After gaining Scimitar Pass we have traveled along the ridge for a while, jumped over the step-across gap, passed through a slanted gap, and finally came to our first impasse. This one was slightly on the east side of the ridge. Going back about 50 ft, there was a serious of sandy ledges descending to the east. We descended about 50 ft. to a point that allowed us to continue our traverse to the south for about another 100 ft. and then forced us back up. Now on top of the ride there was a narrow vertical gap between 2 rocks. I call this one the Bottomless gap (guess why). After down climbing the Bottomless gap we were able to traverse another 20 ft or so to the south. We were now on top of the ridge proper on a nice 5x10 ft. leveled ledge with no apparent way to continue. We were at the second impasse.
There were big drops on both the south and the west sides, and an improbable looking off-width slanted crack on the east side leading to a ledge farther down. Greg down climbed the crack, with great difficulties, and looking around the ledge below was not able to find a way to continue.
Assuming we must have missed something, we went back along our path trying to find a better way, but we couldn't. There is a large section on the east wall just below the Bottomless gap that is blank and offers no apparent passage. The only way is through the Bottomless gap that leads to the second impasse.
Returning to the second impasse, we used a sling around a solid rock horn that forms the top of the off-width crack and rappelled. A single 30 meter rappel brought us to were, after a bit of more down climbing, we were able to reach a serious of ledges and traverse to the notch.
The slab was easy. My double 60 meter rope made it, but with surprisingly little spare. Using a 45 meter rope would probably force one to using the belay station in the middle. There are plenty of foot and hand holds on the slab. Protections are sparse. I placed one came in the corner on the left and found 3 placements for stoppers in the cracks in the middle. Small cams would have worked well.
Returning back to the ridge, we started to free climb the first few sections we rappelled earlier, but then we though better of it and roped up. It felt harder and more exposed climbing back this section than climbing the class-4 slab.
Or yes, I forgot to say how we hiked to Elinore Lake, how the mosquitoes were everywhere, how there was a lot of snow above 11,000 ft. and how the register book, which was placed in 1991, was mostly blank.
Participants, Aaron Schuman, Greg Johnson, and Ron Karpel
Peter Maxwell replies:
Wow - we must have been lucky. When I did this with Arun and John Kerr we didn't do any rapelling, or even use ropes, to get to the notch. I guess I stumbled on the "pure" class 3 route. As I recollect, pretty much straight (south) off the end of the ridge. I remember thinking it didn't look very doable, but we found a way. I wish I could remember more details for posterity.
Aaron Schuman rejoins:
I marvel at the fact that you got into the notch without a rappel. I think you should repeat the climb and document how you did it!
Peter Maxwell replies:
Now you've got me marvelling at myself! I don't remember enough of our route to document it. At the time I didn't give it any special thought. Steve Eckert had done it previously and his report helped. He also said it was 3rd class. Had you read that prior to your trip?
Ron Karpel adds:
Eckert said they rappelled.
We thought we had followed his description, but that only got us the "second impasse", so we figured that must have been where they have rappelled. We tried going back and finding a different way through, but nothing.
We had all the reports with us on the ridge, actually, we had double copies of the reports on the ridge. I read through Eckert's entire report, sitting down on the ridge. Maybe it was the thin air? I don't know.
Aaron Schuman adds:
To the list of things Ron forgot to say in the last paragraph, I would add:
The forest service built a swank new footbridge over the south fork of Big Pine Creek this year, helping open up Brainard Lake to fishers. Wading the creek is no longer required.
As we hiked down from Willow Lake, still wearing our bug veils, we met a very pregnant day hiker, with her belly showing under her halter top, heading uphill. A few minutes later, she raced past us, heading back down, pausing only to say that she didn't wonder why we were wearing all that mesh until she got into the willows herself. I've never seen a pregnant woman move so fast!
John Kerr remarks:
As I remember it we did not go straight off the south end of the ridge although we tried. As I recollect we turned back and descended on the East side of the ridge, sort of switch backing down and then traversing round into the notch.. There may have been some ducks but it is fairly exposed so not entirely obvious although I do not remember it being very scary. Just time consuming. I think when we came back to the notch we tried to find a way along the East side of the ridge to avoid climbing back up on top but were forced to go back up.
Arun Mahajan explains:
I was trying my best to recollect the route so that I could give Ron some beta before he left and all I remembered was that a 60m rope worked just right and that there were small cracks on the notch and that, like John did, one could avoid going to the left wall for an intermediate belay spot.
As for the ridge, I remember zig-zagging down by a none too obvious route and we found a similar route on the way back. I recollect having a spot of bother at one place on the downclimb. Also, those little ledges had scree on them, making the footing uncertain.
Anyways, congratulations to Ron/Aaron/Greg for bagging this outstanding peak!
Steve Eckert comments:
We rapped on the way UP the peak, but only because we didn't try to search for something else. On the way back the route seemed straightforward (to the right of our rap line when facing back down the ridge).