Mon, Sep 4, 2023
This was a big day that Kristine and I had been looking forward to for the past week or so since I had suggested it to her. These two obscure 8Kers were deep in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness in Alpine County and would require about 16mi and 5,600ft of gain, a pretty decent day. Chris Kerth was the only person to record an ascent on these LoJ-only summits, part of two different backpacking trips to the area when he was vacuuming up summits in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. We had waited until September to give the creeks time to subside some - the outing would require 4 crossings that would have been much more substantial earlier in the summer due to the record runoff this year. I'd spent the night camped quietly in Little Antelope Valley. Kristine had gotten up early to meet me there, and together in the Jeep we drove up to Rodriguez Flat to get started shortly after 6:30a from the Corral Valley TH.
The trail starts off through the forest badly burned in the 2020 Slinkard Fire (and currently home to some roaming horses from the nearby pack station), climbing to the day's highpoint around 8,800ft in the first mile. At the high junction found there, we turned right to follow it downhill to the southwest over the next several miles. There is little forest here, save for some aspens in places that are recovering from the same fire. There are nice views looking south and west during the descent, our two peaks visible before we reached the first of our creek crossings at the end of an hour and a quarter. We took our boots off to make the crossing which might have been trivial in September during a normal snow year. On the other side, we had some trouble locating the trail heading northwest to Poison Flat. We didn't know that the initial part of the trail had been rerouted from what was shown on the topo map and we floundered some while descending along the western edge of Silver King Creek. Kristine got ahead of me here to her detriment, as I was able to redirect and find the trail above the creek drainage further west. It would be almost 45min before she would catch up to me, reporting that she'd gotten stuck in Aspen Hell somewhere further downstream.
Once on the trail through Poison Flat, it was relatively easy to follow and we stuck to it for several more miles. The previous day's wet weather had left the meadows saturated, and the overgrowth along the trail slowly but surely had our boots and socks completely soaked by the second hour. This would be unfortunate, as the long day in such conditions would have my toes pretty trashed by the time we were done. Peak 8,615ft comes into view and our first impressions were that it was steep and brushy, something we'd expected from the Google Earth views we'd examined the previous day. West of Poison Flat where the trail begins to descend to Dumont Meadows and the East Fork Carson River, we attempted to follow the old trail down to Poison Creek and the Soda Springs Station. This proved futile and we ended up with some steep cross-country through boulders and brush, a bit of a preview of what was to come. We came out relatively unscathed to find ourselves at a wooden stake marking the trail junction found about a quarter mile north of Soda Springs Station.
There was no need to follow either trail branch, as our main concern was getting across the Carson River and then up to Peak 8,615ft. I thought I'd spied a log crossing during our descent, but upon closer examination, it did not span the entire width of the river. We looked about on the east bank of the river for other opportunities, but in the end decided to take off our boots once again and walk across. With our boots and socks already thoroughly wet, taking them off seemed a little silly, but we went with it. After getting our boots back on, we began the toughest section of the day. The East Slope was about as bad as we'd feared. Bears have moved about the slope, allowing us to take advantage of their paths through the brush, at least in the lower half. But the slope grew increasingly steep and ever more brushy. We would be doing some class 3+ scrambling and serious bushwhacking as we aimed for the peak's SE Ridge to our left about 2/3 of the way up, thinking it might be better on the other side. It wasn't. In fact, the brush got a bit nastier, forcing us to prefer scrambling on class 4 granite slabs to keep from g etting mauled in thickets. We spent a full two hours on the ascent from the river crossing, nearly exhausting both of us.
The rocky perch we found ourselves upon held no register that we could find, but the views were quite nice in just about any direction we turned. We had to let our adrenaline drain before we could consider what to do next. I was thinking I'd have to forgo the second summit because just getting down from the first could be as taxing as the ascent. Kristine was thinking the same initially, but then pointed to more promising slopes to the west and declared we should go down that way. It certainly looked better and I was all for finding another route off the peak. We would wait until we were back down to the river to decide whether to continue to the second one. The next peak would involve another steep, 2,000-foot ascent, but at least it looked better than the one we'd just done. We left a register and started off again after about 15min at the summit.
We had to work our way north along the rocky ridge, finding a mostly class 2 route to get us off the northwest side and into the forest we had eyed from the summit. We were surprised to find the route worked so nicely, especially after looking back and seeing that the west side was mostly composed of towering cliffs. Once in the forest, we were happy to find that the descent had no hidden suprises. Even in the lower half where forest gave way to brushy conditions, we found boot skiing in the steep gullies that left us with no real bushwhacking. It would take just over half an hour to descend down to the river. By this time we both feeling better and decided to keep at it for the second summit. We had to cross the river again, but found a downed tree that would save us from removing our boots. On the other side, we made our way to the base of the North Slopes that would comprise our ascent route to Peak 8,760ft. The slope has about the same gradient as the previous peak's East Slope, but it's mostly all forested. There are brushy parts in some of the unforested gullies, but we avoided these as we made our way upslope under the canopy. The first half is easier with better footing, but the second half becomes more difficult as it's both steeper and sandier. Leading the way on this one, I was keeping a steady pace until the sand did me in. Rather than heading directly to the summit, I switched tactics and began traversing the sandy slope, aiming for the saddle SW of the summit. Kristine seemed to appreciate this move and followed behind me. We eventually circled partway around the top to find easier slopes to reach the summit from the south side. Though not as tough as Peak 8,615ft's ascent, it still took us nearly an hour and a half to make it up from the river.
Kristine was looking as exhausted as I've ever seen her, her usual smile replaced with one looking rather haggard. I don't think I was looking any better. Still, we were happy to make it the top, knowing we would have really regretting skipping it. The summit rocks are easy class 3 and we took turns claiming the highest granite boulder. We would leave another register here before leaving. To avoid returning back down to the river, we hoped we could follow the more gentle ridgeline to the ENE, across Poison Creek and returning us to Poison Flat. This worked out far better than either of us had imagined, a very enjoyable cross-country ramble, nearly all downhill and a gentle incline, getting us to Poison Flat and the trail in less than an hour. There was even a convenient log to make the Poison Creek crossing a snap.
Once at the trail, there was no unknown adventure remaining, just some 4.5mi of trudging along, mostly uphill. Kristine picked up steam here, easily outpacing me the rest of the way back. We had to take our shoes off again for the return crossing of Silver King Creek, then the long uphill with some 1,200ft of gain to the high trail junction above Rodriguez Flat. I was slowing down all the while Kristine seemed to get faster, and she would beat me back to the TH by a good 15min or more. It was nearly 5p when I caught up with her back at the Jeep, and after changing out of our boots our second effort was to collect a few cold ones out of the cooler. The outing would leave me with only two P300s in Alpine County and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. I would be too tired to get them this trip, but we later made plans to come back in a few weeks to give those a go...
This page last updated: Wed Sep 13 13:16:48 2023
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