Aperture Peak, Peak 13218, Picture Puzzle

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July 6, 2014
Aperture Peak and Picture Puzzle are two 13ers on the extreme southern end of the Inconsolable Range, a subrange of the Sierra which lie just north of and connected to the Palisades. Like the Palisades, almost all the rock which makes up the Inconsolable range is composed of black volcanic metamorphic material. Some have even argued that the Inconsolable Range and the Palisades are the same subrange. These relatively lesser visited summits provided a pleasant change of scenery from the more popular peaks in the area, such as Cloudripper, Mt. Agassiz, and Mt. Goode.

PeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
Aperture Peak13,265 ft325 ft37.118132, -118.530441
Peak 1321813,218 ft162 ft37.126124, -118.538146
Picture Puzzle13,280 ft640 ft37.127932, -118.538785

Getting to the trailhead: From Bishop off Hwy 395, head west on West Line Street (Hwy 168). Continue 15 mi, then turn left onto South Lake Rd, which will be clearly marked with a "South Lake" sign. Continue 7 mi to the end of this road.

Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 37.169338, -118.565850

Adam and I got a late start from South Lake Trailhead aka. Bishop Pass Trailhead (9,830 ft) at around 10:30am since we had done a climb of Bear Creek Spire via North Arête the previous day, and could still feel the soreness. This was meant to be a cool down hike. It was a slightly muggy cloudy morning as we walked up the Bishop Pass Trail from South Lake, heading past the very scenic lakes which lay in between the Sierra Crest and Inconsolable Range.

Mt. Goode and Long Lake


As we passed by Long Lake, the dark jagged form of Picture Puzzle (which is commonly mistaken for Mt. Agassiz) became visible to the south. As the trail continued southward, the shapes of Agassiz and Aperture Peak came into view.

Agassiz and Aperture

Not long before the trail began switchbacking up towards Bishop Pass (~4.4 miles, 11,400 ft elevation), we left the trail and headed east towards Jigsaw Pass: the very obvious large notch immediately left (northwest) of Aperture Peak. The large gully which led up to Jigsaw Pass was reportedly class 3, with the left side being harder and right side being easier. The topo map indicated a trail heading up and over the pass. This trail had existed at some point in time, but had since then disappeared all together due to lack of maintenance and strong erosion in the area.

Jigsaw Pass seen from the west

We reached the bottom of the gully after some large boulder hopping, and proceeded up the first few hundred feet which was mainly loose scree and sand. After that, we climbed onto the small rib which divided the left and right sides of the gully and proceeded up on somewhat more solid class 3 rock all the way up to Jigsaw Pass. The pass was conveniently marked with a large stick.

starting up the cruddy gully to Jigsaw Pass

Adam at Jigsaw Pass

A short distance to the south lay the Aperture Peak. Since Adam had already climbed it before on a separate occasion, he headed north towards Picture Puzzle. I headed up towards Aperture, finding the terrain quickly turn into enjoyable class 3 scrambling. There were several options of ascent and not a single mandatory class 3 line. I reached the summit about 15 minutes after leaving Jigsaw Pass, and located an old register at the summit. It was one of those old Sierra Club boxes with the peak name carved onto it- something that is rarely found now due to register thieves.

looking towards Aperture Peak (true summit not visible) from Jigsaw Pass

Hulsea Algida (Alpine Gold) and Polemonium Eximium (Sky Pilot) with Gendarme Peak in the background

some fun class 3

view east from Aperture Peak




I downclimbed back to Jigsaw Pass as the clouds overhead began darkening. A storm cell seemed to be forming to the south over the Palisades. From Jigsaw Pass, I headed south on class 2 talusy terrain, climbing up and over a perpendicular ridge which made up the western backbone of Gendarme Peak. Once on the other side, I spotted Adam standing atop a craggy peak to the northwest. According to the topo map, this was a false summit. I clambered up it anyway, thinking that there might be something interesting up there since Adam had stopped.

looking northwest from the perpendicular ridge

At the summit was a small register placed in 2004 calling the peak "Peak 13218." Even though it didn't have much prominence, Peak 13218 had a very peak-like feel to it. To the south was the obvious highpoint of Picture Puzzle.

view north from Peak 13218


I descended Peak 13218's north ridge which initially contained a short section of fun class 3 knife edge, but soon turned loose and sandy closer to the notch between the two peaks. The remaining climb up to Picture Puzzle along its south face was somewhat loose and sketchy class 3. We were glad to finally top out at the summit, which contained nice panoramic views of the basin to the west.

our route up Picture Puzzle's south face

more views from ascent

Adam on the summit

view southeast from Picture Puzzle



oldest register scrap

Not really wanting to descend the way we came, we headed north from Picture Puzzle along the crest of the Inconsolable Range in hopes of finding a gully on the west side of the ridge which would deposit us above the Bishop Pass Trail. From a large notch just north of Picture Puzzle, a fairly large gully spilled down westward, which we decided to take.

looking down at the large notch and gully

The majority of the gully turned out to be class 2 with the typical loose talus, scree, and sand. Closer to the bottom were a few short class 3 sections. Just before the gully made its last drop to the basin below, it seemed to cliff out and we moved over to the right and slogged down a scree slope to Timberline Tarns. After a quick break at the tarns, we walked a short distance northwest between the two tarns and met up with the Bishop Pass Trail.

descending the scree gully

exiting the gully to the right

Timberline Tarns

views from Bishop Pass Trail

South Lake in drought

Final Stats
10.6 miles
4,490 ft gain/loss

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Aperture Peak
Peak 13218
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