Ascent of Heald Peak on 2016-09-10

Climber: Mark Lyons

Date:Saturday, September 10, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Heald Peak
    Elevation:6901 ft / 2103 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was kind of a brutal weekend of solo hiking. Day 1: Nicolls and Heald. Day 2: Backus and Russell

I did Nicolls first; I'd probably reverse the order next time, since Heald is a good bit tougher. I didn't get a great start with route finding at the beginning, but once I finally got on track, it was a pretty straightforward, steep hike straight up to the saddle. From there to the summit of Nicolls, I didn't stay quite far enough left (west) to get around the rocky top in the easiest way. There were ducks, but not really enough to help with finding a good trail. I managed to get back on track, but got some scratches and scrapes along the way.

By now, I realized my big mistake for the day: I was running low on water and it was a pretty warm day. Still, I persevered, which was a mistake. The climb to Heald is pretty demanding; when you make it through the class 2 section, which was kind of fun, you still have the equivalent of another mountain to climb before you make it to the peak. This class 2 section, by the way, is pretty well marked with ducks. One thing in my favor was that I didn't have to push through any brush, since so much of this area burned up in the fires this summer.

I was completely out of water when I got to the summit of Heald, and I was dehydrated enough that I couldn't really eat anything: no saliva. I didn't find a register, nor did I spot the plaque dedicated to Weldon Heald, but I didn't spend a lot of time up there; I wasn't really thinking about anything except getting down safely. So I took my time going down, on the assumption that I'd use less energy and sweat less. I kept telling myself to not make any stupid mistakes, since the slightest misstep would have screwed me over royally. I had plenty of water back at my car, so that kept me going. I really wanted to make it down the class 2 section before dark (not a problem) and to make it back to my car early enough that I wouldn't be picking my way through those confusing dirt roads. Victory!

Speaking of driving directions, see Richard Carey's write-up (you can find a link to it here on for a much clearer version than what's on the HPS guide.

The Nicolls/Heald combo took me nearly 7.5 hours, with 3623' total elevation gain (according to MapMyHike). From the trailhead to Nicolls Peaks: 3 hours. Nicolls to Heald: 3 hours, 37 minutes. Heald to trailhead: 45 minutes.

So yes, I made some mistakes. But I have to say that now is a pretty good time to climb these two peaks, since the fire took out a lot of the brush. There is a ton of ash, and I ended up looking like a chimney sweep. Another reason to go sooner rather than later: there's a good bit of dead poodle-dog bush near the top of Heald, and it's going to grow back with a vengeance soon.

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