Blackcap Traverse

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July 13-17, 2014
The LeConte Divide and White Divide are two continuous and connected ridgelines with a combined distance of ~30 miles which lie west of Goddard Canyon and east of Red Mountain Basin, Blackcap Basin, and Crown Basin. These two divides lie in a remote part of the Sierra and are very infrequently visited compared to the rest of the range. Accessing the closest part of either divide would require at least 17 miles of hiking from the shortest approach. It was because of this remoteness that I became so interested in the area, and about five months prior to setting foot on the ridge, began mapping out a traverse which would involve a grand tour of every peak on those two divides. Apart from the few named summits (Mt. Henry, Red Mountain, Mt. Hutton, Mt. Reinstein, Finger Peak, Blue Canyon Peak, and Tunemah Peak), there was no online information regarding the remaining 21 unnamed peaks on the divides. The most I was able to find were a few short blurbs written by Secor which indicated a few passes and unnamed peaks in the area. I spent many hours carefully pouring over Google Earth for routes, water sources, and good camping locations, and finally had a route mapped out a month later. I dubbed the route the "Blackcap Traverse" after nearby Blackcap Basin. This is not to be confused with another route of the same name which runs from Bench Valley to Blackcap Basin.

The final plan was to start from North Lake Trailhead out of Bishop and take the Paiute Pass Trail 16.6 miles over Paiute Pass, down Paiute Canyon, and to the John Muir Trail in the north fork of the San Joaquin River. From there, I would head south to cross the San Joaquin River and head up the toe of the LeConte Divide. Once on the divide, I would traverse south along the ridge, arriving at the southern end of the White Divide a few days later. Getting on and off the divides would involve the largest amounts of elevation Change, with over 4,000 ft of gain from Goddard Canyon onto LeConte Divide and over 5,000 ft of loss from White Divide to Simpson Meadow in the Middle Fork of Kings Canyon. Once at Simpson Meadow, I would take the Middle Fork Trail 9 miles north to where it intersects the John Muir Trail, and take that trail 18 miles north to a point shortly after Evolution Lake, where I would leave the trail and head up Darwin Bench, past Darwin Lakes, up and over Lamarck Col, and down the Lamarck Lakes Trail back to North Lake Trailhead.

About a month before setting off on the traverse, I contacted Michael Chapiro who I had met on the 2013 Sierra Challenge to see if he was interested. He had caught my attention during the Challenge by successfully descending Tinemaha Drainage, which was a hell of a feat since a descent by a previous party had involved multiple days and a rescue. When asked about the traverse, Michael seemed pretty enthusiastic about the idea, and we planned to start the route on Sunday July 13.

Getting to the trailhead
Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 37.230710, -118.618828

The table below includes every peak (from north to south) on the Blackcap Traverse. Since most of the peaks are unnamed, I have dubbed names for them which are mostly derived from the names of nearby features (especially lakes) or after defining features on the peaks themselves (such as "Thumb Peak" where the summit block of that peak resembles a giant thumb). These dubbed names are in quotes. Peaks without quotes are either officially named by the USGS or were found named by previous parties who had written them in summit registers.

OrderPeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
1"Upheaval Peak"11,442 ft223 ft37.199791, -118.833468
2"Heather Peak"11,620 ft320 ft37.191519, -118.832695
3Mt. Henry12,196 ft896 ft37.183325, -118.827265
4Mt. Henryetta 12,140 ft560 ft37.169345, -118.820829
5"Turf Peak"12,020 ft280 ft37.156879, -118.808084
6Red Mountain11,963 ft463 ft37.149813, -118.80116
7"Hell For Sure Peak"11,837 ft457 ft37.141948, -118.792205
8"Little Hutton" 11,690 ft105 ft37.125731, -118.792548
9Mt. Hutton 11,990 ft490 ft37.125765, -118.799329
10"Thumb Peak"12,020 ft480 ft37.121779, -118.789845
11"Schoolmarm Peak"11,990 ft450 ft37.11976, -118.776948
12"Holster Peak"12,063 ft185 ft37.109989, -118.775811
13"Horsehead Peak"12,200 ft840 ft37.107269, -118.766799
14"Confusion Peak"12,180 ft560 ft37.098267, -118.769181
15"Valor Peak"12,212 ft432 ft37.088876, -118.749941
16Mt. Reinstein 12,586 ft726 ft37.079394, -118.738354
17"Bibay Peak"12,500 ft440 ft37.070193, -118.73384
18"Ram Peak"12,221 ft361 ft37.060622, -118.727124
19Oyster Peak12,323 ft543 ft37.054303, -118.735771
20Finger Peak12,404 ft864 ft37.029989, -118.730323
21Blue Canyon Peak11,860 ft280 ft37.028331, -118.709384
22"Big Boulder Peak"11,946 ft205 ft37.022376, -118.70676
23Black Crown11,987 ft527 ft37.021588, -118.689981
24"Turtle Back Peak"11,539 ft214 ft37.010606, -118.699229
25"Grandview Peak"11,824 ft220 ft37.003461, -118.692899
26Tunemah Peak11,894 ft714 ft36.995382, -118.688268
27"Little Point"11,309 ft114 ft36.988053, -118.675904
28"Drop Off Peak"10,987 ft287 ft36.979517, -118.665047

Trip report (click on day 1 to begin)

Day 1: North Lake Trailhead to Henry Flats

Day 2: Henry Flats to Holster Saddle

Day 3: Holster Saddle to Blue Canyon Pass

Day 4: Blue Canyon Pass to Muir Pass

Day 5: Muir Pass to North Lake Trailhead

Total Stats
84 miles    32,230 ft gain/loss

Maps (Since Blogger does not let me upload these files at full size, email me at for full sized versions of these maps)
Approach (North Lake Trailhead to leaving JMT)
17.3 miles    2,560 ft/3,755 ft gain/loss

Blackcap Traverse (north to south)
31.2 miles    19,660 ft/21,785 ft gain/loss

Exit (Simpson Meadow to North Lake Trailhead)
35.5 miles    10,010 ft/6,690 ft gain/loss

Weather Forecasts
Paiute Pass
10,800 ft in Paiute Canyon
Paiute Pass Trail/JMT intersection
Mt. Henry vicinity
Mt. Hutton vicinity
Mt. Reinstein vicinity
Finger Peak vicinity
Tunemah Peak vicinity
Simpson Meadow
8,000 ft in LeConte Canyon
Muir Pass
Evolution Lake
Darwin Lakes
Lamarck Col

Peakbagger Pages
Upheaval Peak
Heather Peak
Mt. Henry
Mt. Henryetta
Turf Peak
Red Mountain
Hell For Sure Peak
Little Hutton
Mt. Hutton
Thumb Peak
Schoolmarm Peak
Holster Peak
Horsehead Peak
Confusion Peak
Valor Peak
Mt. Reinstein
Bibay Peak
Ram Peak
Oyster Peak
Finger Peak
Blue Canyon Peak
Big Boulder Peak
Black Crown
Turtle Back Peak
Grand View Peak
Tunemah Peak
Little Point
Drop Off Peak

Summitpost Pages
Mt. Reinstein
Finger Peak
Tunemah Peak

High Sierra Topix message board
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
John Muir Wilderness


  1. A remarkable trip accompanied with as usual a wonderful narration, pictures and route description. Your conditioning and strenuous scrambling experience paid off as demonstrated by your partner's early departure.

  2. Impressive effort and report. You traversed through one of my favorite areas. A long time ago, my 3rd Sierra peak was Mt Goddard (via a loop through Gunsight and Hell for Sure passes). Thanks for this great report. - Chris H (from the SC)