Deadwood Peak

Deadwood Peak lies only a few miles away from my home base for skiing, Kirkwood, and I’ve therefore considered a potential ski tour of this peak for a while. I scoped out the peak during a summit of Round Top this past June and when Kristine invited me to join her and Rob to climb its summit I was more than happy to join!

We agreed to meet at Upper Blue Lake campground at the early hour of six and I knew I was in the right place when I pulled in and saw Rob’s Sprinter. I was a few minutes early and surprised to see that neither Rob nor Kristine were up yet, so I took my time getting ready. Finally around 6:10 I saw movement and stepped into the freezing predawn morning to say hi. As it turns out, both had been awake and waiting for me, somehow not noticing my car pull in.

Twilight near Upper Blue Lake.

We set off in the dark with loose plans to climb Deadwood Peak and potentially some neighboring peaks as well. Kristine was on a mission to climb all of the peaks in the Tahoe area which have a prominence of at least 300 feet (commonly called a P300 peak) and had her sights set on Peak 9205 south of Meadow Lake. I had no particular interest in this peak so I’d play the day by ear. After my experience with Kristine and Rob on the Sierra Challenge, I knew they would be fine with splitting up later in the day.

Granite Lake.

We followed the trail for 3 miles before Kristine finally decided she’d had enough of it and veered straight up the fall line. I enjoy cross country hiking as much as anyone, but it seemed to me that this was a bit premature. If we followed the trail another two miles it would bring us within half a mile of the summit. Seeing as we weren’t running though, it wouldn’t make too much of a difference if we stayed on the trail or not and I enjoyed the company, so I followed Kristine and Rob into a sandy and heavily eroded canyon southeast of the summit ridge.

Crossing an eroded canyon towards the ridge.

The hiking was sometimes sandy and steep but overall quite easy travel and fun. As we came to the ridge we had a stunning view of Mokelumne Peak to the southwest which Rob wanted to climb the following day. North of Moke on a nearer ridgeline Rob pointed out a double peak which resembled an otter floating on its back.

Mokelumne Peak and The Otter.

To the north we started to spy neighboring peaks and I stopped with Rob to identify them, as he wasn’t very familiar with the peaks in this area and I love nothing more than naming high points on the horizon. Kristine quickly pulled ahead of us.

First view of Summit City Canyon. Kristine climbs Deadwood ridge, left (tiny). The Sisters, Round Top, and the Freel Group.

Rob and I continued west along Deadwood peak’s undulating ridge with Kristine maintaining her lead. We eventually met Kristine on the summit and noted a prominent spur jutting north from the ridge towards Round Top. We continued further west to another highpoint on the ridge where Kristine expected the summit register and indeed found it there.

The prominent north spur of Deadwood Peak, right; The Sisters and Round Top, center; Jacks and Dicks Peaks, far left; Freel Group, far right.

It was still very cold and the wind gusted near 20 mph at this highpoint so we quickly signed the register and I took a moment to ogle the Sierra Crest, extending far to our south. I thought I identified Tower Peak which I’d climbed only a few days before, although I wasn’t certain until double checking on a map later.

Tower Peak, center.

We barely discussed the option before agreeing that we all wanted to hike out to the spur to have a better look at Round Top and the surrounding area. The climb down was steep and a bit slippery but we sound found ourselves scrambling up easy class 3 granite to the northernmost highpoint.

Round Top.

The view of Round Top, as well as Fourth of July Basin, was excellent! The view south along the spur was also spectacular, revealing and imposing granite wall. I’m very interested to see how (and if) the snow settles on this face!

The east face of Deadwood’s north spur.

Sadly, I believe this is the cliff from which Brad Dozier would fall to his death 11 days later. It is incredibly beautiful and I can understand what might have drawn him to this face. His death was deeply moving and I feel for his family’s loss.

We returned to the ridge much the way we came and decided to climb The Otter before continuing on to Peak 9205. Rob immediately started jogging down the gentle partially vegetated scree slope. Kristine was not far behind him and her heavy reliance on her hiking poles made it seem as if she were walking on four legs.

Kristine and Rob taking off for The Otter, right.

The jog downhill went quickly and soon we arrived at some slabby granite which composed The Otter.

Rob mid stride below The Otter.

We each found our own way to The Otter’s head, Rob and Kristine opting to stay high along the ridge while I contoured along its eastern flank before climbing up a chimney to its summit. I was a little surprised to see that Kristine and Rob had beaten me and we all took a moment to enjoy our perch.

Raymond and Reynolds Peak, middle ridge; Silver and Highland Peaks, far ridge.

To the east we had a stunning view of Raymond and Reynolds Peaks, and beyond them, Silver and Highland Peaks. I pointed them out to Rob and mentioned my recent failure to climb them. He said that he’d climbed them in the past but was keen to give them another try sometime. If the snow held off long enough this winter maybe we’d have time in the coming weeks. Kristine on the other hand had her mind set on climbing the “thumb” rising between Raymond and Reynolds Peaks.

Granite slabs below The Otter, Thimble Peak far left.

Peak 9205 lay 5 miles southeast of us and I was feeling good and needed to travel more or less in that direction to return to the trailhead so I decided to join Kristine and Rob. The hike lead us through quite a spectacular variety of terrain, including granite of all shapes, sizes and angles, and meadows, both lush and dry.

Kristine descends toward Peak 9205, center.

We stopped briefly in a lower meadow whose creek still ran to filter some water before continuing along the creek toward Meadow Lake. I was impressed by some of the ice that still coated the creek in the late afternoon.

Icy creek above Meadow Lake.

We picked up a use trail as we approached Meadow Lake and were appalled by the trash we found along the trail. It seemed like someone had completely abandoned a camp, leaving their mangled tent and copious trash not far above the reservoir. None of us were eager to carry out so much trash, so we brought it over to the shack near the dam and hoped that PG&E might be able to haul it out in the near future.

An ancient boiler below Meadow Lake Dam.

Near the dam we found numerous artifacts from the area’s mining past, including rusted iron components of an old steam engine. Of course, this was just more trash left behind by lazy humans but I somehow found this more palatable.

Kristine and Rob eye Mokelumne Peak.

We contoured southeast from the dam before heading straight up the steep slope toward the summit. I was traveling more slowly than the other two and ended up taking my own route. I opted to head toward the right of the peak, being intimidated by the steep granite face above. After some class 3 scrambling I was soon on the summit and once again found that Kristine and Rob had beaten me. Their more direct route turned out to also be class 3.

Deadwood Peak and Round Top above Meadow Lake.

We were surprised to find a summit register and see that someone had named the peak “Macy Cat Peak” after their cat. As far as I can tell this peak remains officially unnamed but it seemed like as good a name as any to me.

Kristine had heard from Bob that there was good climbing to be had along this peak’s northeast ridge, so we descended in that direction (an eastern descent would probably be quite easy). Unfortunately, we did not find any especially interesting climbing, but it was a beautiful day and we had a great time. Halfway down, we noticed a helicopter flying laps between Meadow Lake dam and a helipad at Lower Blue Lake, probably ferrying supplies in or out.

We met with a forest service road above Meadow Lake and followed it for a while before taking a short cross country hike to join up with the trail on which we’d started.

Deadwood Peak (and spur) and Round Top above Upper Blue Lake.

Back at the lake we pulled out our camp chairs and a few beers and enjoyed the sunny view of Upper Blue Lake before heading home.

GPS Data

Elevation Gain: 5,000 ft

Total distance: 17.14 mi

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