Ascent of Castle Crags High Point on 2016-10-07

Climber: Vic Hanson

Date:Friday, October 7, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Castle Crags High Point
    Elevation:7200 ft / 2194 m

Ascent Trip Report

After hiking up to Castle Dome the day before I noticed that the high point of the wilderness is this, not one of the peaks in the State Park so decided to hike up to that the next day. I planned on starting at the same place, the Soda Creek PCT trailhead along Interstate 5. Using Halfmile's PCT app it showed that the high point was somewhere above the PCT at about 17 miles from my starting point, so obviously it was going to be an overnight trip. I live in my camper, and hadn't planned on camping so didn't really have much to take to eat, especially being I wanted to travel light and stove less. I took cereal, trail mix, some crackers and one PBJ (not sure why I didn't take two!).

As usual I got a late start, about 9:30, even though I was sleeping at the trailhead. I took 3 quarts of water but couldn't find my Aqua Mira so took a little bleach. Halfmile's app showed plenty of water, many of the sources were springs, so I wasn't worried much about water. It was a beautiful morning, with a forecasted high for Castella of 80 for both days, and I love the PCT, so was looking forward to a great time.

I knew that there was at least 5,000 feet of elevation gain but had forgotten how much loss there was also on the way up. Strava showed a total of 6257 feet of gain going up and 1192 on the way back down! Due to a big lack of exercise for the last 4.5 months, it gave me quite a workout! Roundtrip distance was 36.8 miles.

I was hoping to find a use trail or an easy bushwhack up to the summit from the PCT but when I reached that point there was nothing but solid manzanita. I continued farther to a nice campsite but it was still to early to camp, and cold as the sun was blocked by the the ridge. There was a rocky slope up so I went up through a mixture of trees and some manzanita but was able to reach the ridge line fairly easilyso decided to keep going. I thought of dropping my pack and making a quick trip to the summit and come back there to camp but wisely kept it with me. I was quite a ways SW of the summit and the ridge had less rocks and more manzanita, and no bare spots for camping. By this time my only hope was to go back to a good camping spot or keep going and hope for a bivy site at the summit.

Refusing to backtrack I continued on but the rocks became less and the manzanita got worse. I tried to find a path of least resistance, which always seemed to be on the west side, which at least kept me in the last of the warm sunlight. With the slow going I began to fear that I might have to stop and bivy sitting up against a rock but finally saw the top of a rocky area on the ridge, which turned out to be the summit! And the best news was below that was a slightly lower false summit with a tree and room for a small tent on a small patch of dirt!

By now the sun had set and by the time I got the small stones cleared and my tent set up it was almost dark. Saying a prayer of thanks for reaching the top, and finding a tent site, I started to unpack my backpack and get ready to eat my PBJ for dinner. I was tired and hungry, having just snacked on trail mix and crackers on the way up. At first I thought I was imaging it but then realized that when I took it out of the stuff sack my down sleeping bag was wet! With a forecasted low of 40 I was concerned about spending a cold night but it was only a spot about a foot in diameter and I was able to keep it to one side and was actually too warm until sometime during the night when I had to zip it up fully.

On the way back down to the PCT in the morning I decided to try the east side of the ridge to take advantage of the warm sunlight and actually found a much better route down a rock slide that for some reason looked too steep to go up the day before. With only some small areas of short manzanita, I easily made it down to a small clump of trees, right on the PCT. I realized that the brownish manzanita is short and easy to walk on, unlike the green which is thick and 3 to 4 feet high, and very difficult to wade through. I put a rock cairn marking the spot where I reached the trail on the way down, it is in the first clump of trees after traversing below the summit.

From there it was just heading back down the PCT, except for the 1192 feet of gain on the way down! And I still had a forgotten crushed sleeve of Pop Tarts in my pack when I got back to my camper! For any of you who do any hiking on the PCT and don't know about Halfmile's PCT app, it is wonderful, and free on both Android and Apple. It works in Airplane mode, shows exactly where you are on the trail and how far to water sources, campsites, trail junctions, and other landmarks, from Mexico to Canada! Used in conjunction with the map feature on the wonderful Peakbagger app and you can not only see where you are on the map, it tells you all about the important details on the way, with exact mileage. If for some reason you get off the PCT at a junction, or anywhere, it has an arrow pointing back to the trail and tells you how far it is! I also use Strava to create a GPS track, and have it set to tell me trip time and distance at half mile intervals, so I don't have to be looking at it to tell how far I've traveled, for example if I'm looking for a point 17 miles away. I have also used it to follow my track back when bushwhacking.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5000 ft / 1524 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5000 ft / 1524 m
    Distance:18.4 mi / 29.6 km
    Start Trailhead:2200 ft / 670 m
Descent Statistics

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