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Ascent of Blacksmith Peak on 2014-09-22

Climber: Daryn Dodge

Others in Party:Keith Christensen
Kathy Rich
Greg Gerlach
Date:Monday, September 22, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Blacksmith Peak
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:11760 ft / 3584 m

Ascent Trip Report

Blacksmith Peak is a high point along the Sawtooth Ridge near Matterhorn Peak. My goal is to climb all the Sierra peaks on the Western States Climbers list, and this was one of the last peaks left. We planned to climb other peaks in the area but Blacksmith Peak and nearby Cleaver Peak were going to be the most challenging of the trip. We started at Twin Lakes hiking the Robinson Creek trail to Barney Lake. Then on to Mule Pass to camp. On climb day three of us hiked down into Slide Canyon, then east on trail to the base of the peaks just south. About 1300 feet of cross-country gain got us into the bowl between Cleaver and Blacksmith peaks. First up was Cleaver Peak, but this one deserves it's own trip report on the Cleaver Peak page.

Following the Cleaver Peak climb, we dropped down about 300 ft and scrambled across scree and talus to just south and 300 ft below the four main summit pinnacles. Secor's Sierra climbing guide describes the climb in 2 brief sentences, "Climb the prominent gully on the SW face to its top among the four summit pinnacles. The NW pinnacle (class 5.6) is the high point." The climb is supposedly class 3 until the summit pinnacle, but looking up the obvious gully on the SW face, it looked much more difficult then class 3. So we kept going another 100-200 ft west along the face to easier terrain and began the steep climb towards the summit. We kept the climbing to class 2-3 and worked our way back over to the prominent gully after about 150 ft of gain. We reached the gully where it split into two gullies. Not being sure exactly where the highest pinnacle was above us, and seeing that the left branch was getting into low class 5 climbing, we tried the right branch first. This went class 3-4 and eventually led to a lower pinnacle on the ridge.

Dropping back down into the main left branch, we stemmed and chimneyed our way over three low class 5 sections to the notch in the ridge between the NW pinnacle and its slightly lower SE pinnacle. A little lower down before getting to the notch I made a quick trip to the SE pinnacle that went class 3/4. From the top the NW pinnacle was definitely the high point, On the SE summit was a register in a small pipe that had long been rusted shut. It was like the one we found on Cleaver peak. Also on the summit was the remains of a plastic sandwich container; probably also was a register but had become brittle in the sun and was shattered into many pieces.

From the notch between the two highest pinnacles the last 30 feet of climbing was indeed class 5.6 from here and beyond our capabilities. We set up the rope to drop back down about 20 feet to look for ways onto the face that would be easier. A trip report by Bob Burd on his climbing webpage said there was a class 4 route up ledges just west of gully. We didn't spot it at first, but eventually put together a zig-zag route starting about 40-50 feet below the notch. This last part of the climb started with climbing west out of the gully following a broken series of ledges up to a 15 foot class 4 section straight up in a small corner. The hand and footholds were reasonable but the climbing at this point was quite steep. Following the class 4 section, a ledge is followed west around a tight exposed corner and up about 10 feet. An obvious class 2-3 steep ledge then leads back east and works its way around to the base of the summit rocks. The summit rocks consist of one large, but lower, boulder leaning against the higher summit boulder. We all surmounted the peak by climbing the lower boulder (class 4) and carefully crawling across the short catwalk to the main boulder and then on to the small summit platform.

No register was found on the summit or on the final climb route we took to get up the peak. It took over an hour just figuring out how to climb the last 50 feet, but we had a fun time climbing and a satisfying conclusion. This peak by what we figure was it's easiest route goes mostly class 3 with some class 4 sections. We didn't use the rope except for getting down a couple low class 5 sections in the gully, which can be completely avoided if one moves onto the face west of the gully when the climbing gets too spicy. We also had a pair of rock shoes that we each took turns using the last 50 feet of climbing.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7060 ft / 2151 m
    Extra Gain:1200 ft / 365 m
    Round-Trip Distance:27 mi / 43.5 km
    Route:SW face approach
    Trailhead:Twin Lakes  7100 ft / 2164 m
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:3 nights away from roads



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