Arnot Peak Circumnavigation

3 Jun 2001 - by Mike Mcdermitt

With a climb or two coming up, an altitude/conditioning hike was in order. I decided to go up by Ebbets Pass. I drove up Saturday and stayed at the Highland Lakes campground, which is at the end of a 5-mile road, the last 4 dirt (ok for 2WD), just below the pass. The official season had not started so no fees. It was very quiet although I wasn't alone. The pair of lakes are separated by a few hundred feet; one drains into the Mokelumne River watershed, the other into the Stanislaus. My hike on Sunday took me through the upper watersheds of both of those two rivers plus the East Carson.

The hike was a roughly 18-20 mile loop with about 2,400' of gross gain, circling Arnot Peak (10,054'), the next peak north of Disaster Peak on the Sierra crest. I used the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Map, which for the trails I followed was very accurate. Plus, all key trail intersections on my itinerary were signed. I left the Gardner Meadow trailhead just after 8am. After about a mile, the trail diverged, with a post indicating one way to Disaster Creek, and the other way, which I took, to Wolf Creek Pass. Another mile or two brings Wolf Creek Pass and the signed intersection with the PCT. I headed south on the PCT, which follows just below the crest on its west side for a mile or two. Somewhere thereafter, one crosses the crest to the east side without really noticing. Rounding Point 8982, the view opens up and the steep east side of Arnot Peak and its subsidiary ridges are impressive. Also fine views to the east and south, of mountains in the East Carson watershed including Highland and Patterson. The trail then drops down to reach the upper portions of Wolf Creek, crossing several of its tributaries as the trail wends its way south through forest below Arnot Peak. The trail then begins climbing upward, heading east then back west before gaining a saddle on the ridge between Wolf Creek and Murray Canyon, where there is a signed trail junction here with the somewhat faint-looking Murray Canyon trail. Above the saddle is pointy Point 9362. The top part of its west face is composed of the columns of faceted rock like Devils Postpile and in this case the columns are actually slightly convex, giving the peak the distinct appearance from certain angles of a wave about to crash. Reaching the saddle at 11.30am, I scrambled about 300' up to the summit and found no register, not surprising for a peaklet in this area. Continuing on after a brief lunch break, the trail winds along south across mixed open and treed areas to a crossing of the ridge between Murray Canyon and Golden Canyon. The south side of this 9,300' ridge offered the most impressive view of the day and one of the more impressive non-summit vistas in the Sierra Nevada that I can recall, a panorama of Stanislaus and Sonora Peaks, farther away Leavitt and its surrounding peaks, plus many named peaks east of East Carson Canyon. After snapping my last shots of film, I walked down the PCT toward the intersection with the Paradise Valley trail. Thankfully, the intersection was in the right place and signed and I turned onto it and headed up to cross the crest just north of Disaster Peak, then continued down the trail along what I assume is Paradise Creek. There were numerous beautiful meadows on the hike, Paradise Valley being just one of them. At the bottom of the canyon the trail intersects the Disaster Creek trail (also signed but the sign looks ready to fall into the creek). I then headed up Disaster Creek on the best trail of the day for the last leg of the hike, essentially a long straightaway. The two horseback riders I passed near the end of the hike below Half Moon Lake were the only people I saw all day. I reached my car just before 5pm.

Snow patches were common but there was never reason to regret not bringing an ice axe. The PCT is neither signed nor blazed. If Peak 9,362 does not have a name, I nominate 'The Wave' (a la The Nipple, another low but obvious peak south of Carson Pass). Also, has anyone ever climbed Arnot Peak? It looks more difficult than Disaster and is higher.

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