Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Esmeralda Peaks

Made the most of a dry day with views on the east side! Fun scrambling with such a positive/supportive group and the variety of terrain encountered kept us on our toes throughout (from blowdowns, to creek log crossing, to bare/rocky ground, to snow travel)!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

After weather forced a change in our plans (from Mount Ruth) we looked east of the Cascade Range for drier conditions.  Esmeralda Peak became our new objective - a Teanaway 20 peak with hopefully nice views of Mount Stuart and the vicinity!  The trip was a mentored scramble experience for me and co-led by my mentor, Rena Chinn.  Our group of 6 scramble participants were flexible and the hope for dry-ish weather with views sounded good to them!  

We met up at the DeRoux trailhead and began hiking out the DeRoux Trail just before 9AM.  We counted 34 blowdowns, that we had to step over or detour around, within the first 2 miles of the trail hike.  The blowdowns are spaced apart, but slowed our pace a bit on an otherwise easy entry to the scramble.  Inconsistent snow started to appear on the trail about 4,800 feet or 1,000 feet of gain up from the trailhead.  Shortly thereafter (just above 5000 feet), we encountered a narrow section of snow-covered trail with a sharp drop off down to the DeRoux Creek below.  We stopped to get out our ice axes and helmets before proceeding.  We used both for the remainder of the trip until we descended back past this point on our return.  No other equipment was needed (no traction/flotation).  

The summer trail then drops down to parallel the creek and the scramble route targets to leave the trail at this point wherever feasible to cross the creek.  We had good beta from a prior Mountaineers trip that a crossing on two logs was possible.  We easily identified the logs, but also searched upstream a bit further for any other alternatives.  Finding none, we proceeded one by one across the logs with no issues.  Our strategy was to walk on the lower of the two logs while using the upper log for balance.  

After the creek crossing, our route headed off trail nearly directly up the southwest aspect of Esmeralda (west peak).  The next approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain was a mix of snow and bare ground (brush, small trees, small rocks).  At this point in the year, I would characterize this section as mostly bare ground vs. snow.  We picked our way uphill following the terrain and path of least resistance.  Around 6,000 feet elevation we started to gain the basin below Esmeralda and the snow then became consistent up to the summit.  We travelled through the middle of the basin and took turns kicking steps up the final steeper slopes to the summit block.  The summit block itself was bare rock (6,765 feet).  As we climbed up the final steps to the summit, the Teanaway area, Mount Stuart, and some of the Stuart Range appeared before us to the east.  Luckily the weather had held out for us all day (only a few random rain drops) and the visibility was good enough to see peaks in all directions.  

After a 20 minute summit break to refuel and take photos, we started to head back down.  The snow was perfect for plunge stepping all the way back down the basin.  A few participants wanted to glissade to get additional experience, so Rena and I identified a safe slope and we were able to get in two nice glissade runs (making our own chutes) back down to the bottom of the basin.  From there it was an uneventful descent back to and across the creek.  Then finally the "blowdown" hike back to the trailhead.  On this day the route seemed to really give us a true scrambling experience with so many skills used and some great experiences for participants (save from true rock scrambling).  We were very fortunate the weather held out and the good views were delivered too!  Thanks to such a fun, positive, and supportive group - Annie, Anita, Ben, Daryl, Gaby, Rena, and Shauna - for making it a successful scramble!