Desolation Peaks

26 Jun 2004 - by Ted Lenzie

On 6/26/04, Dave Wilmot, Rick Shafer, Kay Mathys, Martin Faber, John and myself headed up the Rocky Creek drainage toward Pyramid Peak. We started from Highway 50 at 8:30 am and used the unofficial trail to the summit. The trail starts out steep, but its angle lowers after the first 1,000 feet. Our group moved pretty fast and were on the summit by 11:30 am. The trail itself is pretty obvious and just climbs and climbs for 4,000 feet. I enjoy cross-country travel most, but for quick access with little bushwhacking this is the way to go. Besides, Pyramid wasn't our real objective, it was the ridge line afterward. Once on the Pyramid summit we took a bit of a break and enjoyed the views.

Then it was down the rocky rib of the Crystal Mountain range. We stayed close together stepping lightly to avoid any rock fall. Both sides of the ridge were still heavily snowed and at that steep angle the top of the ridge was our best option. We continued north toward the saddle and then began our climb up a class 3 unnamed rocky pinnacle. I went first and relayed the best approach. This was the most challenging and exposed section of the climb. Definitely, a no-fall zone. Each participate did well with some requiring a little more encouragement than others. The group worked well together the rest of the day communicating hazards. Once over the top it was a continued balance hiking from rock to rock and pinnacle to pinnacle.

Our next goal was Mount Agassiz. We climbed the easy class 2 to its summit and took another break. The ridge line was more time consuming than first estimated, so we made a quick dash to Mount Price. Once there we could see that steep snow was blocking our access along the next ridge.

It was getting late so we decided to descend to Wrights Lake via Smith Lake. This to took some time descending chutes and negotiating around house sized boulders. The biggest hazard here were rock fall in the chutes and falling between the snow and rocks where the rock's heat had carved large hidden holes that one could easily drop into. I fell into a small one after two others had step in the same spot before me. So much for testing snow bridges. My co-lead Dave, had to do a self-arrest on a steep section of snow as well. We continued down into Smith Lake where we caught the Wright's Lake trail. It was another 4 miles and we were back too the shuttle vehicle we had left early that morning. All in all it was just over an 11 hour day. We took few and short breaks, but the boulder hopping was just very time consuming.

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