| Borderline Cristo Epic
January 25, 2011
Trailheads: Start: Gibbs Creek Trailhead End: Somewhere off of Verdemont Road.
Total Mileage: ~15.9 Miles, Total Gain: ~6,400
I was originally planning this loop from the west side, Cotton Creek Trailhead, but the length and gain from the west seemed particularly brutal for a single day ascent. Especially in the winter. Al fortunately broke trail to the Lake of the Clouds for "Silver" Peak on his successful ascent last Friday and since the trail was already broken, I decided to capitalize on a broken trail to combine the peaks from the east side. It would still be a long day in the winter but manageable with a car shuttle.
My wife and I drove down the night prior and set up camp at the Gibbs Creek Trailhead. After setting up camp, we went to bed around 7 PM. When the alarm went off at 3:45 AM, it was cold and I was envious of my wife who was able to sleep in with her warm sleeping bag. I was hiking up the trail around 4:30 AM and followed the Rainbow Trail for ~.7 miles to the marked Swift Creek Trail (1351) junction. After, another ~.3 miles up the Swift Creek Trail, when, although not necessary, I put on the snowshoes.
The moon light lit up the sky as I worked my way up the Swift Creek Trail. Even though the trail had been broken just a few days prior, the new 2-4 inches of snow still made trail breaking a workout. It is amazing how much 2-4 inches of new snow makes things harder. As I continued my way up the trail, I connected with the Lake of the Clouds Trail (1349) and arrived at Lake of the Clouds just around sunrise. There is something rather peaceful about snowshoeing alone in the dark and in the middle of winter. About ˝ mile prior to the lakes, it became a full on snowshoe with no evidence of a trail.
Sunrise near Lake of the Clouds.
Spread Eagle Peak and one of the lakes.
Plodding my way up the trail, I meandered between the Lakes of Clouds and worked my way to a rocky bench on the east slopes of "Silver." The snow was the worst just prior to the rocky bench as the snow was thigh deep powdery sugar snow. The Shot Blocks helped and once I reached the rocky bench, I was able to take off my snowshoes where I got a second wind.
Alpinglow on "Silver"
Alpinglow on Marcy.
Working my way upward, I finally climbed into my first direct sunlight where it was nice to warm up as the approach was very cold in the dark. I continued upward on a rocky outcropping and reached the summit of "Silver" at 9:10 AM. There was hardly any wind and clear skies and as usual, the views were outstanding.
Sun rising over Spread Eagle Peak.
East slopes of "Silver."
Summit ridge to "Silver."
Point 13,490 from "Silver."
Mt Owen from Silver.
Zoomed Crestones from "Silver"
Crestones from "Silver"
After my short stay on the summit, I followed the north ridge of "Silver" down to the "Silver"- Marcy saddle. The descent off the ridge wasn't too bad but I stayed on the ridge proper as the east side of the ridge was snow covered that was heavily wind loaded. I'm sure it would make for an exciting ride if that decided to slide.
Snowy north ridge on "Silver."
Once at the saddle, it was an easy class 2 talus hike up the wide south ridge of Marcy. The sun started to disappear behind a high stratus layer and cold zephyr arrived. Things got cold.
As I neared the summit, the cold zephyr was staring to become a cold bluster. Almost a gale.
Mellow south ridge of Marcy.
Arriving at 10:05 AM on Marcy, my stay was short as the wind was stealing my heat. I continued promptly down the northeast ridge of Marcy. The descent was easy at first but things were a little more exciting descending off a false summit between Marcy and Point 13,335. Nothing difficult, it just made me go off of auto pilot and think a little more.
Crestones from Marcy. Notice the wind?
Gibbs from Marcy.
Interesting section between Marcy and Gibbs.
To avoid unnecessary elevation gain, I skirted 13,335 on the west side on some snow covered talus. After skirting 13,335, I continued north towards Point, 13,227. I took a long break on the east side of 13,227 as it was sheltered from the wind. I dropped my pack and continued up the west ridge of Gibbs. The last 100 feet of Gibbs had a fun blocky finish and I arrived on the summit at 11:40 AM. Whew. The ups and downs between Gibbs and Marcy started to wear me out. Fortunately, the wind had died down but the sun was still hiding under the high stratus layer.
West ridge finish on Gibbs.
The blocky finish on Gibbs.
Route from "Silver"to Gibbs.
"Silver" and Marcy from the summit of Gibbs.
Mt. Owen from Gibbs.
I returned to my pack, took another short break, and spoke to my wife on my radio about plans to pick me up. Access via Verdemont Road was skeptical due to private land. On my way to De Anza, I bypassed a small rocky tower on the west side and continued upward. The traverse to De Anza went easier, class 2, and I arrived on the summit of De Anza around 1:00 PM. Overall, I was feeling pretty good but that was about the change.
De Anza near the Gibbs-De Anza saddle.
The southwest ridge up De Anza.
Gibbs from the summit of De Anza.
Electric Peak from the summit of De Anza.
Looking to the west, I could see weather starting to roll in. My stay on the summit was short, and I started my way down the somewhat steep northeast ridge of De Anza. Around ~11,800, I cut directly north in an effort to join South Brush Creek trail and shortly thereafter, I was cliffed out. I wallowed around in waist deep snow until I could find a place to down-climb between the cliffs.
Now, the fun has just begun. After bypassing the cliffs, I was back into the trees and was snowshoeing north-northeast towards the trail only to be further disappointed by a large gully/canyon separating me from the north side of the valley from the south. It was not going to be easily bypassed without a lot of effort due to the deep snow.
Continuing downslope, I was throughly enjoying deep powder snow and lots of downfall. I was crawling over logs and branches and was getting tired fast. After observing the topo, I figured if I just continued downslope I would find a more level area to cross the creek.
Eventually, I found a weakness and found myself on the north side of South Brush creek but now I couldn't find the trail. As I worked my way east, I climbed high on the south facing slopes which had less snow. It almost made the snowshoeing tolerable but now I was putting lots of effort in side hilling. The side hilling certainly beat the deep snow and deadfall. After another mile or two, I got sucked back into the lower section of valley where I found the trail. From the looks of the trail, it appeared this trail doesn't get much use in the summer nevertheless the winter.
Deep powder, tree fallen, snowshoe bushwhack! How about a few miles for fun.
At ~10,000 the terrain leveled out and I was breaking trail through deeper snow which was only knee deep at this point but I was tired. I could feel the screaming barfees coming. Too bad my power gels are frozen and I am out of Shot Blocks. The trail finally made its turn back south but now I was encountered with uphill. I was spanked and the snow was deeper on the north slopes of this hill as I slowly worked my way up out of the South Brush Creek valley. The 200-300 foot gained to get out the valley about did me in. It was really a shame I couldn't share my misery with anyone.
I reached the top of the hill and finally was on the downhill slide where I went on autopilot slogging my way back towards the Rainbow Trail. More snow and more deadfall was encountered even on the trail. This really shouldn't be that energy consuming and my enjoyment of snowshoing was wearing off fast. At last, I reached the well packed Rainbow Trail.
As I worked my way south on the Rainbow Trail, I found an old road (marked on the topo) that intercepted the Rainbow Trail which would take me to Verdemont Road. I followed the road which ran into a "housing" development of seasonal houses and cabins. There was a short 100 yard dash back to the main road. Home free. I followed the road downhill for another mile before my wife was able to find me in the Labyrinth of roads where I was able to sit down in the warm car and finally take a nice break. I haven't been this worked after a climbing trip in a long time and it felt great.
Regarding access to the forest service via the Verdemont Road. I can't recommend it. There was a "trail" through someones yard to the road/public land. Based on the tracks in the snow, people do use this as a access point; however, there is plenty of angry "No Parking" signage at this porthole. There is no obvious "No Tresspassing" signage but it is evident they don't want armies of people hiking through their land.
Nevertheless, if I were to do any of these peaks again in the winter, I would do Gibbs and De Anza from Cotton Creek Trailhead (west side) and Marcy and Silver from the east. South Brush Creek SUCKS! Perhaps it might be better in the summer.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):