Ferns Nipple 7065
Pectols Pyramid 6940
George Benchmark 7289 (Park Highpoint)
April 03, 2013
~14.5 Miles, ~5,400 Gain (would be longer without a hitchhike or car shuttle)
Starting TH: Upper Grand Wash trailhead
Ending TH: Golden Throne trailhead
Ferns Nipple (taken 2 days prior)
After 3 days of spectacular canyoneering in Capitol Reef, Tony had to return to Durango for work. Pandora's Box and Cassidy Arch Canyon were exceptional while Wife 1,2,3 were decent with Wife 3 being the best. I still have 4 Wives left to descend. There were some “inspiring” anchors in the wives. Perhaps when I have time, I will write reports on them. Assuming people fancy the canyoneering reports?
I still had plenty of time off after Tony left so I decided to try a few peaks while I was in the area. Beta was limited but I was up for an adventure. From the limited beta I had, I knew that I had to start at the upper Grand Wash trailhead and work my way via a ledge system into Bear Canyon. Beyond that, I had no idea where to venture. I started hiking at 8:15 AM.
Starting down the Grand Wash trail, I looked for a weakness in the cliff band east of the dryfall from Bear Canyon. I found something that looked like it would work and when I started up, I fortunately found a really well carined trail.
Sunlight from Bear Canyon.
The cairned trail took a very sinuous route to the base of Ferns Nipple. Basically, it cut through Bear Canyon and followed the rim of the canyon northwest of Ferns Nipple. Climbing up to the base of Ferns Nipple was sobering as the peak rose impressively above the desert bench on which the peak sits.
Cassidy Arch on my way to Ferns Nipple.
Good first view of Ferns Nipple.
Rising from the desert bench.
Navajo sandstone isn't the most inspiring rock. I scrambled up the north face of Ferns Nipple heading to the western side of the peak and then back to north ridge. The class 4 crux was on the north ridge just below the summit. Slowly, I made the exposed moves and arrived on the summit at 9:50 AM. Some of the best views and summits I have been on. Navajo domes to the north looked amazing as they engulfed the skyline.
Look up the class 3 north slopes of Ferns Nipple.
Looking up the class 4 crux on Ferns Nipple.
Profile view of the class 4 section.
Looking down the exposed class 4 crux on Ferns Nipple.
True summit of Ferns Nipple is near.
Looking south from the summit of Ferns Nipple at George BM.
Navajo Domes. Way cool.
Looking through the register, I found dates going to back the early 1980s. From the summit of Ferns Nipple, I tried to scout a path up Pectols Pyramid but a possible route looked bleak. Large cliffs blocked easy access. Certainly a 5th class peak?
Carefully down-climbing on the soft sandstone, I returned back to the base of Ferns Nipple and started heading south towards Pectols Pyramid. As I hiked towards Pectols Pyramid, I found a gully that appeared to have some possibilities but the gully was out of the way. I had all day so I continued towards the gully. Canyons blocked easy travel between peaks and I failed several times finding routes that could bypass these canyons without actually being stuck in these gorges.
My gully to gain Pectols Pyramid.
Neat rock on my to the gully.
Looking across the valley from the gully.
The gully I found that led me to the summit was northwest of the summit. After the gully, my route then traversed to the east side of the peak. To my astonishment, the hardest climbing was kept at class 2. I arrived on the summit of Pectols Pyramid at 11:15 AM. Two mesas marked the summit and were close in height, so I climbed them both.
East side of Pectols Pyramid.
Ferns Nipple from the summit of Pectols Pyramid.
Neat terrain between Pectols Pyramid and 7100.
Zoom of 7100.
Too bad that cliff is Navajo sandstone. Cliffs block easy access from Pectols Pyramid to 7100.
In the distance to the south, I could see my next objective, Point 7100. A direct path from Pectols Pyramid to 7100 was out of the question as 500-1000 foot cliffs were between the peaks. I had no choice but to return back north. On my descent, I looked for a shortcut but was stopped by a short 20-30 foot down-climb on some exposed slickrock. Taking the risk of down-climbing this section wasn't worth the trouble.
Navajo sandstone walls.
Once I descended my gully off of Pectols Pyramid, I headed southwest to the Ferns Nipple/7100 saddle. Again, gorges prevented easy travel and I found myself encountering some interesting 4th class climbs and down-climbs. Finally, I reached easier terrain and headed south towards 7100.
When I was directly west of 7100, I headed up a slickrock ramp and hiked the north ridge up 7100 where I arrived at 12:50 PM. Views of George Benchmark were outstanding but I could tell this wasn't going to be an easy traverse to George Benchmark.
George BM from 7100.
Looking at 7100.
I felt my best bet was to head way west of the peaks and look for easier terrain and then return back east. That seemed to work well and my obstacle excitement was kept to a minimum. Deep canyons prevent easy access between the peaks.
On the northwest side of George BM, I headed up a short class 4 section to gain the north slopes. The class 4 section was solid and the exposure was fairly limited. Ferns Nipple was certainly more exciting. Once on the north slopes, the summit was gained on class 2 terrain. I arrived on the highpoint of Capitol Reef National Park at 1:45 PM. Wild views expanded in all directions. Plenty of class 5 peaks that need to be explored.
Summit of George BM.
I returned back down the north slopes of George BM and then traversed on the west side of the peak heading towards the Golden Throne trail. Sporadically, I found footsteps that led nowhere. View of the Golden Throne were impressive as I traversed around George BM. Thinking I would save time, I descended into the canyon west of Golden Throne and headed down canyon.
Golden Throne from my descent.
Great views on my descent.
Something was wrong when I was hiking in the wash. No footsteps were seen as I hiked in the pristine sand south bound. When I glanced at my GPS, I knew I was hosed when I was .2 miles from the road and still needed to lose 300 feet. Sure enough, I could see the road and a 200-300 foot dropoff. So close but so far away.
So close to the road but 300 feet too high.
Heading up class 4 cliffbands, I climbed northeast hoping to find the Golden Throne trail. The lack of human traffic had me a bit concerned. I knew descending to the west wasn't an option due to large cliffs of the waterfold. More class 4 climbing commenced.
Arriving on a bench, I found footsteps in the soil. Relieved, I headed northeast and intercepted the Golden Throne trail. What a labyrinth of awesome terrain but I was glad I was heading towards a civilized area as I was running low on water.
My original plan was to change into running shoes and make the long run back to the Grand Wash trailhead but with my limited water supply I decided to try to hitch a ride. I changed into my running shoes at the Golden Throne trailhead and started running the road towards the Grand Wash trailhead at 4:20 PM. To my astonishment, the first car that went by that I thumbed stopped. Wahoo! Peter, a German on vacation, graciously gave me a ride back towards the Grand Wash.
Thanking him when he dropped me off, I ended up running the last mile back to my car. Peter saved me a good 5-6 miles of running. I returned to my car at 5:00 PM. That was one of the finer days of peak bagging on low peaks I have had in a long time. Unforgiving terrain kept it exciting.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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