Black Peak

9 Aug 1997 - by Pat Ibbetson

The Dinkey Lakes Wilderness is a large plateau rimmed on the west by sharp granite peaks. The plateau is home to gigantic meadows, some that literally take over an hour to cross. Rising from the center of the main meadow complex is a large cinder cone, Black Peak. For two weeks my survey crew was camped out at Quall's Camp (or Knight's Camp depending on which old timer you speak to) while we performed the survey and the cultural inventory of the area.

It wasn't until Wednesday when I was working in aptly named Rock Meadow that I first saw Black Peak. From my vanatage point I could see the entire nortwest face, the only serious challenge on the otherwise unremarkable mountain. That night I left camp before nightfall, paralleling the trail. I then headed north on the Dusy until I reached the crest of Black Peak's north east shoulder, where I turned west to climb the large blocks. The forested slopes to the south gave the illusion that they would have been much more pleasurable to ascend, but they were far too steep to get any purchase on.

At the base, the blocks were enormous, some with 10 foot drops between them, but as I gained elevation the blocks became smaller and as the shoulder steepend I found myself on small talus. Four hundred feet from the summit a belt of red firs and whitebarks occupied the gentle slopes on a tilted bench.

Black Peak has an unusual shape. The bottom half is a boringly rounded pine covered slope. The top half is a volcanic plug, pinched in on two sides. At the edge of the flat I was walking up, there is a giant snag that marks a slight westward turn in the crest of the ridge, which I followed. The next 200 feet were quite steep, although not approaching vertical like the faces on either side of me. I slowly made my way up th rough the big rocks, getting my first views of Rock Meadow to my right. To my delight, the top of the cone is nearly flat on top. The summit blocks however, were formidable from the north, so I traversed around to the west side where a borderline class 1-2 path could be walked up. Although technically easy, I was right above the steep face and the volcanic rock was quite unstable. I sent down more than a few small rock falls on my way up and even slipped down a few times. Slipping on a sand slope is one thing, but being caught in a slide of gigantic volcanic boulders when alone is enough to make a galactically boring mountain into a fun outing.

The view from the top of this peak, not unlike other peaks in the Kings River basin, was magnificent. Only here near the Kings can one obtain such a wonderful view with so little effort. Surrounding me for 270 degrees was the rim of peaks that rise on the edge of the Dinkey Plateau with Mt Givens and the Three Sisters being the highest, but Dogtooth is vertainly the most interesting. When viewed from Black Peak one can see the 1,900 foot smooth and vertical north face with horrifying detail. The rest of the view opened up to the south east, a magnificent view with the 20+ domes framing Courtright, with Mt Goddard piercing the sky to the east.

After watching the sunset I headed back the same way. The only challenge was at the base of the mountain where the enormous blocks were eager to swallow me up. A quick run down the steeper forested slope to the south kept my legs intact.

During the next two weeks I ascended Black Peak three more times: Once via the easy north ridge, once via the steep east slopes and most enjoyably by climbing the northwest face. This climb, although not technically class 3, provided quite a challenge as the rocks were big and loose and a fall would have meant dropping or sliding 700 feet to Rock Meadow.

Apparently, the southwest ridge is the easiest, appearing to be almost entirely class 1 with the summit block providing the only challenge. This isn't necesarily a peak worthy of much attention, but it makes a nice evening outing or side trip en route to a larger peak in the area.

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