Sierra Challenge 1: Crown Point, Cirque

Crown Point and Peeler Lake from Cirque

Crown Point and Peeler Lake from Cirque

Another year, another Challenge, another list of even more obscure peaks, this time mostly 13ers. Fortunately for Yours “out of shape and not acclimated” Truly, the first day was relatively easy and stayed below 12,000 feet. I ran into Bob and Darija at Bridgeport’s source of WiFi and air conditioning — the public library — where we caught up, then found a place off the road to Twin Lakes to sleep. A sizable crowd formed in the day-use parking the next morning, including a surprising number of new faces.

Crown Point and Cirque Peak stand opposite each other across Peeler Lake, a new area for me. The well-maintained trail climbs gradually past the turnoff to the Incredible Hulk, then past Barney Lake, sometimes via annoying flat switchbacks. The group proceeded at a chatty pace until a junction, where some continued on to Peeler and others turned south to take a more direct line up the peak. I headed cross-country more or less straight for a loose-looking chute just east of the summit pinnacle, while Bob headed further south along the trail to reach the foot of the long east ridge. As it turns out, both routes were bad, though mine was perhaps slightly less so.

After making my way though some gentle boulders and forest, I reached the base of a series of moraines. Most of the talus and dirt was manageable, if less than ideal. Nearing the base of the chute, I saw that there was actually the icy remnant of an old glacier under the dirt and sand. As expected in such places, the dirt became increasingly fine and loose, making climbing the chute somewhere between agonizing and impossible. Instead, I 4th-classed my way up the left-hand wall, then picked though bad but manageable dirt and rocks to a point on the east ridge. Though it was somewhat slow going along the ridge, the change to solid rock was a relief. A fairly direct line up the east side of the summit pinnacle on sometimes-rotten rock turned out to be 3rd class.

Only a few minutes after I reached the summit, I was joined by Pat and Jonathan, who had taken the slightly longer Peeler Lake route, and found it to be easy and well-traveled. Eric joined us a few minutes later, having ditched Bob and seemingly run up parts of the ridge. We hung out on the summit until a good-sized group had formed, then retreated down the west side.

While Pat and Jonathan took the scenic route around south, Eric and I headed over to Cirque Peak for bonus points. Talking to him on the descent, I learned that he had climbed an impressive roster of peaks and developed some serious skills in his scant 17 years. Leaving the trail west of its south ridge, we made our way up rock fins to the ridge, then stable class 2-3 boulders to the summit. The teenage part of “we” soon scampered ahead, but was polite enough to wait for the middle-aged part to make its pathetic way to the summit. After a bit of time in a giant boulder maze, we found a good fast sand descent to the trail, which we mostly jogged back to Twin Lakes for a quick 7h45 day.

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