Tuttle Peak P300

Aug 14, 2021

With: Tom Becht
Tom Grundy
Clement Guillaume
Chris Henry
Lucas Bravo
AJ Kaufmann
Sean King
Trey Hawk
Kevin Lei
David Ashley
Eileen Tseng

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Day 9 of the Sierra Challenge had us going up Tuttle Creek, last visited during the Challenge in 2017. Tuttle Peak is an unofficial name for a 12,000-foot summit high on the northern wall of the Tuttle Creek drainage. It was not expected to be a hard outing at less than 11mi, but the gain would be nearly 7,000ft to keep it from being a walk in the park. Because it was on the easier side and because it was a Saturday, we had a larger crowd of 15 for the 6a start. Since the last time we had driven to the trailhead, the Forest Service has closed off the 4WD portion at the end. This made it simple for driving - any vehicle can get to the end of the road now, and from there it's all on foot.

While improvements had been made to the road, none had been made to the trail. The first 45min were spent following the old road and good trail that lead to the stone ashram about 2mi from the TH. Google maps now shows the location of the ashram marked by a symbol featuring a Christian cross, though I don't think the builder's purpose had anything to do with Christianity. We made the slight detour to take in a quick tour of the unfinished structure, then set out to find the continuing trail a few minutes later. A trail was never formally developed past the ashram, and it shows in a confusing mix of various threads that can lead one astray. There is a main thread however, and with careful routefinding, can help considerably in navigating the Tuttle Creek drainage.

We carried on up the trail, ducks offering some guidance through a boulder section, until around 8:30a when Tuttle Obelisk came into view on the right side of the drainage. I had originally planned for the group to continue up the canyon and approach Tuttle Peak from the south, but I was now thinking it might be a shorter route to pass Tuttle Obelisk on the right and climb to our peak from the southeast. There was some minor debate about this but a group of four of us decided to give it a try. It would turn out to be faster if one knew the best way, but we got sidetracked some along the way. After descending to the creek, we started climbing the cross-country route, with more than 2,000ft of gain over the last mile. Our main mistake was in staying too close to Tuttle Obelisk on its backside, leading us astray. The better route was further to the north, a broader gully/ramp than the one we followed. Ours led to cliffs on the south side of Tuttle Peak's SE Ridge where there was some time spent exploring options that either didn't pan out or were too unsafe. We eventually admitted we needed a course correction and went about this via various paths. Chris went up a class 3-4 arete to eventually make it to the adacent drainage. Waiting impatiently below, AJ and I gave up on Chris and went down a class 3-4 chimney/crack to gain the same drainage lower down. TomG did his usual magic and quietly transported himself from our unworkable perch to the better talus slope via secret techniques known only to the buddha and those sufficiently skilled in the arts. Once in the correct drainage, it was mostly a class 2 slog over the next 45min to reach the top.

Within ten minutes we had five of us at the summit, including Lucas who had come up the route from the south, waiting for us with beer in hand when we arrived. Lucas wasn't even the first to the top - Clement and Trey had already visited and were on their way to bonus peaks on the Sierra Crest, about a mile further to the west. Our summit offered a most impressive view of the serrated crest between Langley and LeConte. With less snow now than four years earlier, our route to reach Sharktooth looked more improbably yet. To the south is the imposing North Face of Mt. Langley, with fluted cliffs and spires looking much different than the gentler approach from the south. Most of us weren't planning on bonus time today, so we sat about the summit for almost 45min, by which time we'd collected two more participants, TomB and Dash.

When it was time to go, most of us decided to take the shorter route to the southeast that we'd worked out on the ascent. Not far below the summit, we came across Kevin, smiling, with dried blood the side of his head. We spent a few minutes hearing his tale of woe (slipped and fell), examining his injury (superficial) and assuring ourselves that he was cognizant enough to continue on his own. A little bloodletting isn't usually serious and he seemed to be in fine spirits. We continued down the long, long slope, slipping through the talus, looking for the sandier sections to speed the descent. Lucas, AJ and myself were the first three to get back down to the bottom of the canyon where we had a bit of bushwhacking to get ourselves back on the south side of the creek where we could rejoin the trail. After this, it was a bit of a race to see who would get the stage win. I don't think Lucas cared much at all, but I expected AJ did, and I had no chance of keeping up with him if he got himself on a good trail where he could run. Luckily for me, the trail is far from obvious, easy to lose, and this being my only real advantage. It would prove enough. I think I may have had a better idea of where to find the trail, having traveled the length of it a first time back in 2017. This didn't stop me from losing it once when I ended up unexpectedly at the creek, but it turned out to be a blessing of sorts as I got ahead of AJ somehow without either of us knowing who was in front. When I got back to the TH just after 2p, I was a little surprised to find I was the first back. AJ came jogging down the road only five minutes later to some dismay. Since I wasn't able to do more than a fast walk myself, he'd surely have caught me if the route had been another half mile longer. AJ already had two stage wins this year, so I didn't mind getting a second for myself...

Jersey Strategy: By now, the jersies were all but wrapped up. For the Polka Dot jersey, Clement had visited Corcoran, LeConte, Irving and Mallory today, giving him a total of 27 peaks. In second, Chris had no bonus peaks today and was left with a total of 21. Despite spending more than five hours on the trail today than TomG, Clement was also leading the Yellow jersey competition by more than 10hrs. He was doing a spectacular job of taking both titles this year. As the only person over 50yrs to do all the Challenge peaks, TomG had a lock on the Green jersey. Similarly, SeanK would take the White Jersey easily, even if he didn't show up for the last day (in fact, he didn't - he headed home with his father after summiting Tuttle and Corcoran today).


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