Tue, Aug 1, 2023
I had been to the Eagle Meadow(s) area area 10yrs earlier to visit Three Chimneys and four other summits. At the time, I had been unable to discover a scrambling route up Three Chimneys and stopped at a large window or arch high on the feature. Poking around, I found that Levi Cover had found a way up in 2021 and I was eager to return and see what I had missed on that first time. Tom and I would attempt to climb it in conjunction with Peak 9,880ft, a summit that I had bypassed on my first visit (I was after named summits at the time) and showed only a single ascent by Kyle Atkins on LoJ, no beta. Before doing this longer outing, we would first visit Peak 8,705ft to the north with climbing gear. Marcus Sierra (Kerry Breen) had paid a visit in 2020 and suggested the highest block was class 5.
The hike is pleasant to start, a gentle downhill across Sardine Meadow, then some rolling terrain with forest and granite boulders to the base of the peak. More boulders cushioned with minor amounts of brush characterize the steep slope we ascended to the summit area in about 40min. We quickly surmised there were two competing blocks, north and south, with an easier, lower block in the middle that Kerry had ascended. We walked all around the north block before deciding its north side offered the easiest route. I went up first, finding it class 4 due to a lack of hand features. Tom followed, using my foot for one of the missing handholds where the crack got cruxy. It was all of about 12ft and we were on top. Looking south, the other boulder appeared to be of equal height. We would not be able to determine which was highest, so it seemed safe to climb both. We reversed the route off the north block, then took a few minutes to find our way to the more impressive south block. This one was more monolithic with fewer features. The west side of the block had the least severe angle, but there was no where to place any pro. This one would best be done with a top rope, so we went about finding a way to get a rope over the thing. My first effort to toss a rock over was abysmal, I was clearing lacking anything in the way of upper body strength. I turned over the rock with rope around it to Tom, and on a second attempt he was able to toss it over the top. The rope unwound perfectly on the west side, no adjustment needed. Tom tied in to take the lead while I belayed him from the other side of the huge block. It took him only a few minutes to work his way up, finding sufficient holds to keep this at low 5th class. He found a single 1/4" bolt at the top and used it to anchor himself and belay me up in turn. By 8:10a we had two on the summit. We eyed the northern block from our perch, but without a level, still couldn't determine which was highest. After leaving a register at the top, Tom rappeled back down off the single bolt. I then had Tom belay me from the opposite side of the boulder while I downclimbed the ascent route - this way we would have to leave no gear or slings. After packing up our gear, we retreated off the summit and back to the Jeeps in about 40min's time, a great first success.
The 4mi hike along the Eagle Meadow Trail to Eagle Pass is )very scenic, the trail in good condition, but somehow it seemed harder than we had expected, taking almost two full hours. Maybe we were more tired than we'd thought? We didn't actually follow the trail all the way to the pass, skipping the last hundred yards or so to start cross-country to the east along the Wilderness boundary on our way to Peak 9,880ft. The going was fairly tame at first, undulating some and a few snow fields to cross, nothing serious. As we approached Peak 9,880ft, we could see that the south and west sides rose up almost vertically, leaving us no real options on those sides. We worked our way around the north side which had similar difficulties, and were getting ready to give up when we moved around to the northeast side and found more climbable slopes, and probably the only reasonable scrambling route. The final push was a steep class 3-4 wall, decent holds but loose volcanic rock and exposure. I went up first, pausing near the summit to photograph Tom on his way up afterwards. It did not seem prudent to have both of us climbing at the same time with the high chance of rockfall. About three and a quarter hours after starting out, we'd found our way atop the first summit. We took some photos of the views, left a register, and then back down the same way.
Once off the class 4 face, we dropped down a chute off the south side of the ridge, close to the summit. This went at class 3, the cruxy part being at the very bottom where we reached the broader talus slopes. This was the same slope I'd traversed east to west when I bypassed Peak 9,880ft 10yrs earlier. This time, we stayed high, traversing under the cliff faces, following animal trails to the east and southeast. We followed my previous track to go around an intermediate difficultly, then along the north side of the ridge to bypass the two lower, class 5 chimneys, reaching a small alcove on the northwest side of the highest chimney, where the window/arch is located, about an hour after leaving the previous peak.
Here, we immediately picked out the start of the route to the left of the window, Tom wondering how I might have missed it on that first visit. Perhaps just too tired to look around, but I really couldn't say. Later, I reread my TR and found that I did indeed try the left-hand side, but only got 20ft up before I was stopped by a gap in the ridge. This time, perhaps because I wasn't alone, I worked my way past the gap, only to have Tom stop at the gap and decide to back down and change into climbing shoes. We were still carrying rope, and gear, so it might as well get some use. I continued on the thin, exhilarating class 4 ridge in my boots, working my way to the top in less than five minutes. I then watched Tom reclimb the initial part, choosing an alternate crack to bypass the sketchy gap, and then make his way along the harrowing edge much the same as me. By 2:30p, we were both at the summit, happy with our success. I'd forgotten to pack another register, and sadly didn't have one to leave here. Levi described one found at the window, but we didn't know about it at the time and left it undiscovered. After some photos and a short rest, Tom went back down first, then myself, both using the bypass crack that felt more secure than the route back over the gap.
Rather than retrace our route back to Eagle Pass, we decided to drop north off the summit and return via Long Valley. We spent 45min working our way down the steep slope, dodging cliffs and snowfields, never quite certain we could actually get down this way. There were several dicey sections with very loose material, but we managed to get down safely through all of it, no harder than stiff class 3. Once on the easier ground, our progress picked up, and in forty minutes we'd nearly reached Long Valley Creek and the road on the other side. Just before reaching the creek, we unexpectedly came across a decent trail not shown on the topo map, and on a whim decided to follow it. It worked nicely for about half an hour, taking us northwest down the valley through forest, on the southwest side of the creek. If we stayed on this side, it would allow us to forgo two crossings of the same creek. The trail ran out sooner than hoped, but we stayed on that side of the river and went cross-country with a bit more effort through grass, forest and some brush. We eventually landed on the Forest road right where it crosses Long Valley Creek. As luck would have it, a large white truck was just making the crossing, and the lone driver seemed happy enough to give us a ride. This saved us a little more than a mile walk back along the dusty road and the final crossing of Eagle Creek, getting us back to our vehicles at Eagle Meadow.
Back by 5:20p, we wasted little time getting into more comfortable footwear and enjoying some snacks and beers. The mosquitoes would give us a break in the late afternoon to allow us to enjoy it in peace. Later, we would drive to back to SR108 and east to Kennedy Meadows where we got dinner and made plans for the next day. The food there was decent but not great, but we were in no position to be picky and ate heartily...
This page last updated: Tue Aug 15 16:11:46 2023
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