in 2020. He had combined this with a climb of Highland and Silver Peaks, which now seemed to make far greater sense.
We discussed a few descent options, but settled on one we had seen during the ascent, down a route to the south that offered a cliff-free experience. Still, it was quite a grind with more brush, loose slopes, and even sections of crappy talus before we finally descended to forested slopes that offered better footing. Our descent would be several miles longer than the ascent, but it was worth it to avoid the loose volcanic cliffs. When we finally reached the trail at the lower end of Bull Canyon, there was much relief. It was a slow walk back on the trail, some five miles in all, to get us back to the TH. I had started limping before we had even reached the trail, so those last two hours were done with my legs protesting strongly. Kristine easily beat me back to the Jeep, though she wasn't without her own brand of suffering. We changed into shorts and comfy shoes, cracked open a few beers, and drove to Markleville for dinner after retrieving her car. We would need to find something easier to do tomorrow...
This page last updated: Mon Sep 27 12:00:26 2021
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