Lost Creek Wilderness
18 miles RT, 5200’ gain
From Twin Eagles TH (8560’)
October 14, 2012
Participants: Sarah Strattan and Kevin Baker
Every shoulder season, I make it a point to hit some remote peaks in the Lost Creek Wilderness. The journey through the list of 37 ranked summits has been a ton of fun. Not many duds in this list at all as these peaks hold a ton of intrigue and the views never disappoint! Three years ago I was in the McCurdy Park area hoping to sweep the 3 11ers nearby plus McCurdy Tower, but we ran out of time. I had to “orphan” Unnamed 11328 to the southwest, leaving a huge hike to include it with 11180. 11180 is one of the most remote peaks in the the LCW and it indeed is well worth the 8.5 miles or so to get back there!
I sent out a few invites and Sarah was up for some fun, which would be her maiden voyage in the LCW. She has just got back from a work related trip to Ecuador and she climbed 4 volcanoes at the end of the trip. This little LCW romp will be a cake walk compared to that! We set out from the Twin Eagles TH at 6:15am on a crisp, fall morning. The long 6 mile approach to McCurdy Park went fairly quickly despite the endless switchbacks and we were soon enjoying a nice break with some pretty sweet views.
We knew the rest of the day would not be near as easy, because you’re usually in for a beatdown in the LCW when you bushwhack. The first obstacle is to skirt the huge swamp in McCurdy Park on the west side. It is tempting to cut straight across, but even late in the year it is quite wet. We then went over 3 small saddles on the east slopes of McCurdy, which was a nice little handrail to stay on course to 11180. There were towers on each of these saddles, which made the navigating easier.
We finally got a view of 11180 as we descended from the final saddle and headed up to its west ridge.
11180 finally in view and it's a beauty!
The beautiful approach to the west ridge
We were surrounded by walls of rock and blue skies with just an inch of snow on north facing slopes. The weakness on 11180 is a narrow 3rd class gully on the north face. We wrapped around and traversed some low angle slabs to reach what we thought was the crux, but it turned out we didn’t go far enough east.
Looking for the weakness on the north side.
The gully we climbed had a couple moves of 4th class near the bottom before relenting.
Sarah at the crux in the wrong gully
Me at the same spot looking down
Downclimbing that would have been a bit awkward, so we thought perhaps we didn’t climb the correct gully. The summit area is sort of a plateau of rock with tons of little towers above the south face. If you look closely, you can see what looks like 3 faces in the rock!
See the faces?
The crux is a short 4th class move to get on the summit block with a little gap underneath. We topped out around 11:45 and soaked in the views on a gorgeous day. There were only 29 entries in the register and I knew everybody!
The vast summit area
The short 4th class crux to the summit
We weren’t looking forward to the next part of the hike, which is a long 3 mile bushwhack to 11328.
Looking back at the long slog over 3 saddles to McCurdy Park
We were able to find the correct gully descending finding some webbing in this 3rd class gully.
Looking up the correct gully
We reversed tracks back over the saddles and traversed around McCurdy Park’s swamp on the east side this time, passing underneath magnificent McCurdy Tower. I did my first multi pitch climb on that face and it was a blast. The true summit requires a shoulder boost unless you’re a really creative climber!
We went over the saddle s.w. of McCurdy Tower, and headed east for 11328. I didn’t read up on this one at all and didn’t realize it was 4th class!
We scrambled up some big blocks to the south side of the summit block end decided to climb a little tunnel to access the final summit moves. We had to take out packs off because it was so tight!
The pack had to come off
Sarah climbing up the tunnel
11328 is sort of a mini Sunlight with a 4th class slab climb being the crux. We ended up doing a harder line on the east side of the summit block that was very unique. It was quite exposed for an 11er! For the downclimb, we dropped onto a chockstone between the two big blocks.
The summit block
Downclimb from the summit
Dropping down to the chockstone
We topped out at 4:15 and knew we would be hiking out in the dark. The descent was uneventful until just after dark when we turned on our headlamps. We noticed a tent on the hike in about 2 miles from the trailhead and it was still there when we returned. The trail is probably only 100 feet away, so we passed by quietly as we turned on our headlamps so they knew there were people walking by. They were laughing and carrying on, perhaps drunk. All the sudden one of them yells at us and the last words were, “and we have a loaded gun!” I told Sarah to pick up the pace and one of them started following us from a distance! It was quite the Deliverance moment and I had banjos playing in my head. We got back to the trailhead around 8pm, a nearly 14 hour day in the LCW. I must say those are two very cool 11ers with a lot of bang for the buck.