Peak 9,091ft P300 PD
Peak 9,080ft P300
Peak 10,440ft P500 PD

Wed, Jul 7, 2021
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This was a single day trip to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, giving me another chance to whittle away at completing the Alpine County summits, a pursuit I'd taken to for the past few months. My original plan was to wake at 2:30a and return by 5p, but I actually got up an hour earlier and returned an hour later - seems this outing was a little tougher than I had thought it might be. The three summits are located between the Clark Fork drainage and White Canyon, two of them located atop the Sierra Crest. I had last been in the immediate area a year earlier when pursuing a handful of summits just to the north, including Boulder Peak. My starting point would be from the west, at the end of the paved (but heavily potholed) Clark Fork Rd where the Clark Fork TH is located. The outing would entail about 13mi and nearly 5,000ft of gain.

I started off around 5:45a, under shady and cool conditions, around 54F. It would not stay cool long enough, and with the coming sun, things would begin to warm rapidly. I plied the Clark Fork Trail east for 2.5mi along the river to a trail junction. I turned left to follow the trail up Boulder Creek heading northeast. I followed this for only about 1/3mi to where the creek forks on either side of the SW Ridge of Peak 9,091ft, my first stop of the day. The lower half of the cross-country travel was fairly easy to negotiate up forest slopes with a moderate gradient. The second half is characterized by brushier conditions and steeper slopes with small cliffs and large granite blocks. By slowing down to look for better options, I had to do little real bushwhacking and kept things to class 2. This slope marked the easternmost extent of the 2018 Donnell Fire. The fire did not burn so intensely here as in other places, sparing many trees while taking out much of the ground cover. Three years later, the ground cover that had burned was nicely recovering. It took me more than 2.5hrs to reach the first summit, a bit of class 3 needed to surmount the final summit rocks. Views take in both sides of the Sierra Crest though not very far-reaching since most of the surrounding summits are higher. The rock in this area is all white granite, contrasting nicely with the green of the forest trees that grow upon it. I had forgotten to pack some registers, so I would leave the summit much as I found it.

After a short break I looked for a way to continue east along the ridge. It was a bit tricky with the large blocky features, but I found some class 3 slots to get me down through the toughest section. Back in the forest, I wandered more easily, stopping when I thought I spotted a bear through the trees. Standing still, I watched as a backpacker made his way across my path about 100ft off, not ever noticing my presence. I knew the PCT was in the vicinity and had happily stumbled upon it. I followed it heading south and southeast for about 1/3mi before leaving it to head east for Peak 9,080ft. I had to drop down into a drainage, starting up the other side after crossing the small creek. This turned out to be the most interesting peak of the day. The granite here forms huge slabs and blocks faulted by narrow gullies which can be used to climb higher. I first tried to ascend P20>a very narrow one, but got stopped at the upper end by an overhanging chockstone. A second one I tried to the right worked better, but had some challenges of its own. I got past a chockstone on this one by tunneling under it, then more class 3+ scrambling above before reaching easier ground and the summit. I spent almost half an hour in the scrambling, just to gain the last few hundred feet of elevation - an enjoyable effort. This one definitely deserves a register.

To continue with the fun, I chose an alternate descent route heading south from the summit that involved a few jumps and plenty of class 3, before dropping off the west side. After crossing the creek again (twice, actually), I headed southwest on an ascending traverse through forest towards the last summit. This would take a bit of time, covering 2mi and more than 1,500ft of elevation gain. The slope relents when the crest is reached, still with a mile remaining. The final effort is a bit of a talus slog, but not all that bad. There are two closely-spaced points of near equal height. The spot elevation at 10,382ft is only a few feet lower than the southwestern point. It appears to have an erroneous contour on the topo map, giving it an elevation of 10,400ft on PB and 10,440ft on LoJ, but both are clearly too high. Still, it is well over 10,000ft and has a superb view overlooking the Wilderness. The best view is to the south where Stanislaus Peak rises some 800ft higher. Powen Ru had left a register in 2020, adding the names of those that had posted online ascents before him.

After a suitable rest, it was time to look for a way down. The most obvious return would be to drop directly to the Clark Fork some 3,000ft below to the west, and it was this I pursued. It is not an easy descent, but it is also not overly arduous - just really long. I walked the crest back to the saddle immediately northeast of the summit and started down the talus slopes. The talus was a mix of various sizes with some sand, allowing some bootskiing, but not really enough to call it fun. After descending 1,000ft, the slope funneled into a gully where brush grows around a creek emerging from the talus funnel. This isn't too brusny to start, but grows more so as the descent continues with the trickle of water growing in step. At one point I moved left (south) into an adjacent dry gully, but I was forced back to the main drainage when the dry one had a drop. I was scrambling around roots of trees clinging to boulders, a bit sketchy in places, but eventually emerged on safer slopes. I moved north out of the drainage to avoid more brush, finding easier going in the lower third. In all I spent more than an hour on the descent and was happy to be done with it. Later, I noted that Rob Houghton had done nearly the same descent line when he had climbed Peak 10,440ft earlier.

I expected to find the trail on the east side of the Clark Fork, at least according to the topo map. I had no luck finding it. My GPSr showed a parallel trail on the other side of the creek, so I found a place to cross over and went looking on the west side. Finding it, I had to laugh when it almost immediately took me back to the east side. Some rock-hopping got me back across and I was soon on a good trail that was easy enough to follow for the 3.5mi it would take to return to the TH. There was some downfall blocking the trail that had not been cleared yet this season, but it does seem like the trail has not yet been abandoned. The temperature had climbed steadily in the past few hours and had reached over 80F. It helped some to be following the creek and through forest, but there wasn't as much shade as one might hope for with the sun now almost directly overhead. It would by 87F by the time I finished up just after 2p, well above any comfort level and I was happy to be done. I had finished off the last of 84oz of Gatorade I had carried with me, and after a quick shower, I was to consume a beer, two sodas and a large iced-coffee on the drive home. Perhaps it was time for me to start hiking in higher elevations...

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