Crown Point, Cirque Mountain

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August 16, 2013
A cool breeze rippled the waters of Twin Lakes at dawn. Mostly clear skies with a few wispy clouds signaled an excellent Sierra weather day ahead. It was day 1 of the 2013 Sierra Challenge, and conditions couldn't have been better. The main peakbagging objective for today was Crown Point (11,346 ft), a dominant mass of rock at the head of Robinson Creek Canyon.

Chuck and I had camped the previous night at Lower Twin Lakes Campground, about 4 miles from the trailhead. We arrived at the trailhead (7,100 ft) just after our planned 6am start time to see Bob taking a group picture.

Getting to the trailhead: From Bridgeport, travel 13.5 mi on Twin Lakes Rd to the first parking lot in Annett's Mono Village, located on the west side of Upper Twin Lake.

Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 38.148542, -119.377274

Day 1 start (photo by Bob Burd)

Immediately after the group shot, everyone started hiking. I quickly snapped a few pictures of the sunrise over Upper Twin Lake, then hurried after them.

I've heard that the first day of the Sierra Challenge tended to be a very popular day. This certainly seemed to be the case this day as a huge herd of us marched on a dirt road through a campground. Even though we were only whispering, we still made enough of a racket for Bob to remind us to be quiet until we were out of the campground.

After the campground, a well maintained trail headed west through Robinson Creek Canyon. This trail would take us to the base of Crown Point. A human train twisted and turned along the trail, making it look as if it were alive. I hiked along with Chris, Bryce, and Peter, and we eagerly chatted about our peakbagging objectives. It was great to meet up with others from around the country who were avid peakbaggers.

morning light in Robinson Creek Canyon

Chris, Bryce, Peter

Upon reaching Barney Lake (8,250 ft, 4 miles from trailhead), we got our first glimpse of Crown Point. It was a very photogenic feature, and I kept this spot in mind for future photography purposes.

2.4 miles later at a trail junction, we took a short break and decided on ascent options. Most opted to take the trail towards Peeler Lake and climb up Crown Point's west side. Bob, Bryce, and I decided to take the trail that branched off towards Robinson Lakes, gain Crown Point's prominent Northeast Ridge, and follow it as it curved in a horseshoe shape towards the summit.

Crown Point, with its Northeast Ridge to the left

small tarn- last water source

Just as Robinson Lakes came into view, we left the trail and began heading south towards the base of the Northeast Ridge. There were a few sections of light bushwhacking at first, but the terrain quickly grew rocky and free of vegetation.

looking back northeast towards Robinson Lakes



We reached the base of the Northeast Ridge and began climbing up solid and fun class 3 rock. The rock looked trickier far above us, prompting us to follow a class 3 band of rock up and slightly leftward.

one of many class 3 moves

After a few class 3 sections, we intersected a loose class 2 sand gully, which we proceeded up. About a hundred feet up the gully, I knocked down a small fist-shaped rock, which turned into a large rockslide seconds later. I yelled "ROCK!" hoping that Bryce, who was out of sight below us, would manage to steer clear of the rock avalanche. Luckily he was still traversing over the class 3 sections and was not in the gully yet. Sensing how loose this gully was and not wanting to knock rocks on top of eachother, I ascended via the left side of the gully, and Bob ascended via the right. A few hundred feet later, the gully had topped us out on the Northeast Ridge, where we found ourselves on solid rock.

topping out on the Northeast Ridge

From this point, the remaining distance to the summit was very obvious. All we had to do was remain along the ridge, follow it up a small bump, then down to a saddle at 11,000 ft, and finally up a class 3 wall to the summit.

The traverse along the ridge was highly interesting, winding between some nicely shaped pinnacles and rock formations. It was relatively easy to negotiate these pinnacles. Any one of them could be easily bypassed to the left (east).

As I approached the saddle at 11,000 ft, two figures could be seen standing on Crown Point's summit. It looked like a few from the other group had already summited. I walked across the saddle and began climbing a class 3 wall just below the summit. This short section was highly enjoyable, and before I knew it, I was already at the summit (11,346 ft) at 9:55 am.

At the summit, I found Sean, Pat, and Jonathan examining the summit register- an old electrical box. Its earliest signatures dated into the early 2000s, and based on the amount of signatures since then, Crown Point was a rather popular mountain. With over 1,000 ft of prominence, the views from its summit were fantastic.

looking back at my route

Slide Mountain to the southeast

southwest towards Rock Island Lake

Peeler Lake

Robinson Creek Canyon with Barney Lake

A few moments later, we spotted Bob traversing below the final class 3 section. One by one, other climbers made their ways up from the west side of the mountain. By 10:29 am, seven people had made it to the summit. We loitered around, chatting and eating away. As soon as food was mentioned, everyone's mouths fell open as Peter pulled out a huge Zipblock bag full of what he referred to as "gorp." At that same moment, Jonathan pulled out his food bag and everyone cracked up laughing.

As everyone began leaving the summit at 10:45 am, Shawn and I decided to climb Cirque Mountain- a bonus peak north of Crown Point. We descended a few hundred feet down the west side of Crown Point on nice sandy slopes. Upon reaching the head of a prominent gully heading northwest, we followed it to the south end of Peeler lake, then contoured around Peeler's east shores, stopping briefly at a nice sandy beach to fill up on water and empty out our shoes of scree.

Peeler Lake (9,500 ft)

sandy beach on Peeler Lake's east shores

As we crossed Peeler Lake's outlet, a trail appeared on the other side. Cirque Mountain's South Ridge came into view. It looked as good a route as any.

After a few minutes of jogging on the trail, we took off cross country to gain Cirque's South Ridge. The climbing started out with a small amount of brush, followed by a few easy class 3 moves to gain the ridge itself. After gaining the ridge, there was a short sandy section which eventually became solid rock near and at the summit (10,713 ft).

route to Cirque Mountain, viewed from Crown Point summit

I topped out on Cirque's summit just before 12pm and was immediately immersed in its awesome views. Crown Point's immense profile dominated the southern horizon. After Sean had reached the summit, we searched around for a register, but found none.

We stayed on the summit a few minutes longer, then procceded to descend a short distance down Cirque's rocky Northeast Ridge looking for any possible signs of a gully to the south. After some searching, we managed to locate a sandy gully running directly down Cirque's Southeast Face. The descent down this gully consisted of soft heel plunging, allowing us to almost jog down the first few hundred feet. Towards the bottom, the terrain grew a little rockier. We emptied our shoes of sand upon reaching the trail, then started jogging down towards the trailhead.

descending a sand gully on Cirque Mountain's Southeast Face

views from trail

Barney Lake

As we jogged through Robinson Creek Canyon, the air grew considerably warmer, and I was looking forward to a swim in Upper Twin Lake once the jog was over. Sean and I got back to the trailhead at 1:45 pm to find Bob and Pat, who had gotten back 20 minutes earlier and were relaxing by the lake. I eagerly walked over to the lake and jumped in to cool off.

Final Stats
16.7 miles
6,400 ft gain/loss

Weather Forecasts
Barney Lake
Crown Point (Crown Point has an elevation of 11,346 ft. Keep in mind that this forecast is for 9,735 ft)
Cirque Mountain

Peakbagger Pages
Crown Point
Cirque Mountain

Summitpost Pages
Crown Point

Bob Burd trip report
Sean O'Rourke trip report
High Sierra Topix message board
Inyo National Forest

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