Peak 7,580ft P500
Peak 7,800ft P1K
Peak 7,729ft P300
Bear Wallow Peak CC

Fri, Sep 16, 2022
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


This was supposed to be a moderate day, my primary objective being Peak 7,800ft, a P1K in the Marble Mtn Wilderness. It was going to be about 10mi with a reasonable amount of gain that would leave me primed for the bigger 20mi outing the following day to Cabin Peak with Sean Casserly and Chris Kerth. Somehow I got swept up in the beauty of the area and was enjoying myself so much that I just kept going, turning this into an 18mi, 8,000-foot gain marathon that left me wiped out by the end. It's an incredibly scenic area with rugged terrain, alpine lakes, forests and meadows - much more like the High Sierra than the CA coastal ranges.

I had camped at the Kidder Creek TH, allowing me an early start by 7a. The access road is well-maintained, accessible by even passenger cars. I headed up the Kidder Creek Trail which I found to be well-maintained and cleared of downfall and encroaching brush. It climbs up the forested Kidder Creek drainage to reach the PCT in about 4.5mi. The trail bypasses Kidder Lake, climbing up to the ridgeline south of the lake. There might have been a short spur trail to the lake, but if so, I didn't notice it. What I did notice were the nice-looking summits that rise high above the north side of Kidder Lake, including unnamed Peak 7,500ft. A much bolder outing with a car shuttle could start at a saddle high on that ridge to the east of Peak 6,905ft and traverse the ridgeline rather than the trail.

I reached the PCT below Peak 7,580ft in 2hrs. The trail junction sign was found broken and on the ground. The topo map shows the PCT forking to go around both the west and east sides of the peak, reconnecting at saddles north and south of the summit. It appears the eastside route is the older one that was rerouted to the west side for reasons I was unable to discover, but possibly to avoid late-season snows that cling to the North Slopes of Peak 7,580ft. My first order of business was to tackle Peak 7,580ft as a bonus peak, though with more than 700ft of prominence, it was a worthy goal of its own. I followed the PCT north a short distance before heading cross-country more directly up the SE Slopes on steep but open terrain. When I reached the summit around 9:30a, there were lingering clouds on the surrounding summits that gave a Pacific NW feel to the area and kept me from seeing my higher objective to the south. I left a register here after waiting maybe 10min to see if the clouds would clear. Of course they would do just that soon after I started down.

I descended the same slopes to the SSE, choosing to go around nearby Pt. 7,503ft rather than over it. This led me down an unpleasant talus slope before eventually reconnecting with the PCT. In hindsight, it appears the route directly south from Peak 7,580ft, going over Pt. 7,503ft would have worked and probably more enjoyable. At the saddle where the PCT goes over and down the west side of the crest, I decided against following the ridgeline to Peak 7,800ft since it looked difficult, instead traversing around the west side of the ridge. This turned out to be a fine choice, with scenic views of the oddly named Man Eaten Lake and convenient terrain with ramps through cliff bands that kept it to class 2 with surprisingly good footing for most of it. A class 2 chute led up to the crest only a short distance NE of the summit, and about 2hrs after leaving the previous summit, I had landed atop Peak 7,800ft. There were no clouds clinging to the summits now, but haze in the distance persisted. The views were as stunning as they were wild, giving one the impression that Wilderness extended to all the horizons. I was having a grand time. I had planned to turn back and return to the Kidder Creek basin, but now considered a grander outing.

Bear Wallow Peak is a CC-listed summit, one of three I had left on this large collection of coastal summits, about two miles south of Peak 7,800ft. It occurred to me that I might combine it with trails in the Salmon River drainage for a much larger loop than originally envisioned. More immediately, there was Peak 7,729ft with almost 500ft of prominence only a mile to the southwest. It would seem a shame to leave this even more remote peak unvisited - it was unlikely I would be out this way again, and the routes from other directions are far more involved. So after leaving a second register atop Peak 7,800ft, I set out along the crest heading south on my new course.

I had hoped to stay along the connecting ridgeline, but difficulties on the north side of Pt. 7,732ft had me dropping some to the west side and traversing around a large section. I eventually returned to the ridgeline, only to drop off again, this time to the left because I couldn't actually figure out where the ridge was for part of it. I spent about an hour and a half getting from Peak 7,800ft to Peak 7,729ft. The latter's summit was my westernmost excursion into the Wilderness and my furthest point from the TH. It's the highest point between the North Fork Salmon River drainage to the south and the Wooley Creek drainage to the north. Heather and Wooley Lakes could be seen below the summit to the northeast. The lower Bear Wallow Peak can be seen to the southeast about a mile and half away. Rather than returning to the main crest, I decided to drop off the southeast slopes to hit the trail shown on the topo map about 1,300ft below the summit. This was a bit of a gamble because I had no idea if the trail is still maintained or even usable - as I've found in the past, many of these North Coast trails are no longer viable, some of them consumed by brush after a fire or simply neglected for decades. The slope I descended, and about half of my return route, had been torched in the 2017 Willow Fire. Luckily, downfall on the slope was mostly avoidable and in half an hour's time I found myself on what is left of the old trail.

Had I not known where to look, I would have completely missed it, but once I was down to Grants Meadow, I found tell-tale signs of the trail and even a few ducks directing me across the meadow. I lost all signs on the eastern edge of the meadows, but with some careful hunting, I found it again through some overgrown brush. The trail improved for a while, and I was able to follow it for almost a mile before losing it again just before returning to the crest at a saddle northwest of Bear Wallow Peak. The cross-country was easier at the ridge, and I stayed on it the remaining distance to Bear Wallow's summit where I arrived around 2:30p. There is much brush on the slopes leading to the summit, but thankfully less-brushy options kept me from doing any real bushwhacking. I had only brought two registers with me and had used them up on the first two summits - it would have been nice to leave them on these last two as well. The summit overlooks the North Fork drainage to the east. I would have to drop more than 2,000ft to the bottom of this steep-sided drainage and then climb out the other side before dropping down to Kidder Creek. This was going to be a lot of work towards the end of the day.

I returned to the saddle on the NW side and then into the drainage to the east, hunting for the trail I'd left earlier. I would find it, lose it, and find it again, as I made my way down Bug Gulch, happy to find blazes and other signs to keep me on the right track. I was a bit surprised to find a hunting party of four with horses making its way up the trail. Two of the guys were guides, all of them looked to be under 35yrs of age. They were as surprised to see me, and even more so when they found I was just out for the day - they were on their second day from the TH. They gave me some encouraging beta about the trail back out of the drainage and down to Kidder Creek, better than the one we were now on. I wished them well and continued making my way down - easier now with all the fresh prints.

It was 3:40p by the time I reached the bottom of the North Fork drainage. The topo map shows a junction with a trail that follows Cabin Gulch, but all I found were remnants of a USFS sign and not much of the trail in that direction. It seems there were some floods in the past year or two that wiped out sections of both trails. With the help of the GPSr map that showed where to expect the trails, I made my way east cross-country until I picked up the expected trail that traverses across Harry Hall and Timothy Gulches, then up Shelly Gulch. I could hear cattle bells jangling in the forests below me and eventually found more of them as I neared the high saddle between Shelly Gulch and the Shelly Fork of Kidder Creek. I lost the trail where downfall from the 2017 fire left a mess, picking it up again when I reached the saddle around 5:15p. All downhill from here, right?

There are two summits on either side of the saddle, each with more than 600ft of prominence, but I didn't have the energy to go after them. The PCT crosses the trail I was following at this saddle, and it occurs to me that a future outing could use the PCT to collect these and a few others as well. Content with the day's four summits, I headed down the drainage to the northeast, the trail getting better the further I descended. The sun was now low on the horizon, leaving the remaining route in the shade and growing cooler. The trail eventually becomes an old road before depositing me at a little-used trailhead on the south side of Kidder Creek. There were two vehicles there, but these were not the ones the hunting party had brought - they were parked much lower and I wouldn't see their trailer until I was driving back out.

I still had to get across Kidder Creek which I had hoped to be a snap. Following the forest roads would add an extra couple of miles to an already long day, so I figured I could just cross-country it down to the creek and up to the road on the opposite side. This turned out to be a bit of an adventure with steep slopes and small cliffs lining boths sides of the creek. There was some brush thrashing as well, and the light was fading now that it was after 6:30p, but the rock-lined creek was pretty cool, as was a large emerald pool where I crossed. I eventually made my way up the north side of the creek to reach an older, abandoned road, then the road I'd driven in on. Once there, it was but five minutes along the road to reach the TH and the Jeep.

It was now 7p, and I'd been going at it pretty much the whole time for 12hrs since I started out in the morning. I was limping terribly for the last half mile and realized I was in no shape for another tough outing the next day. As I was driving back out to Scott Valley, I wondered if I'd be able to contact Sean or Chris and let them know of my predicament. I had no service until I reached SR3, then only weak service with enough time to send a single text as I drove south. Sean was already at the trailhead for the next morning's outing and was out of cell range, but Chris was driving up I-5 at the time and got it. Unfortunately I got none of his replies until the next afternoon on my drive home. I ended up camped above Sawyers Bar and the Salmon River on the south side of the Marble Wilderness. It was after 9p by the time I had gotten to the Cow Ridge TH where I spent the night without dinner. I figured if I recovered some by morning I might be able to hike the 4-5mi roundtrip to Crapo Mtn. If not, I'd drive home and wait for another opportunity...


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