September 5, 2023.
Photo album (all 5 days)
On the Tuesday morning after Labor Day, I hoisted up a backpack with five days worth of supplies and waved goodbye to Aaron. “See you on the other side!” I said, as I walked towards the wilderness permit box at the Summit Point Trailhead. I planned a traverse from the southern end of the range to the northern end, passing over several mountain peaks, climbing a few mountains and making a few side quests along the way. The forecast looked as good as it gets, so I set off.
I began hiking on the familiar Cliff Creek trail, which I used to access Cornucopia Peak three weeks ago. Although not much time had passed since my last visit, I noticed several changes. Most of the wildflowers had gone to seed. Some of the vegetation already showed off their bright fall foliage. So many mushrooms appeared. As I traversed under Nip Peak Pass I entered brand new terrain. The soft gray clouds and gusty winds gave the air a sense of mystery. I ate some snacks and followed the trail down to Crater Lake, where I set up my first camp of the trip. Miraculously, no one was there.
Above the lake, a little hillside offered up some nice camp spots with adequate hammock trees. I picked my favorite and took a rest. There was one more thing on my agenda: Krag Peak.
I built quite a bit of flexibility into my plan, since there were SO many options along this pathway and endless mountains to climb. But I wanted to kick it off with a scramble, so I outfitted a small daypack and began the charge up Krag Peak. I had a few route descriptions from my favorite websites as well as from my friend Rick, who had just climbed it.
From the lake, I walked to the right of the imposing white cliffs and up through the trees. The ground tilted sharply upward, so I shortened my poles and slowly plodded in the direction of the summit. Avoiding the big rocks and talus piles, I made my way to a large basin with some pools of meltwater left behind in a small meadow. I gained the ridge to the left of the basin and followed it until it looked annoying. Then, I dropped below the ridge crest and boulder-hopped below it (also annoying, but differently annoying).
The last stretch up to the peak was the worst. Since it was labeled Class 2, I wasn’t really expecting anything difficult. But the mountain top was crumbly and very steep. I carefully picked my way up the loose rock, testing everything and grabbing onto anything solid. Near the summit, I looked up and found myself right on the edge of a huge cliff face. Once I realized how the backside of the mountain dropped away, I found a better line and angled towards the small, but beautiful summit. There was no marker, cairn or register, but it would do.
Looking at the high peaks spread out in every direction from me, I was really glad to be there. I’d hoped a big traverse would come together and here I was doing the thing. Snapping out of my joy, I had to remind myself that I still had to get off of this choss pile. I took a different route down, skipping the ridge altogether and finding the least sketchy way straight down to that wet meadow. I don’t know if it saved me any time but it saved me a lot of stress. As I entered the forest, the lay of the land pulled me slightly away from my destination, so I used my GPS app to course correct. Once at the shores of Crater Lake, I took the long way around to my camp.
There were still no other campers at the lake. When I got to my hammock, changed into Crocs, pulled down my food bag and laid out a spread of charcuterie with all my heavy foods for the first night! I may be slow, my pack may be enormous, but I eat damn well on the trail.