After an unsuccessful but instructive attempt on QuartzMountain in December, dicey and I were ready to head back, this time armed with ErinB and more first hand route knowledge.
We were both drawn to the route described in Carl Dreisbach's Middle Fork Guide, mainly because it goes up a long, interesting looking gully, This is visible through the trees from the Middle Fork Road. Here's a photo from the route:
We'd gotten partway up the gully on our last attempt but had to bail due to short days and a rather inadvertent yet extensive exploration prior to reaching the gully.
This time, we made much better time on this most efficient route. The route description in the book references a no longer drivable road and does not mention the CCC Trail, which is the best approach. The trick is knowing where to turn off the trail (at least it's tricky without a GPS) - there are a number of wrong rocky streambeds you could follow up, but if you turn off too soon, you will end up going up the wrong drainage.
Shortly after reaching this rock referenced in the route description, forest gives way to tall, thick brush mixed in with sharp spiky unpleasantness.
We managed to avoid the majority of it by scrambling in the stream gully.
Once higher, the terrain opens up a bit and you can walk beside the gully or in it. It's rocky either way but the going is easy. Because of the southern exposure and lots of large boulders, it was suddenly very hot. I decided to take off my pantlegs and my gaiters, which were making my lower legs boil. The gully grows more impressive as you ascend, tall slabby cliffs on one side and slightly less imposing slabby cliffs on the other. The snowpack is pathetic and we didn't really hit consistent snow until about 3300'. In the meantime, we scrambled up the gully which was choked with boulders of increasing sizes.
Finally it was time to kick steps in earnest when we got above the biggest boulder of them all.
This gully reminded me a bit of a canyon - slight bends always revealing more terrain above.
The snow in the gully varied in consistency from icy where it had been scoured by avy debris, to the avy debris balls themselves, to softer new unconsolidated snow. Footing was rather inconsistent and one step I'd be kicking in several times only to fall crotch deep into a hidden moat the next.
This is when I began to question the wisdom of removing my gaiters. Fortunately, the snowpack was so pathetic (only a couple of feet in places) that the likelihood of punching through a truly abysslike hole was very low.
I accidentally kicked steps all the way to Yin Yang Pass, mostly because I continually thought I was closer than I was and I just wanted to finish it!
After what seemed like forever but actually wasn't very long, we made it to the pass, where after a break we dropped just enough to skirt below some cliffs and began a rising traverse to the right.
We kept traversing below more cliffs, looking for a good way up. It's not obvious from below exactly where the high point is, so we ended up going up a little too soon. This resulted in some entertaining steep snow traversing to where we could regain the ridge at a more walkable location.
The last bit to the summit was narrow and interesting.
The summit offers some nice views toward the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
As comfy lounging options were limited, we didn't linger too long. We also had a couple of other places to go. I should mention that the "summit" as I refer to it is pt. 4641, which is not where the QuartzMountain label is on the USGS topo map, though this is by far the more interesting summit. However, from here, it looks like the other point is higher, so off we went back to the pass to check it out.
We easily reached this other QuartzMountain directly up the ridge from Yin Yang Pass, where we couldn't decide whether it was higher or lower, but it had a cool view toward where we'd just been (note tracks in photo):
And it had its own little summit boulder to surmount.
We decided we weren't quite finished and went on to pt. 4487, nicknamed by gabrielx (I think) Bessequartz because of its location. This spot would have really in your face views of Bessemer Mountain if it weren't for the trees partially blocking the views. We did enjoy watching some eagles from here as well.
Preacher Mountain was posing across the valley for our viewing pleasure, as were some other views.
After basking in the warm sun for a while, we headed back down, then up and over Quartz #2, then back down to the pass and down the gully. The gully was a bit of a trial as the soft snow on top of a very icy layer made for slick footing, not to mention the occasional punching through weak spots in the thin snowpack and falling on one's face in the snow.
We made it back to the trail from the pass in about two hours of not very quick descent - this is certainly an efficient route. Approximately another mile of flat, masterfully built trail brought us back to the cars, where some mosquitoes awaited.
This is an amazingly alpine-y trip for a peak that's under 5000'! I love the Middle Fork!
Matt - the bare legs resulted from a fit of insanity brought on by warm sun amidst warm rocks. Somehow, the insanity continued and I never put the pantlegs back on despite multiple reasons to do so. Consequently, my knees are now scrached up and red from thorny annoyances. Oh well, at least there was no devil's club!
Type E - I can't really compare since I have no knowledge of the Quartz Creek approach, but this route is very direct, aesthetic, and pretty quick. I'm not sure how pleasant or unpleasant the gully is when completely melted out later in the season - the lower melted out sections were fairly simple, unexposed scrambling with a couple of steps mixed in for good measure. Hope that helps!
Edited to add: here's a quote from the midfork.org website, a great resource, but sadly now defunct and only accessible via the wayback machine. :
"It's possible to do this climb from the north side, via the Quartz Creek road, but even if you hit it optimally it's a pretty brushy mountainside. If you take the wrong line you are going to thrash a lot of brush. So Carl's gully route is probably best, although a little more demanding from the scrambling point of view. "
Erin - nice pictures. I feel so... pink.
-------------- PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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