Peak(s):  Mears Pk  -  13,496 feet
"S 10"  -  13,020 feet
"S 9"  -  13,134 feet
"S 8"  -  13,252 feet
"S 7"  -  13,220 feet
Date Posted:  08/16/2020
Date Climbed:   08/15/2020
Author:  Bombay2Boulder
 S10-Mears Peak Traverse  

I don't typically write trip reports unless I can contribute with new beta. I am hoping this trip report helps people trying to do the S10-Mears Peak traverse starting and ending from the Deep Creek Trailhead.

I absolutely hate long uphill on the return journey unless there is no other alternative ( Looking at you R2R2R). The Deep Creek Trailhead avoids this if you want to use it as an approach point for the S10-Mears group, or even the S10-S7 group. One thing I will like to point out is both caltopo and garmin inreach are inconsistent for the initial part of the trail. The FSTopo layer on caltopo does not reflect how the trail is oriented now. The map builder topo has the initial part for deep creek trailhead correct but is missing the whipple trail connector. Garmin inreach maps are all over the place for the initial part, I will not follow either of these for the initial approach. If you use the GPX file along with the directions, this will help.

So I started the journey at the Deep Creek trailhead and followed it till I reached the junction with Whipple Trail. (It was dark so my picture didnt turn out good) Please note this sign will be on your left and very easy to miss in the dark. Follow the whipple trail to the next junction with iron mountain trail.

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Whipple trail junction with Iron Mtn trail. Follow whipple trail here.

Once you get to this junction, follow the trail on your left. Do NOT take the iron mountain trail, this will lead you to the base of Mears which I used for the return journey. Okay, so back on the whipple trail, you will reach a private property sign with a dead end.

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Don't worry, there is a sign that says Whipple trail on your right, just take that trail. The next junction you will reach another intersection that says Whipple trail / Deep Creek trail.

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Whipple/Deep Creek junction

Please note, caltopo/inreach maps do not have the trails or are inconsistent uptil this junction. Time to leave the whipple trail and follow the sign for Deep Creek Trail. This trail will lead you to the base of S10-S7 basin saddle. Please note, the inreach trail is accurate and spot on from this point. The Deep Creek trail is very overgrown in parts, but as long as you have inreach you can just navigate using the map.

As you keep goingon the trail, it seems there have been some crazy avalanches here from the 2019 record season. Very impressive to see the destruction and also a reminder of the force of nature.


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Nasty section on the right. Trail cuts on the left

I will like to point out that you need not go the nasty section seen in the picture. If your GPS has the trail, just follow the trail exactly and this will lead you to maybe 100 ft of bushwhacking , this avoids doing any crazy scrambling to get around and also avoids the suck of the branches. The branches I found on this 100ft stretch were fairly stable and provided no risk of snapping.

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Once past the 100ft of bushwhacking

There is also an upper avalanche section, but hardly any bushwhacking there. You can see the drainage on the center you need to access.

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Go up the grassy slopes here

Keep walking towards the drainage, Once you are on the first shelf it looks like this.


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Aim for the tree patch in the middle of the pic


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I took the grassy ramp on the center right. This avoided any scramble and was a pleasant slope.

Once you reach the upper parts, there is an excellent trail that goes to the top of S10. I just followed this.


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S10 Summit


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From S10 looking towards Hayden Peak

There is good beta on the trail from S10-S7, I will just skim through these parts.

Looking towards S9.

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Nest Peak- S9

On S9 looking , towards S8.

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S8

From S8, Mears and S7 in shot.

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Beautiful, Mears is the red bump seen on the left of the center

For S7, I stayed ridge proper and had no issues. Very easy walking for the most part with one class 3 move.

Summit of S7, looking at the traverse to Mears

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Mears traverse

Allrit, so a few things I will like to clarify about this traverse. Is it long? Yes, it took me around 2 hours to finish this one way. If you have even a little experience in the San Miguels you will totally be fine on this traverse. I will not do this if this is your first introduction to the San Miguel choss. For the initial part, stay on the ridge proper. Also I will like to point out that I pretty much stayed right of the ridge proper for the most part on the initial part. This works and you hardly get any exposure. This is not a consistent exposed traverse. If you feel you are getting a lot of exposure, you are missing an easier route. There were maybe 2 spots that had some exposure on the entire thing. This traverse looks daunting , but if you take one ridge bump at a time this will be a fairly enjoyable one. In fact, this was my favorite part of the day although I was pretty tired and almost out of water when I started this section. I will also recommend a helmet on this if you are with someone else.

I continued past the first bump, staying ridge proper.

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Ridge proper goes, difficult class2 at this point.

This looks way worse in the picture below than it actually is. The rock has been fairly stable on the ridge. Sure it's loose, but it isnt "cause a rock slide loose. "

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Remember one bump at a time. Strictly class 2 till this point

Here's where the actual fun begins. I did the mistake of traversing below this bump. In retrospect just going over and above would have kept me on stable rock. Sure it's an unnecessary up and down, but would you rather do this than the loose traverse? Pick your poison.

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Ooo spiciness begins

This is where I dropped. Should have just gone over. A side note, the rock on the lower bypass was a lil loose , but nothing too crazy.

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A lil loose

Looking back up where I dropped.

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Low traverse. Just pick the point of least resistance

Looking back towards S7, I stayed ridge proper for the downclimb of the bumps . This is the best way to go. Don't traverse the loose crap underneath it.

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Looking back towards S7

So here is where I did a mistake that added some time to the traverse. You will see a light colored rock bump in front of you. Just go over and above it. I tried to bypass it and ran into a lot of loose gullies. I eventually backtracked and just climbed it. The climbing is easy class 3. The climbing looks way more committing than it actually is. The downclimb from this bump has a class 4 ledge system that you can easily downclimb. This was the only class 4 on the entire route. ( Thanks supranihilest for this mention of this ledge in the conditions report)

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Go over the bump in the backside of this pic

The only exposed part I found on the actual traverse. Some pics of the exposure. This is only a 4 ft stretch, you will get past it even before it begins.

Getting closer to the bump

Catwalk to the light colored bump. This was fairly stable for how crumbly it looked. Still paid attention, anything can slide especially after a storm or early in the season.

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Catwalk
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On the exposed part on the catwalk

This part is prolly 2 ft wide

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Some of the exposure

This is the class 4 downlcimb ledge system past that bump. It looks easier than it actually is. This was a legit one.

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Class 4 downclimb pics.

From the bottom. the right side of the pic looks super appealing from the top as a downclimb but it doenst go and ends in an overhang with no good handholds. Instead just downclimb the ledge system shown in the left of this pic.

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Right side will go as a class 5

Once you are down this, you are on homestretch and this view greets you.

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Loose class 2 to the summit

There was a "trail" all the way to the summit of Mears from here. Also, keep special attention to the light colored gully in the middle part of the picture above while going up. That will be the descent route. This is the one that is in shade and between the two bumps. Just scout your return route from here. (More on that later)

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Onwards on the "trail"

Summit of Mears. What an amazing hard earned summit.

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Summit

Now for the descent route. A lot has been discussed about descending Mears and how dangerous it. I think the descent route I took avoids most of the issues. Sure the rock is loose, but it was nowhere, rock slide causing loose. Descending this way also removes the need to do the traverse again. If you enjoy scree skiing, you will enjoy the last 500 ft of this descent too. So back to the descent route. Notice the light colored gully in the pic below, this was from near the top of Mears, that's the gully I took.

A few points about the descent route- I will not do this descent in early summer or spring as the ledges will be flowing with water making them useless to descend. I will also not do it after a snowstorm as they will be covered in bulletproof ice.

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Light colored descent gully

Getting on top of the gully. Please check my GPX for the exact co-ordinates and the route. There were plenty of little shelves that arent visible because of the angle of this picture in this gully. Your aim should be to just go from one shelf to another.

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Looks way worse than it actually is

A little bit down the gully.

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No rocks dislodged yet

As you keep going down, you will encounter these solid rock beds too.

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Solid beds

As you go down 300 ft, your aim should be to find this solid ledge system. This is extremely slabby and very solid. The hiking never exceeds class 2, but this makes it so much more faster. Also notice the rock river like formation at the very bottom of the valley. Aim for that.

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Aim for the slabby ledges

Taking the slabby ledges down.

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This is an important part now. If you notice there is white colored stream like in the middle right part of the picture. This is a dry water bed and rock solid. Aim to get there, it will be the most solid and faster way down.

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Aim for the faint white colored dry stream

Following the ledge system to the faint colored dry creek

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Getting closer, no sketchy stuff

In the white colored dry stream bed

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It's cursing from this point.

Looking back at what I came down. It isn't as vertical and the rock is slabby and solid.

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Slab fest

This will take you the base of this rock river. Time for some scree skiing. Just sliding to the base of the valley. This section is loose, but for downhill was pure fun, I think I covered like 800ft of downhill in less than 10 mins here.

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Scree Skiing

Once you are back down to the valley, it will take you on the iron mtn trail. There is stream in the valley if you are out of water, you can refill here. To get back just follow the iron mtn trail to the junction of whipple trail and take the trail back to Deep Creek trailhead.

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Looking back while on Iron Mtn trail

Waterfall that Furthermore had in his trip report.

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Waterfall on the way

On the way back I forgot to turn back on the whipple trail and went to the private property junction. Had to turn back and take the proper trail. Overall this was an excellent loop. I had a lot of fun and saw no other person on this route. What a special place.



My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50


 Comments or Questions
Trotter

good report
08/16/2020 15:15
but missing one thing, what was distance and elevation gain?


Jay521


Good to see another one from you!
08/16/2020 15:34
I really enjoyed this report. And I have to admit my heart skipped a beat on pic 28...


Bombay2Boulder

Fun Day
08/16/2020 20:30
Trotter- My watch whacked the elevation gain, it clocked the mileage at 17.15 miles with 7k vert. The elevation gain doesn't seem right.
Jay- Thanks for the kind words. It's a beautiful area. Lots of mining ruins in the back trails there. The exposure section was really short, A couple of steps and you are past it.


supranihilest

Nice!
08/18/2020 19:42
We keep missing each other, you were ahead on Boskoff by a few hours and then we were ahead on this traverse by a few days! You found a better way through the avy debris than we did too.

Trotter, for comparison's sake, Whiley and I started at Whipple instead of Deep Creek and our day was 20.5 miles and around 9,000 vert. Deep Creek appears to be the better start!



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