CASTLE PEAK (9,103') 13X August 27, 2005

A repeat partner, something fairly new for me, nowadays, had the Saturday off from work, or commitments. I suggested this class 3 peak, along with Basin Peak (9,015'), as a good double climb. He agreed, so I picked him up from his home at 7:30 a.m.

Motoring quickly up Interstate 80, we needed only one stop at Nyack. I had some food and drink there, using the facilities, and we soon came to the end of the paved road, north, at the Castle Peak Exit. I parked along the shoulder, and we started hiking by about 9:23 a.m. Me seeking to update my peaks guide, we took the side trails, eastward to the Pacific Crest Trail, along the freeway. I lost the trail in spots, but remembering how it ran, found it, and soon we were hiking northward on the PCT. My companion said it was too late in the season to run into any through hikers, as they would be coming up to Oregon, or past, by now.

A few other day hikers were seen, then we came to Castle Pass for a quick break. There are now three trails running from here. One heads left along the ridge to Andesite Peak (8,219'), the PCT runs down into the meadow to the north, and a use trail, now pretty visible, runs right up to Castle Peak. We snapped pictures of the rocks and cliffs, with many pinnacles. Not having been here since November, 1999, I remarked this should be a wilderness area. The peak and surrounding crags are nice to see, again.

The use trail climbs steeply, then soon we could see Lassen Peak. We climbed the northern crag, which entails a slight bit of class 2. Many hikers presume this is the top, but I know better. We scrambled down southward on rubbly use trail, then contoured right (west) around the middle crag. The use trail is now more distinct, and I needed no scouting to find the way.

Having a 100' 9mm rope along, for my partner, I had assumed he had not done much, if any, rock climbing. He then stated he had climbed in a rock course, but I repeated the rope commands, like "up rope," and "slack," to refresh his memory. I did have to tie his bowline knot for him, then soon I was leading the rope, taking my time, on the 50 foot high, class 3, section (photo, right). I had no difficulty, and soon was on top, at about 12:20 p.m.

Setting the rope about a large immovable boulder, I had anchored myself, and was quickly belaying my partner up the class 3 agglomerate. He had no problem, summiting in five minutes, then we were free to enjoy the views. I had left my pack below, hearing from a local climber that the register was fine. I had four books and two sets of nesting cans, in case our mountain records needed maintenance.

The Harding fire to the northeast was hard to see, with only a layer of smoky air on the horizon. No big column of smoke. This blaze jeopardized the town of Loyalton, but it was said later to be 50% contained. Lassen Peak had a stripe of snow, Lake Tahoe was partially visible, and we could see the Sutter Buttes and the distant Coast Range. A nice day!

Soon, I belayed my partner down the class 3 section, and then was downclimbing myself. I thought to protect my moves by running the rope around some likely rocks, but found myself throwing the rope loose to not get stuck or held up. It really is a snap, not class 4, like some may say.

I had waited on top to offer to assist some game hikers, using my rope, but no one came up to take me for a belay.

Hiking back down after photographing a rock window, my companion slipped on some ball-bearing gravel. He suffered some long cuts on his leg. Blood was oozing. I got out my first-aid kit, and offered bandages and gauze. I told him to clean the wounds, with spare water out of his canteen, before applying the materials. It was almost just scratches, but I deemed it bad enough to skip on hiking the ridge over to Basin Peak. He reported little pain, and was able to hike normally. I felt it was important to wash the cuts, immediately, with soap and water, so we beelined back to the cars, taking the 4WD dirt road back, from below Castle Pass.

Back to the car at 3:40 p.m., I found the nearby Boreal Ridge Ski Resort was pretty much shut down. I figured they had a first-aid station, thinking a slide flume was in operation, but even the ski museum was closed. We wound up at the Big Bend ranger station, where he washed and treated his own leg, nicely.

After a quick sandwich in Auburn, I dropped him off, and was home early at about 6:10 p.m.

I had slipped on this steep use trail, too, but with no injury. Warning a sizable set of young people, hiking up toward the top, about my pal's accident, I hope they'd learn about being careful in the wilderness. Being that it may have been a school activity, I spoke with a responsible person about the hazards. Some of them had sneakers, which don't do as well as lug soles on this type of trail. But it was nice, for us, then, to have completed the class 3 part with no problem.

We did some 7 miles with 2,000 feet gain, round trip. I shot almost a hundred images. The round trip from town is under 200 miles. It was to be 102 there, this day, and it was getting warm even at 9,000 feet. I had advised my friend to take plenty of water. But, we had some cool breezes, up high, and dust and heat plagued hikers and mountain bikers, down low. We both wore only T-shirts and shorts. I drank only two liters of water.

I am always trying to be careful, and the photos will show why you must watch your step, and not get careless. Most accidents occur on the descent, when climbers are tired and aren't used to downclimbing. It was important to clean the wound, in due time, and prevent infection. I've had bad scrapes for days before I could get back to civilization, as your body has natural healing and immune systems. But in this case, it was good for him to have me along, with my two first-aid kits, although this will most likely come to nothing, similar to a plain bicycle accident. But bad things can happen in the wilderness, and I don't carry a heavy day pack for nothing!