Ascent of Bear Mountain-Del Norte CoHP on 2015-07-12

Climber: Andrew Kirmse

Others in Party:Marcus Sierra -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, July 12, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Bear Mountain-Del Norte CoHP
    Elevation:6400 ft / 1950 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bear Mountain in Del Norte County was the major goal of our trip to far northern California. We took forest service roads to the standard trailhead, where we were somewhat surprised to find a few other cars. We cruised along the first few level miles at high speed. I noticed a sign placed on the ground that read “Devil’s Punchbowl” and pointed off to the right along a faint trail. That was our turnoff, and it would have been very easy to miss.

The trail became steep at this point as it switchbacked up the hill. We reached the ridge and continued to climb, passing along the left shore of one lake, then up again. We reached the large lake called Devil’s Punchbowl, where the rest of the climb was laid out in front of us. Much like Katahdin in Maine, a huge vertical ridge towered over and mostly enclosed the lake.

Where we wanted to reach was a talus slope at about 2 o’clock from where we faced the mountain. The longer option was to go around the lake to the left, where the slopes looked generally clear, with some occasional shrubs. Going to the right was shorter but clearly more overgrown. Previous parties had gone to the right, so that’s what we did. We first passed through some campsites that had recently been occupied. We tried to stay relatively high above the lake, but even so this was a slog. We reached the talus slope and turned right to go uphill. This section was extremely slow, and we did ourselves no favors by choosing separate and poor routes. Kerry went too far left and ended up in scrub, while I went too far right and ended in a steep and slippery section where I was briefly worried about sliding down a long way. We carefully got back together and headed up left to the main ridge. Once we reached the trees, it was smoother sailing along a faint intermittent trail. I had put my poles in my pack, and at some point a branch must have reached in and pulled one of them out, because it was never seen again.

We reached the summit without incident from here. From the top, the nearby P2k Preston Peak was dominant, and we both agreed we’d like to return to climb it next year. We found the benchmark and signed the register. Descending the talus slope was almost as slow as the ascent, and my knees began to complain loudly. We reached the lake almost directly opposite our initial entry point, and decided to return along the same shore we had taken in. Our route was lower to the lake this time and the bushwhacking was much more difficult. We were getting tired by this point and fighting through the thickets was not appreciated at all. We could hear a group of guys swimming and yelling, a decided contrast from our inching through dense brush just 100m away. Finally we emerged at the campsites, where there were now some tents set up, and we took a long break near the water. The eventual return to the car was tedious but uneventful.

This was certainly one of the toughest county high points I’d done up to this point.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4450 ft / 1356 m
    Extra Gain:1250 ft / 381 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Trailhead:4450 ft / 1356 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes

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