Tue, Jun 30, 2020
Having driven in on SR88 and Blue Lakes Rd, we found ourselves less than a mile and a half from the peak to the west, near Wet Meadows Reservoir. We could see the peak from our start, but would lose sight of it as we headed off through the forest understory. We avoided the West Ridge which becomes fraught with difficult terrain higher up, instead following the drainage on the north side of the ridge, aiming for a notch on the north side of The Sinister. Our route took us through a small section of badlands - bare slopes with poor footing - that give way to easier ground once the Wilderness boundary is reached at the 8,400-foot level. We had about 1,800ft to climb from where we parked, the upper 2/3 mostly composed of loose class 2 talus. New to such terrain, Jackie tried to stay upbeat about it, but I could tell she wasn't enjoying it much. She would tire from the elevation, too, as there was no chance to acclimatize after our 4hr drive from sea level. Still, she was a good sport and the views that we were treated to during the ascent offered consolation. There were numerous pinnacles in the upper reaches on either side of us, some of which might make for interesting climbs on their own. After an hour and three quarters we finally reached the notch on the north side. We moved onto the east side of the notch and down a short distance to get out of the wind, take a break, and study the remaining route to the summit.
AJ had provided me with a photo from this notch that depicted the start of the route. That, combined with other details he'd provided, gave us all the info we needed to find our way up without having to guess. There are four pinnacles forming the summit that AJ had numbered south to north, the 3rd one being the highest. The route starts on the NE side, going up a shallow ramp above a small snowfield. AJ had described the scramble as class 3-4, so I'd brought a short rope, and some gear in case Jackie wanted it, but most of it ended up staying in my pack. We did use the helmets and Jackie changed into rock shoes before starting up. We left her pack at the notch and took what we needed in mine. The initial ramp was wet with the slow trickle of melting snow, but it really wasn't a problem. The ramp leads to a steep gully between the 3rd and 4th pinnacles. The gully leads to an alcove ringed by cliffs and is a dead-end. The trick is to traverse left soon after leaving the ramp, leading to another gully between the 2nd and 3rd pinnacles. This gully has a cliff at the bottom and the traverse gets one nicely into the gully just above this cliff. The short traverse is the only really exposed part of the whole scramble. The holds are large and fairly solid. I'd give it a class 3 rating, but not for the faint of heart. The 2nd/3rd gully is as fun as it is improbable. It is very narrow, somewhat loose footing, but not overly dangerous. One has to scramble through a short tunnel to get past a lower chockstone. Jackie thought this was the best part of the whole scramble. I had to pass the pack to her to get through the tiny opening at the back. Beyond this, the gully (really more of a sloping chimney) continues up in a steady fashion, reaching a notch 15ft below the summit. From there it was a simple matter to climb out to the right and onto the highpoint of the 3rd pinnacle. It was clearly higher than the other points, so props to AJ and Rafee for getting all those details correct. I had wanted to leave a register here but had forgotten all of them back at home. The views were quite nice looking in all directions, with Raymond Peak to the east and Reynolds Peak to the south. Silver and Highland Peaks could be seen to the southeast beyond Ebbetts Pass. Views north stretched as far as Mt. Rose. It was windy and quite chilly, so we stayed only a few minutes.
Reversing the route went fairly smoothly. Like on the ascent, I let Jackie lead most of the way which she did in fine style. Once back at the northside notch, she changed back into her hiking boots and we set off down the loose slopes we had ascended. There were a few minor falls in negotiating unfamiliar terrain but no real injury, just some frustration that can be overcome with time and practice. It was almost 1:30p by the time we returned to the jeep. I think Jackie would have liked to nap on the drive home at this point, but Dad had other ideas. I told her there were some additional summits I'd like to visit on the way back, all of them fairly short. Jackie would sleep through most of these, but would join me for a few of the drive-ups.
This page last updated: Mon Jul 13 17:56:01 2020
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