Esmerelda Peak

In early June last year I scrambled up Esmerelda Peak . I entered the clouds the last 500 feet and visibility was a matter of a few feet. With that in mind, I planned a return trip. For this trip I was joined by wildernessed (Rob) and Trail Pair (Kolleen and Bob). We met at the DeRoux Creek trailhead near the end of the NF Teanaway Road at 8:00 AM. The starting elevation is 3800'. The forecast was not great but the sky was clear as we began. The trail quickly crossed the Teanaway River. Last year there were hundreds of shooting stars in bloom here. This year there was not a single one. There was a fair bit of snow down by DeRoux Creek. The trail gets much more sun and it was mostly snow free. We just had a few patches to cross. After crossing DeRoux Creek we came to the intersection with the DeRoux Spur Trail. It was snow free there.

We headed up the right hand trail towards Gallagher Head Lake. Although this trail is shaded from the sun it was snow free until about 4600'. It was then mostly snow covered but easy to follow. Easy that is until we lost it.  Heading straight up the slope we ran into it again. Shortly after that the trail neared the creek and broke into the open. Here it was snow free once again. The route reached the creek and we looked for an easy way to cross. The water level is high with snow melt. There are a series of logs reaching all the way across. With poles for balance we all managed to get across with fairly dry feet.

The meadow here was snow covered and we opted to angle left up the slope of Esmerelda. The bushwhacking was not difficult and we climbed several hundred feet. With a bit of blind luck we stumbled into the trail right at the point of it's last switchback before the traverse to Gallagher Head Lake. A short way along the trail and it was time to begin scrambling up towards the summit. Rob did 4400' of elevation gain the day before and I'm sure he was feeling it now. We left the trail at about 5500' with 1250' to go. At first we had to climb dirt and rock until we reached snow. At a level spot we had views of Koppen and DeRoux Peaks plus Hawkins Mountain.

We were able to kick steps up snow about half way to the next level area. The upper half was on boulders and scree. Once over the lip things improved greatly. Now the rocks were completely snow covered. This section is much easier on snow than on the rocks when it's gone. The snow was excellent as we had great footing with minimal post holing. When the route reached many small trees a move to the right got us back on more open snow. We met a path of old footprints coming up and followed them a while. When they angled to the left we headed straight up.

The pass came into view and as we neared it I left the snow for some easy rock and dirt. We did need to get back on snow for the last part to the top. The actual 6765' summit was under snow but right next to it was bare ground. About the only thing covered was the summit register. On the drive in Mt. Stuart was crystal clear. Clouds moved in as we climbed and now Stuart was buried in white. Most other summits were in the clear. Jolly Mountain was just behind DeRoux. Hibox, Alta, and Three Queens were to the left of Hawkins. Fortune and Ingalls were out of the clouds. We could see a fair amount of snow at Ingalls Pass and snow on the upper switchbacks heading to Longs Pass.

I have never seen anyone else scrambling Esmerelda on previous visits but we soon saw a party of two coming up the snow. After 45 windless minutes on the summit we headed down. Kolleen, Bob, and I have have lots of experience on snow and found the conditions excellent coming down the snow. Rob has not had as much experience but quickly got the hang of it. As we moved down the snow we came upon another duo coming up in our footprints. They thanked us for the nicely compacted steps. The rest of the way down to the trail was a mix of thinning snow, boulders, and scree. In short order we were back on the summer trail. We decided to follow the trail all the way back to the creek. This was a little longer and had more snow but was very gentle on our legs.

One of the parties that came after us took the trail and left us footprints to follow. Once again we managed to get across the creek with mostly dry feet. From there it was just a nice forest walk back to the car. After the clouds of last year this was a major improvement. We did not see Stuart but did see most everything else. It was fun to meet several others who get just as much enjoyment out of the mountains as I do. All totaled Trail Pair and I have posted just about 200 WTA trip reports in the last 3 years. It was nice to finally meet them. Rob is getting out as often as almost anyone and it was a pleasure to meet him as well. For the day we covered about 8 1/2 miles gaining 3000'. It took us about 3:10 up and a leisurely 2:40 coming down. Esmerelda is a great vantage point for peaks near and far.

DeRoux Creek
Snowy Meadow
DeRoux Peak
Bob & Kolleen
Hawkins Mountain
Boulders Ahead
Onto The Snow
Talus Climbing
Rob On The Rocks
DeRoux Peak Again
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2005