At the last minute, Ari and I decided to leave for Rainy Pass to car camp and then day climb the northeast ridge of Black Peak the next day. OK, that’s an efficient way to do it. Let’s go! We left around 9:30 PM Friday bound for Rainy Pass. However, we were tired enough that we stopped driving at Diablo Lake and pulled into the overlook, parked, and dragged our sleeping bags over to the edge of the overlook. Except for a couple of derelict cars and a few deer, the area was empty. We awoke to a nice sunrise over the emerald lake. We jumped in the car and made quick down to Rainy Pass. The mosquitos were out again and even I opted to put on some bug juice.
Getting to Heather Pass took no time at all. I was surprised at how quickly we got up the trail. In front of us, outlined against the blue sky and across a long talus field, was Black Peak. We could see Lewis Lake and some waterfalls in front of us, but Wing Lake was still out of view. The talus field was tedious, but manageable. Lewis Lake is vividly turquoise and I enjoyed traversing low around the right side of the lake. The trail didn’t start ascending until some yards after it crossed the source. I was beginning to think we were on the wrong path. The trail climbed steeply but comfortably up to Wing Lake. I was feeling tired and out of shape again, but I managed. One problem was that these new boots were starting to repeatedly bruise my ankles again. It’s like a little hammer tapping on my ankle every time I took a step. I got out some extra socks and jammed them down in the shoes to isolate my ankles from constant rubbing. It helped, somewhat.
Wing Lake was surprisingly frozen! We took a rest here, got some food, and reapplied sunscreen (to everywhere except the calves where we were both burned at the end of the day). To get to the ridge required a tedious climb up talus and snow. It’s quite a long slog. Once there, we had good views west and north. Some tricky 4th class traversing got us to a spot where we’d rope up. Ari wanted some practice leading so he got the rack and then took off.
The climbing was good, but not great. The rock was mostly solid, but there were definitely sections of steep loose blocks where extra care was needed. This climb reminded me some of Triumph. It was similar rock, maybe not quite as solid and not as thrilling. There’s a great “sidewalk in the sky” with lots of exposure that leads to a nice belay where you can take a comfortable break. Beyond that, it’s more of the same – easy 4th and 5th class climbing to a false summit which reminded me of a much smaller and easier version of Bugaboo Spire. We traversed along to the real summit and cut back up a gully to arrive at the top. The view of Goode was inspiring but the valley looked deep. Just getting up to the glacier looked to be a piece of work.
The hike out was a total pain. The descent off the summit wasn’t too bad, but required a lot of concentration descending the steep 4th class. Getting down to the ridge was just a matter of scouting out the route, looking for the most promising scree ledges and gullies, and then confirming your choices with an occassional cairn. The descent from the col was down steep scree then snow, which promptly dumped into my boots since they were wide open due to the socks jammed between my ankles and the sides of the boots. I cursed the snow as I made my way back to the scree. I emptied my boots and put on my gaiters. I boot skied down the rest of the snow almost all the way to the lake. The remainder of the hike out was awful as the socks seemed to be doing less and less. It reminded me of the painful descent off Slesse, that time being my knees. I hobbled my way down questioning my sanity for going on this climb. At the same time, the mosquitos were biting. So, I hiked and slapped. I was a lot slower on the hike out and Ari got far in front of me. He had the car waiting at the trailhead (not allowed to park directly at the trailhead) as I finally arrived. Thanks! We made it just in time for Good Food! My spirit perked back up.