Ascent of Rock Creek Butte on 2013-08-17

Climber: Craig Willis

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, August 17, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Rock Creek Butte
    Elevation:9106 ft / 2775 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am writing this TR as an addendum to Edward Earl's report from several years back. I thought it was odd that a publicly-accessed and popular Forest Service road would be gated-off and/or signed "No Trespassing" (as indicated by Edward) so I double-checked this in advance with the Forest Service. They confirmed my assertion, that Forest Road 030 is *never* gated and is *always* open to public (as far as they were aware).

However, arriving to the backroads shortly after dark, I found myself in a similar predicament to Edward. In fact, I found myself in apparently the same place as Edward as I found the same negative postings. I backtracked to a "Y" intersection that showed FR-6530 as the left fork (heading downhill) and a sign which showed "LIME QUARRY: 3 Miles <-, HIGHWAY 7: 5 Miles ->). I stopped here and took out my hiking GPS. First, I located Rock Creek Butte on the GPS map. Then I located Twin Lakes. Then I followed the Twin Lakes Trail southward until reaching FR-030. Then I followed FR-030 southward until an intersection appeared on the screen... and the intersection did not look too far away from my present location.

I turned onto FR-6530 and headed downhill. The road was great in some sections and a little rough in others, but overall OK for my passenger vehicle. After approximately 1.5 miles, I reached a four-way intersection. The road to my right had a large sign at its entrance for "Twin Lakes Trailhead - 3 Miles ^ "). This was the same four-way intersection mentioned in other reports, but somehow I had reached it from another access road. This both puzzled me and bothered me, as I am normally meticulous when it comes to driving directions. I turned right onto FR-030 and reached the lower trailhead parking area. Due to the darkness and reports of a "rough road" ahead, I did not venture further. The reality is that the first steep section of the upper road is rough and sandy, but if you can get beyond that section the rest of the road is very good. With that said, one would not want to get stuck there, and it is only a 10-15 minute walk to the upper trailhead.

I left at 5:30 AM with early morning light just starting to shine through the trees above. It took me much longer than I expected to reach Twin Lakes, and then to reach Rock Creek Butte. Either I was walking much slower than normal (which did not seem to be the case) or the mileages listed were incorrect (which I think is true). I believe this route to the summit is closer to 12-12.5 miles roundtrip, rather than 10-11 miles roundtrip.

I was tempted to go up the southeast ridge of Rock Creek Butte, but considering nobody else had mentioned doing that and because the southwest ridge looked like a lower-angle slope I opted for the standard off-trail approach. After I left the trail, it took me nearly 30 minutes to reach the summit. Don't be misled by other reports; this off-trail section is a steep walk-up, not a scramble. The views were great in every direction. There were many entries in the register box. Termites and ladybugs covered the summit cairn.

The route down was fairly uneventful. I passed two hiking groups. I saw numerous mountain goats down near Twin Lakes. When I got back to the car, I was eager to figure out where I made my driving mistake. I drove down FR-030 until the four-way intersection and then continued straight through it (which should have been Deer Creek Road). Deer Creek Road was a great gravel road and taking a wrong turn off of it would require some serious effort.

I followed Deer Creek Road back to the highway and quickly realized where I had made a mistake. There is a large "Deer Creek Road" sign perpendicular to the highway, as if implying to turn right and follow that major road. However, what can be easily missed is a tiny "Larch Creek Road" sign also perpendicular to the highway at the same intersection but on a very tall signpole. I never saw that sign in the dark, and once you see its odd signpole location you will figure out why.

The reality is that to get to Deer Creek Road you need to turn right off the highway and *then immediately turn left*. DO NOT turn right off the highway and continue straight along the major gravel road, as that is actually Larch Creek Road (which is oddly named, as it is actually closer to Deer Creek) and will lead off-route just as it did for Edward and I (and probably some others). Fortunately, I found a way to join that route (via FR-6530) to the actual road route rather than needing to go back to the highway.

I hope that future potential summiters, especially those arriving after dusk, will take these instructions to heart.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4468 ft / 1360 m
    Elevation Loss:4468 ft / 1360 m
    Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4268 ft / 1300 m
    Extra Loss:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Twin Lakes Trail / SW Ridge
    Trailhead:Lower Parking Area  5038 ft / 1535 m
    Time Up:0 Days 3 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:4268 ft / 1300 m
    Extra Gain:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:SW Ridge / Twin Lakes Trail
    Trailhead:Lower Parking Area  5038 ft / 1535 m
    Time Down:0 Days 3 Hours 20 Minutes

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