Thu, Aug 3, 2023
Tom and I were camped a short distance west of Sonora Pass with plans to climb Peak 11,220ft in the morning. The peak is located on a high ridgeline connecting Leavitt Peak to Night Cap. We had considered climbing it from Kennedy Meadows, an entirely snow-free route, but the 12mi and 5,000ft of gain it would entail was very dissuasive. Instead, we chose the easier route up Blue Canyon, though we would need to bring ice axe and crampons and weren't entirely sure it could be climbed from that side. But the route is only 2.5mi each way with about 2,300ft of gain.
We had stopped by the mouth of Blue Canyon the previous evening to see if the snowbridge Kristine and I had surveyed four weeks earlier was still there. The snow along Deadman Creek was completely gone now and the crossing looked tricky. We ended up starting about a quarter mile up the road shortly after 6:30a, finding the creek crossing rather dicey on some wet rocks. We then had to climb uphill and traverse down into Blue Canyon, taking about 20min before we stumbled upon the good trail we didn't know existed. I had been here once 30yrs earlier on a backpacking trip, but I have few memories left from that visit and no written record. We followed the delightful trail upcanyon over the next hour, through a stark landscape with limited vegetation and much, much volcanic rock, creeks flowing strongly around us. About halfway up the canyon we encountered the first of what would become increasing amounts of snow, though crossing the various snowfields were mostly trivial. Around 8a we got a good view of our peak still about a mile away to the west, with Leavitt rising even higher to the south. By 8:45a we had run out of easy, dry terrain. We had two steep couloirs to choose from, seemingly our only options for getting up the cliff-lined face of the ridge atop which our peak sits. We chose the right couloir because it offered a more direct route to the peak. The snow starts off flat, increasing in gradient and then narrowing into a steep couloir about halfway up the face. I kicked steps with the crampons up the length of the couloir, Tom following some distance behind me. The snow had been several hours in the sun already and softened nicely, which made the climb fairly secure despite the steep angle. After climbing to the top of the snow tongue, we transitioned to loose, damp, crappy rock which would be followed for several hundred feet before the angle relented. Landing on the North Ridge, we moved south to gain the saddle on the SE side of the summit. Here there is a fine view looking southwest into the Kennedy Creek drainage. The final climb to the summit is an easy talus slog, and by 9:40a were on top.
The summit is wide and flattish, views stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions. A register in a glass jar dated to 1971, with half a dozen names from the first party, including Kyle Atkins (the only one I recognized). Most of the 20 pages of entries were from before 2000, around which time the peak seems to have fallen out of favor. We made a few phone calls while we had cell coverage at the summit, arranging some plans for the Sierra Challenge that would start the next day. After about 15min atop the peak, we packed up and headed back down the same route. Tom was not at all happy with descent back down the snow couloir, claiming he'd used up his supply of adrenaline in the effort. I had gotten down quite a bit quicker, having a lot more fun than Tom was having. By 11a we were done with the difficulties, packed up our crampons and headed down towards the trail that leads to Blue Canyon Lake. We caught sight of at least three others at the lake or on their way to it, but never came across any of them since we didn't visit the lake ourselves. We spent the next hour descending the canyon and the trail, following it all the way back to Deadman Creek by the highway. The crossing here was easier than the one we had used earlier. There is parking for 2-3 cars where the trail ends at the roadway. The last quarter mile of hiking up the road was uninspiring.
Done by 12:15p, we went off in search of another hike to do, but found ourselves gated on the By Day Creek road, still 3mi from the peak we had in mind. This was a bit more than we wanted, so we decided to call it a day and headed to Bridgeport to while away the afternoon...
This page last updated: Wed Aug 16 16:54:07 2023
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