Ascent of Eagle Peak on 2013-08-25

Climber: Charlie Winger

Others in Party:Randy Murphy
Dan Blake
George Vandersluis
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, August 25, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Eagle Peak
    Elevation:11367 ft / 3464 m

Ascent Trip Report

Eagle Peak - August 23-26, 2013

Participants: Dan Blake, Randy Murphy, George Vandersluis and Charlie Winger

Our trip began at the Eagle Creek campground located approximately 45 miles west of Cody, WY on US 20. We decided upon Eagle Creek CG instead of the Eagle Creek trailhead location based on excellent beta from Gerry Roach. Gerry also provided invaluable beta in the form of photos from his trip which helped us have a successful trip.

We parked in the "Day Use" parking area just outside the campground entrance. Dan checked with the CG host for permission to leave our vehicles there overnight. A trail took off from this location over toward Eagle Creek where we encountered a metal bridge which allowed us to cross the Creek. Once across the Creek we passed one cabin on our left and immediately encountered the trail (FS 755) which follows Eagle Creek up toward our peak . This trail is well maintained and is a major horse packer trail. Note: I'm guessing you could hire a packer to take your gear up anywhere along the trail to Eagle Pass.

We followed the trail as it gradually gained elevation toward Eagle Creek Meadows. This leg of the trip gained approximately 1,400 feet in 10 miles to our camp in a group of trees at (44.37485, -10999516 / UTM 580053, 4913999), 7,500 feet. This camp had a high bar for hanging food although we had brought bear canisters. Note: There are three other horse camps in the immediate vicinity which are equipped with bear boxes thereby eliminating the need to carry those space eating bear canisters. More on this later.

We started our hike around 9:30 AM and reached camp at 4:30 PM. After setting up camp and lounging around a bit we discussed dinner plans. About this time Charlie happened to look up the valley and noticed clouds building up on the horizon so we started dinner. By 6 PM a heavy downpour had commenced and it continued until about 3 AM the next morning.

We packed up and left our Meadows camp around 8 AM and immediately took a trail heading off to our right which crossed Eagle Creek and ended up in one of the aforementioned horse camps. After wandering around for about an hour we decided that we were indeed heading in the wrong direction and headed back to our starting location. The correct trail heads to the left from our camp and stays left of point 9366 away from Eagle Creek. Very shortly we encountered another of the horse camps located along the trail. From this point on the trail was well marked by tree blazes and the hoofs of many pack animals (and a lone grizzly!).

Our plan was to carry our camp up to Eagle Pass where we would have a better chance of making the summit. Given the current unstable weather conditions this seemed to be a good decision. We following the trail as it crossed two streams which were negotiated on logs and leaps until we reached the 8,600 foot level where we crossed a small stream which, as it turns out, contained the last reliable water source between there and Eagle Pass. So, if you have good stable weather it makes sense to camp at one of the horse camps with bear boxes and water then you can make a long day of the climb without bear canisters or water shortage. Refill at the 8,600 foot stream and you're on your way. To make a long story shorter, we hiked past this stream on the premise that there would be water available "a short distance below Eagle Pass". Well, the only water we saw was when another fierce thunderstorm overtook us, producing a raging stream running down the trail.

As we arrived at Eagle Pass 9,525 feet, the Sun came out and life was good again. We found a suitable campsite just off left and downhill from Eagle Pass, but no water. Randy and Dan set out looking for the elusive water source and returned empty handed. It was decided that we (someone) would need to hike back down the 900 feet to the last stream crossing and fill all of our water containers with filtered water. Randy and Charlie made the journey with enough water to last another day. Life was good again - Sun and water.

While at our lower camp George discovered that the sole of his boot had broken in half making it unstable for putting pressure on the front of the boot. He decided that he could not safely make the climb and would stay at high camp while Dan, Randy and Charlie climbed the peak. A bitter disappointment after driving for 12 hours, hiking for 11 hours and carrying group gear up to Eagle Pass.

At 6:30 the next morning Dan, Randy and Charlie set out to attempt the peak. Oh, least I forget, it rained again the prior night.

Manned with some Roach photos and the depth of experience of the three of us we made good time traversing below the upper cliff bands until we encountered a nifty gully with excellent class 3+ rock on either side. We ascended the rock and arrived at a point just west of where we would have if we traversed below the cliff band. Another thirty minutes of easy hiking put us at the critical lava tube at (44.32085, -110.02264 / UTM 577936, 4907974) 10,550 feet which allows access to the upper mountain.

We climbed through the lava tube and hauled up our packs using a short rope we had brought along for that purpose. From that point we traversed left a short distance and then back right and up to the summit ridge, arriving at the summit one hour after leaving the lava tube.

We spent a short while on the cold, windy summit and then began our descent. It should be noted that it is impossible to see the exit point from the lava tube until you are virtually standing next to the hole. Some temporary flagging might be a good idea as you leave the lava tube on your way up to the summit. Not finding the lava tube on your descent would be problematical to say the least.

While at the lava tube entry we surveyed the ridge/cliff band traverse and decided to give it a try on the way back to camp. John Mitchler had described very tenuous sloped footing along the cliff band when the dirt was dry. We were lucky since it had been raining every day and the footing was passable. Future climbers might want to bring along a set of MicroSpikes that slip over the boots to provide more secure footing along this section. We noticed several cairns along this route so it probably is the "standard" route for the peak.

We arrived back at our Eagle Pass camp at Noon and believe it or not the Sun was still shining. We quickly packed up and descended down to the Eagle Creek Meadows area where we made our last camp. Of course it rained again that night.

We departed the Eagle Creek Meadows camp at 8 AM and arrived back at our vehicles around 1:30 PM.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5900 ft / 1798 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5900 ft / 1797 m
    Round-Trip Distance:31 mi / 49.9 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3+
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Raining, Pleasant, Breezy, Low Clouds
Significant downpours
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5900 ft / 1798 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4900 ft / 1493 m; Extra: 1000 ft / 304m
    Loss on way in:1000 ft / 304 m
    Distance:15.5 mi / 24.9 km
    Route:Eagle Creek to Eagle Pass
    Start Trailhead:Eagle Creek Campground  6467 ft / 1971 m
    Time:11 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4900 ft / 1493 m
    Distance:15.5 mi / 24.9 km
    Route:Eagle Pass to Campground
    End Trailhead:Eagle Peak Campground  6467 ft / 1971 m
    Time:8 Hours 

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