Peak 9,000ft

Sep 26, 2021
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I'd spent the night camped at the Arnot Creek TH off Clarks Fork Rd in the southern part of Alpine County. I planned just a short hike to an obscure summit, one of the few remaining ones in this part of Alpine County and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Peak 9,000ft lies a few miles east of Dardanelles Cone, a prominent summit I had climbed back in 2002. I'd been to the same area back in June approaching from the west, and July approaching from the north, but neither of those outings were convenient for reaching Peak 9,000ft. My route from Arnot Creek would cover about 8.5mi roundtrip with 2,800ft of gain over about 4hrs.

I was up at 5a for an early start, mostly to allow me to get home in the early afternoon. It also gave me the chance to do some hiking by headlamp, something I haven't done much of this past year. I was pretty quick getting my bedroll put away, dressed and breakfasted, then starting on the trail by 5:30a. The first half hour of the hike was plying the trail following Arnot Creek north and northwest, an area burned in the 2018 Donnell Fire. Far as I could tell by headlamp, the only thing that has grown back in the three years since is buckthorn. Once could still travel cross-country through the stuff, but it is quickly growing into a more uniform covering that will make it much harder in only a few more years. After reaching a trail junction, I turned left (west) to follow the branch heading up Woods Gulch on the north side of Peak 9,000ft. By 6:30a it was light enough to see without the headlamp which I then packed away. Shortly before 7a, I turned off the trail to begin the cross-country climb up the north side of the peak. As hoped, this side was mostly forested, minimizing the amount of brush encountered. I was happy to see that this side had escaped the Donnell Fire as well as the 2017 McCormick Fire. Though steep in places, the route I followed was all class 2, good footing, and enjoyable. It would take most of an hour from leaving the trail to make my way to the summit where I arrived at 7:45a. The forest gives way just below the summit, leaving open views in all directions. The early morning sun washed out views to the east. Elsewhere, smoke from the Sequoia fires left only muted views. I left a register before starting back down via much the same route.

Not long after returning to the trail, I came upon a pair of young men in camo fatigues taking a break to one side. Seeing their rifles, I asked them if they'd had any luck (hunting). I was expecting the usual, "Didn't see any deer today," but the one guy piped up, "Yeah, my buddy got one - it's on his back." Sure enough, I could see the antlers sticking out from under the top flap, the head presumably still attached inside, along with a bunch of the meat they'd butchered. I congratulated them sincerely - though no fan of hunting, I'm far more impressed with the guys who get on the trails to hunt rather than staying within a few dozen yards of their vehicles. All the other hunters I'd seen on this opening weekend had been of the latter variety. I still had three miles back to the TH and was moving slower, too, now that my limpy left leg had returned. In passing through the burned area along Arnot Creek, I could see in daylight that there were other things growing besides the buckthorn, but the buckthorn certainly was dominant. It was nearly 9:30a by the time I returned, slower than I expected, but not pressing - I would get back home early enough...

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