Ascent of Camiaca Peak on 2020-07-01

Climber: Christopher Wessels

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Camiaca Peak
    Elevation:11739 ft / 3578 m

Ascent Trip Report

Despite it not being the longest in terms of mileage or time, this was undoubtedly one of the hardest and most physically demanding day hikes I've completed. I think it was harder than my day hike of Russell, Whitney, and Aiguille Junior; probably even more strenuous than my day hike of Mt. Williamson. What sets this day apart as uniquely brutal was the extra 1100' of gain after the last summit and within the final 4-mile stretch. This is true despite the fact that these last 4 miles were all trail. When the better part of your return from a summit (or summits) consists primarily of vertical loss, you know you'll make it back no matter how exhausted you are, because you have gravity working for you--almost forcing you to your goal. Think of the Whitney Trail or the descent from Shepherd Pass. But if you are hiking up a significant amount of vertical to finish, after you've already done 8000', you feel less certain about the eventuality of your return. You cannot passively coast your way against gravity; your body has to work for it. And if your body is shutting down, as mine seemed to be, then you might reach a point where you cannot hike any higher. And if this happens when you are on the wrong side of a pass, as I was, then how will you get back? But somehow I did manage to force my way to the top of the (unnamed?) saddle at the western edge of Virginia Lakes, and I knew that I was saved.

Total metrics for the single trip:
-10 summits
-9090' vertical gain
-16.8 miles (12.5 cross-country, class 1 - 3 / 4.5 trail)
-16.5 hrs

4:45 am start at Virginia Lakes Trailhead. Worked my way around the southern shore of Little Valley Lake, through many trees and shrubs, to the north-facing gully that separates Mt. Olsen from South Peak. Found a slight use trail that headed a short way up the slope from the lake, then quickly disappeared beneath the sand and talus.

5:55 am summit of Mt. Olsen. Many small trees made it difficult to find a clean and direct route to the top--like the area surrounding Cockscomb and many other 11,000' peaks in the Sierra.

7:11 am "" South Peak. Simple traverse along the ridge through small trees and shrubs to the saddle, then somewhat boring, open talus slog to the top (Min 25°, Avg 33°, Max 45°).

8:09 am "" Black Mountain. The name of this peak attracted me, and it did seem a more worthy summit than the previous two in terms of appearance, prominence and variety of terrain. The west ridge on the other side of the peak, leading towards the peaks above Burro Lake (which I could not see) was more intimidating than I had anticipated based on the topo: jagged, loose, dropping off precipitously on both sides. There were many gaps in the ridge that were occluded by large protrusions of unfriendly-looking rock, and not being able to see much of the ridge within/between these gaps made me feel anxious. Once I got going I felt better (typical of ridges). The climbing never got harder than class 3 and none of the gaps became impasses. The north side of the ridge was steeper and more exposed but the south side had scree descending into blind reliefs, which is actually scarier to me because there's nothing to grab in the event of a slip. The nature of the scramble, the color and (loose) quality of the rock, the type of exposure--all reminded me of the North Ridge of Rosy Finch, albeit shorter and easier overall. I had to move very slowly because the crest seemed fairly unstable, but it was manageable.

My idea was to traverse the entire ridge from Black to Peak 11420 to Peak 11524, then exit on the large plateau leading to Excelsior. This would make for a very elegant and efficient transfer from Mount Olsen to Excelsior. But once I reached the notch above the remarkably tropical-looking Burro Lake, I realized I could go no further. The location of Peak 11420 seemed fairly evident on the topos, but was not at all evident from my vantage on the ridge (or anywhere else, for that matter). I couldn't make out any obvious peaks, just many sharp teeth with huge gaps and cliffs on all sides. So I descended the steep (Max 50°) gully from the notch down to the highest of the Virginia Lakes. Looking back at the ridge from the Virginia Lakes basin to the north, I could see that it was just a broken mess. But there did appear to be one conspicuous protrusion near the point labeled "Peak 11524" on the topos, so I hoped I might find a way up there by approaching it from the west (my original exit point). I cut across the basin and gained the last quarter mile of trail up to the unnamed pass at the west edge of the basin, then headed south towards the base of the broken ridge that I had been unable to traverse. The detour added almost 900 vertical to my day.

10:42 am "" Peak 11524. The west side of this peak was a fine class 3 scramble, though very short (just 40-50' vert.). Someone made a cairn up there, which lead me to believe I'd reached the top. There is another high point on the ridge immediately east of where I sat. This eastern summit seems to be where the topos place Peak 11524; however, it was clear from every vantage that the western summit (with the cairn) was higher. That settled the matter for me, and I did not attempt to go any further east on this ridge.

11:45 am "" Excelsior North. Some of the talus around here was a beautiful turquoise color.

12:06 pm "" Excelsior. Nice views but otherwise just a slog. Only hike to check off the list, as it is a peak with some notoriety that I have a memory of observing while hiking the High Route.

12:45 pm "" Peak 12126. The south ridge is a short but surprisingly interesting class 3 scramble. Not much exposure. You can stay on the crest of the ridge the entire way. Headed west from the summit along the broad, sandy ridge, hoping I could find a birds-eye approach to Peak 11270, but good grief a descent of that seemingly-endless and horribly unsettled 45° talus slope to Onion Lake would have been an absolute nightmare. So, instead I decided to follow the Yosemite / Hoover Wilderness boundary line along the ridge to the base of 11270.

2:20 pm "" Peak 11270. A standard, talus-hopping affair on a 27° avg slope. I think I was dehydrated at this point, and I started to feel nauseous. Eating the snow seemed to help a little.

4:44 pm "" Camiaca Peak. The south slope above Summit Pass has some excellent rock buttresses that can be taken most of the way to the top. Solid class 3 and parts of it reminded me a lot of Little Lakes Peak, whereas other parts reminded me of East Col. of Mount Sill (but shorter pitches, not as loose, and less exposure). Though I was very hungry and exhausted at this point, this climb was still one of my favorite parts of the day. The rock quality was excellent, and the maneuvers were variable and interesting. Would do again.

5:20 pm "" Page Overlook. My original plan was to find Page Peaks, but I reached an impasse at the edge of a point that I'm calling 'Page Overlook'. It's not labeled on the topos, but I added it to the database here because it had some prominence and the eastern tip of it did strike me as a rather airy and satisfying perch. Worthwhile, if you're already up there for Camiaca. Secor says the traverse from Gabbro to Page Peaks is class 3, but he must not have meant along the ridge, because to get to the peaks from the overlook would have been much tougher. If I come back someday for Gabbro, Page, and Epidote, I will have to think carefully about how best to go about tagging them, as there is no straightforward ridge connection among the three like I had originally imagined when looking at the topos. I believe it would be best to start the sequence with Gabbro.

6:22 pm. Reached the top of Epidote's false summit to the west. Turns out the hike up to here was a waste of my time and energy, as I did not end up gaining the true summit. I was under the impression that there was a class 2 - 3 route to the top, but the summit pyramid is a good deal harder than that, and very exposed. I would say the easiest route is about 100' of class 4. Had I known this going into the hike, I probably would have attempted this final pitch. But I knew very little about the peak and I was too tired and admittedly too scared by what I saw to push through the confusion and pursue it further. I left the false summit telling myself that I had reached the summit of Epidote and that this pyramid structure was something else, but I knew deep down that was wrong. Perhaps I'll go back for it someday.

7:56 pm. Finally reached the unnamed pass above Virginia Lakes basin after gaining the trail at the junction to Hoover Lakes (below Epidote). That last 1100' uphill was excruciating. I was feeling extremely nauseous at this point, and utterly exhausted. I felt like fainting. Drinking water made me feel sicker, and I could barely open my mouth to chew the freeze-dried apples that were the last of my food. The sun was low in the sky. Nobody was around. I was genuinely worried about my health and survival before reaching the top. But it was all downhill from here.

9:10 pm. Sun was down when I finally reached my car at the Virginia Lakes trailhead. I was grateful to have finished. But I was not looking forward to the 5 hour drive back home.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1562 ft / 476 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1089 ft / 331 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2 - 3
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
    Weather:Pleasant, Very Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1562 ft / 476 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 473 ft / 145 m; Extra: 1089 ft / 331m
    Loss on way in:1089 ft / 331 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:South Slope from Summit Pass
    Start Trailhead:11266 ft / 3433 m
    Time:2 Hours 24 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Route:Traverse to Page Overlook
Ascent Part of Trip: Virginia Lakes Day Hike

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Mount Olsen2020-07-011379 ft / 420 m
2South Peak2020-07-01748 ft / 228 m
3Black Mountain2020-07-01726 ft / 221 m
4Peak 115242020-07-01919 ft / 280 m
5Excelsior Mountain-North Peak2020-07-01994 ft / 303 m
6Excelsior Mountain2020-07-01280 ft / 85 m
7Peak 121262020-07-01145 ft / 44 m
8Peak 112702020-07-01619 ft / 189 m
9Camiaca Peak2020-07-011562 ft / 476 m
10Page Overlook2020-07-011718 ft / 524 m
Total Trip Gain: 9090 ft / 2770 m    Total Trip Loss: 7429 ft / 2263 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Christopher Wessels
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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