Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Black Peak/South Ridge

Fantastic climb with a great all-women team. Route in perfect condition!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • There was no snow left on any part of the route. We did not need and did not bring crampons, microspikes or ice axes. Helmets are absolutely necessary, of course.

    There is no water between trailhead and Lewis Lake; plenty at Lewis and Wing Lakes; none above Wing Lake (except for snow melt in nearby patches).

    The trail is very smooth and gentle to Heather Pass, and easy to follow through the boulder field to Lewis Lake. Stay low and you will be able to walk mostly on dirt, with a moderate amount of boulder field crossings. From Lewis Lake to Wing Lake there is an easy to follow trail.

    Above Wing Lake, stay climber’s left on mostly obvious trail and cross valley on top of the “whale back.” Then stay climber’s right and follow path on the moraine, then dirt and loose rock paths to the col at 8000ft. It’s not as bad as it looks! We found the most stable paths towards the right-most col. Stay completely to the right of this portion of snow:


    The rock becomes much more solid on the ridge, and the last 1000ft scramble to the summit is very enjoyable. Several possibilities are marked by cairns; if you get into anything high 3rd class before the summit block, you’ve gone the wrong way.


    We set up a short handline on the summit block to assist with ascending and descending. See trip report for details on gear used.

Our team of four met at Rainy Pass trailhead on Sunday morning a little after 10am. The parking area was crowded, but we were able to find spots. After some last-minute lightening of packs and gear checking, we were on the trail by 11am. The lakes were stunning as always: 


It was a very hot day, so we walked slowly, took breaks in the shade and made sure to drink plenty of water. It took about 4 hours, including breaks, to get to camp. We had floated the possibility of climbing the peak that same day, but seeing how hot it was and how hot we were when arriving at Wing Lake, we decided to take it easy and enjoy an afternoon resting and swimming. Pro tip: if there is any ice still floating on an alpine lake, the water will be very cold! This did not stop us, however, and we encouraged each other to take repeated dips. A first sign of the good teamwork that would follow:


Weather reports were a bit confusing, and we were concerned about rain in the morning, but we lucked out: it rained a little during the night, but the ground had been so dry that the trails and the route were still dry in the morning.


We left camp at 6:30am. The worst part of this climb is probably climbing the scree field to get to the col at 8000ft, but our team was experienced and confident. We made short work of this portion, arriving at the col in less than an hour. After a short break, we continued on the much more enjoyable scramble on the ridge, and arrived at the summit block before 9am.


We decided to set up a short handline to protect the first few moves on the summit block: they are not very difficult, but a fall would be catastrophic. I climbed first (unprotected), then looked for a suitable boulder to sling, and fixed our glacier rope using a clove backed up by a figure-8. It was quick and easy to do, and I believe it saved us time, as the climbers were able to ascend and descend the exposed portion much more confidently and smoothly. I hadn’t been sure what gear to bring, so I guess I carried a bunch of cams for… training weight? In the future, if we knew the rock was dry, I would only bring: two slings, two carabiners. If the rock is not dry, I don’t think this would be a fun scramble at all!


Overall the entire ascent from camp took about 2.5 hours. The descent was uneventful and quick. Even the steep scree field didn’t feel too bad: we stayed close together, and worked together to find the best paths, arriving back at camp in 1h45min. You can do this trip in one day, but you'd be missing out on some of the best parts:


A hot but uneventful hike out ended this most excellent trip. Many thanks to Mija for mentoring me, and to the entire group for their good attitudes and fantastic teamwork. Photo credits: the team.