Thursday, September 12, 2013

South Ridge of Peak 11,874 aka "Mount Congress"

Peak 11,874 is the unnamed peak closest to Blue Lake in the eastern High Sierras, located just to the southwest of the lake. As Blue Lake is only 3.5 miles from the Lake Sabrina trailhead, the peak is doable in a day and therefore does not require a permit if climbed in this manner. The peak sits just above the Baboon Lakes and for that reason, friends and I have dubbed it "Mount Congress."

To get there, follow the trail from the Lake Sabrina trailhead up to Blue Lake over many switchbacks, gaining about 1300 feet. From there, proceed along the west side of Blue Lake to the trail intersection for Blue Lake, Donkey Lake, and Dingleberry Lakes. From here the aspect of the peak you wish to climb will determine the rest of the approach (though I only have beta on the South Ridge, approached from the east). If carrying light packs, the approach can probably be accomplished in about 2-2.5 hours depending on fitness and acclimatization.

Continue following the trail to Donkey Lake, then onward to the Baboon Lakes.  Where the Baboon Lakes trail turns sharply downhill and left, turn uphill to the right/west. Ascend about 150 feet of easy slabs (3rd/4th class). Above the slabs, switchback up scree, talus, and pine trees to the saddle south of the summit. From the saddle, follow the ridge to north/right through trees and over boulders until above tree line.

At this point you are near the south summit. Skirt the summit on the right/east side (4th/low 5th) and continue traversing across the small saddle above a scree/talus gulley. From here, a few low 5th class moves take you to the right/east side of the main summit platform.

Ascend the final 10-15 foot summit block on its east side via a shallow, flared handcrack. The crack disappears about 4 or 5 feet from the top of the block. A spicy, unprotectable 5.6 mantle move puts you on top. The downclimb feels quite exposed. If you are not confident on the mantle up, it would be best not to attempt the block as the downclimb is not to be taken lightly.

I soloed this route and felt quite comfortable in a good pair of approach shoes. However, depending on snowpack, an ice axe might be needed. As for protection on the route, the 5th class sections are short so a short/thin line (100 feet of rope would be plenty) and 5 or 6 cams (BD 0.4 - #2 or #3) and a couple slings should do it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. While I agree there is much 4th and 5th class that can be tackled here if desired there is a class 3 route that gets you to the summit block which is indeed class 5.