Take It Or Leavitt Traverse

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May 30-31, 2015
Just south of Sonora Pass is a large horseshoe-shaped ridge which wraps around the enormous Kennedy Creek drainage. Aside from the tallest point on this ridge (Leavitt Peak), which can easily be approached via the PCT starting from Sonora Pass, the various remaining peaks, points, and pinnacles along the remainder of the ridge are seldom visited. One of them has in fact never been climbed until May 30, 2015. As with all aesthetic-looking ridges, I plotted a traverse of this one, originally designing it as a 3-day climb, but with improving snow conditions and only two days available to us, we decided to convert it to a 2-day climb. With almost 17,000 ft gain in just over 30 miles on almost all cross country terrain, this traverse is a topographic monster, likely to be one of the most difficult Northern Sierra ridge traverses in existence. At the time of writing, the Take It Or Leavitt Traverse remains the most strenuous 2-day ridge traverse I have completed.

Mason and I planned to go for the Take It Or Leavitt Traverse as a last training climb for our upcoming attempt on the notorious J-Trav the following month (which we ended up failing, but plan on re-attempting in 2016). We planned to start Take It Or Leavitt from the overnight trailhead just across the road (east) of Deadman Campground in Kennedy Meadow. From there, we would take a trail a few miles south to the start of Sharon Peak's northwest ridge, where the traverse began. After completing the large U of the traverse, we would hop back on the same trail and follow it back to Kennedy Meadow. Simple enough.

The biggest concern for the successfulness of the traverse was Molo Pinnacle: an imposing 120 ft volcanic gendarme located 0.5 mi southwest of Molo Mountain. According to all sources, it had never been successfully climbed. Bob Burd had failed to climb it on his solo attempt in 2011, recalling "It must surely be class 4-5 by the route I had first tried, but would not be scaled by me solo. I'm not sure that having a partner and rope would make me feel any more secure on the crumbling rock." A summitpost article had also mentioned that "the unstable volcanic rock makes for very dangerous climbing conditions. It will not hold protection." Despite the warnings, we still had to climb Molo Pinnacle in order to complete the traverse as it lay smack on the main traverse ridge, and that's how we found ourselves at the start of day 1 with 37 lb+ packs laden with climbing gear and 60m/9.5mm rope for a traverse that was already barely thought possible in 2 days under the late spring conditions with light backpacks.

The table below includes every peak (traversing counterclockwise) on the Take It Or Leavitt Traverse. For unnamed peaks, I have dubbed names for them which are derived from the names of nearby lakes, passes, or terrain features. 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"Mt. Sharon"10,530 ft430 ft38.267398, -119.706173
2"Sharon's Foot"10,502 ft80 ft38.264737, -119.704156
3"Bloody Pinnacle"10,409 ft80 ft38.262395, -119.702611
4"Midpoint Peak"10,354 ft170 ft38.257778, -119.702311
5"The Not Yet Relieved"10,275 ft130 ft38.249353, -119.693792
6Relief Peak10,808 ft508 ft38.237439, -119.697118
7"Saucer Pinnacle"10,619 ft160 ft38.232399, -119.672656
8Molo Pinnacle10,817 ft240 ft38.231033, -119.665661
9Molo Mountain10,875 ft1,215 ft38.234506, -119.656992
10Kennedy Peak10,718 ft418 ft38.245765, -119.654632
11"Soda Peak"10,612 ft512 ft38.22446, -119.636521
12Big Sam10,825 ft325 ft38.228950, -119.624960
13"First Chain Peak"10,833 ft1,086 ft38.233191, -119.614978
14"Second Chain Peak"10,827 ft165 ft38.232854, -119.610107
15"Third Chain Peak"10,713 ft130 ft38.23427, -119.605601
16"Fourth Chain Peak"10,423 ft120 ft38.238753, -119.605365
17"Ski Peak"10,850 ft350 ft38.263894, -119.607275
18"Up And Over Peak"10,786 ft135 ft38.261367, -119.612875
19"Koenig Southeast"10,836 ft250 ft38.267921, -119.626136
20"Koenig Peak"10,940 ft420 ft38.273548, -119.632487
21"Shoulder Peak"10,870 ft270 ft38.27845, -119.637444
22Leavitt Peak11,569 ft2,069 ft38.286182, -119.651249
23Leavitt West11,470 ft80 ft38.287781, -119.657636
24"Starvation Pinnacle"11,212 ft140 ft38.29125, -119.663236
25"Sleek Pinnacle"11,219 ft100 ft38.296303, -119.672227
26"Sleek Peak"11,220 ft300 ft38.297296, -119.674523
27"The Wart"11,151 ft115 ft38.297363, -119.677227
28"West Cap"10,591 ft95 ft38.30649, -119.694672
29"Night Cap Rock"9,868 ft160 ft38.301152, -119.707997

Trip report (click on day 1 to begin)

Day 1: Kennedy Trailhead to Molo Saddle

Day 2: Molo Saddle to Kennedy Trailhead

Total Stats
33.7 miles    16,870 ft gain/loss

Map (Since Blogger does not let me upload this file at full size, email me at eric.jsc@gmail.com for a full sized version of this map)

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