The Mystique of Perrin Creek

5-15 Jul 2012 - by Bob Davey

On July 4 I drove up to Horseshoe Meadows from so. Cal. and spent the night at about 9100 ft. to acclimize, which for me has now become standard procedure. The next day I took a leisurely pace to Cottonwood Lakes 4-5, spent the night, then headed up the "abandoned" Old Army Pass on the 6th. Except for 3-4 areas where rockfall has occurred, this trail is in decent shape with beautiful views of lakes 4-5 as one ascends the pass. The infamous snow issue on the upper section was reduced to a short 20 ft. ribbon and easily surpassable.

On the climb up I met Richard Connelly who was heading up to Langley. I had already climbed Mt. Langley a few weeks earlier, on June 22, so once at the pass, we parted ways as I headed down into the Rock Ck. drainage for my first venture into this area. The weather was clear, cool, and breezy. Absolutely perfect. I descended the drainage on-trail, passed the beautiful unnamed lake and wondered why it remained so, and got to the Rock Ck. R.S. by mid afternoon. Once there, I met the backcountry ranger, D. Alexander, a nice fellow. I asked him how/where to access Perrin Creek. I told him my destination were the lakes in the upper cirque surrounded by 4 prominent 13,000 ft. peaks. Surprisingly, there was no defined V shaped canyon that was visible from our vantage point even though the confluence of Perrin Creek and Rock Creek was,..well supposed to be right here...hmm. His reply was "only been up there twice", "the first time I took the wrong route, but the second time I made it". "The beginning is difficult and obscure, after that the canyon opens up and becomes more defined. It's beautiful up there but there's a boulder field that you'll have to slowly pick your way through before the canyon opens up. No easy way through it that I know of." Hmmm. Not exactly what I was hoping to hear...

After some time spent scouring the topo I made the mistake of asking him to "point your finger to the location I should be heading". "If you don't know, then guessimate". He did. I followed. 30 minutes later while traversing a soggy meadow I stepped into a peatbog and went crotch deep into "floating grass" only 300 yards away. Covered in green, I returned to the R.S. I had found several rivulets coming down off the meadow. Anyone of these could have been Perrin Ck. At that point the ranger pointed out a very slight depression on the ridgeline north of Rock Ck. and said to aim for it. (Actually there are 2. The left depression is the correct one. The right depression is probably the "mistake" he made on his first unsuccessful attempt to reach the upper Perrin Ck. lakes. They appear very close to each other when viewing from the meadow near the R.S.) The next day, surprisingly, I found no water in Perrin Creek until just below the step-up to the lake basin, even though all map sources list Perrin Creek as a full year water source. Future parties should take note of this and bring along a liter or 2. The ranger did not mention this.

Once in the basin it was stunning. This area is remote, beautiful, and not visited often. I set up camp at the first lake. My plan was to do Mt. Newcomb and Chamberlain the next day. Then Joe Devel Peak and Mt. Pickering the following day.

Early AM on the 8th I set out for Newcomb. I chose a poor line and fought a cruddy sand traverse before I reached stable class 2 rock and then the summit plateau to the top. Near midday I began the traverse to Chamberlain following below cliff bands, but got too low and fought sand again. It was tiring me. I reached Chamberlain sometime after 5 PM, then it was a straight easy descent back down. Happy hour, Mountain House, sleep.

On the 9th I set out for Joe Devel Peak determined to stay off sand as much as possible. I found a direct line on a nice rib of class 2 rock and never got off. How enjoyable that was- words cannot describe. Although rated class 2, the ridge line traverse to Pickering looked a bit jagged from down below and I thought perhaps a bit beyond my capabilities. I figured to try it and if it became too dangerous then I would simply descend off one of the sandy chutes to my camp. My crossover point on the ridge line was incorrect, but it worked out anyway. I got to Pickering's summit late staying on class 2 rock the whole way and noticed my energy level was much higher than the day before. I took a direct line down via a sand chute between Newcomb and Pickering. It was a perfect day. Beautiful weather and 4 13,000 ft. SPS peaks in 2 days. For me, it just doesn't get much better than that.

On the way down, July 10, I completely bypassed the entire boulder field on Perrin Creek by staying to the right of it as I descended. Ranger D. Alexander, I hope you read this. A few days later, on the 14th, I climbed Mt. LeConte on a 2 day outing from the Meysan Lakes trailhead. It was my third time. Initially, I was hoping to do the traverse to Corcoran but it was a bit too much for me. As I descended on July 15 I met Aaron Schuman and co. as they were headed up. We talked about LeConte. I mentioned to him that I found LeConte is best climbed by utilizing the 3rd class chute that leads to the plateau between Mallory and Irvine. It avoids a lot of the steep sand found in the other chutes. I told him he'd find a 40 ft. length of rope hanging that wedged in a crevice at the waterfall pitch. I doubled it for descending but couldn't pull it back out. I hope someone will get some use out of it. It cost me $20 at "Elevation" in Lone Pine, lol.

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