Arrow Peak, Pyramid Peak #1
By: Igor and Suzanne Mamedalin
Climbing these' two peaks from the west has been an itch on our minds for several years. We have scheduled to lead this climb a few years ago only to cancel it at the last minute due to work commitments. We have heard/read that these two peaks have been previously climbed from the west on at least two occasions: Dick Beach going up Arrow Creek and Ron Jones going up "Window Creek" (the drainage due west of Window Peak). Dick reported dense brush on the route while Ron reported less brush. Both routes require a gain of approximately 6,000' to the first peak and then an additional 2,200' to reach the second peak. Of course, we had to do it!
Deciding at the last minute, we took an extra day off work and headed for Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park without a permit on the Fourth of July weekend. Arriving at the road's end at 2 AM we found nobody sleeping on the doorstep of the ranger's kiosk, but the day use parking lot next to it did have a dozen cars parked (ominous sign). After going to sleep comfortably in the truck, Igor was awakened at 5 AM by a full bladder. Surveying the parking lot he noticed several sleeping hikers beginning to stir. After hastily emptying the bladder, he rushed to the ranger's kiosk and claimed first place in line, beating the next hiker for the coveted position by only 5 yards. By 7 AM, the time at which the ranger starts to issue the limited number of "first come first served" permits, at least 20 people have gathered at the doorstep. One group of accursed hikers arrived to claim the 7th position in line after spending the night sleeping on the doorstep of the wrong ranger station (six miles earlier) and receiving a $25 ticket for camping without a permit at an undesignated site. Mistakes can be costly. At 7 AM, the window of the ranger's kiosk opened and Igor successfully obtained a permit for two people to go up to Paradise Valley... it was the only permit to be issued for that trailhead that day, all other spaces have been previously reserved. You can imagine the expression on the faces of the awaiting crowd; for safety reasons, it was fortunate that the rangerette in the kiosk was armed.
The first day of this extended Fourth of July weekend was spent in a leisurely 11 mile amble along the South Fork of the Kings River to Upper Paradise Valley. After setting up camp, bathing in the river, and having dinner we were visited by an unabashed young bear. In late afternoon light, the bear circled the camp (ours and others) several times approaching us to within 8 feet. That night, with food stashed in a bear box, we were not bothered by any bears.
Saturday morning after an unplanned late start (7 AM) we headed up the Woods Creek trail with the intent of bagging both summits that day and climbing perhaps Perkins on Sunday. After visually confirming the abundance of brush on the Arrow Creek route, we decided to follow Ron's route up Window Creek. Window Creek is reached after two and one half miles from the crossing at the confluence of Woods Creek and South Fork of the Kings River. From this point we headed up cross country staying on the west side of the creek. We encountered several patches of dense manzanita; in retrospect, the east side of the creek is slabbier and might be less brushy. The ascent lessened in steepness at about the 10,000' level and Pyramid Peak came into view for the first time. Progress had been slow but we continued to follow the course to the obvious saddle just west of Pyramid Peak reaching the summit at 3 PM. Pyramid's summit register dates back to 1962 and has not yet been snatched by the Sierra Register Bandits. Arrow Peak was still clear across the Arrow Basin and time was running short. What to do? At this point Suzanne suggested that we go for Arrow Peak and perhaps bivy on the way back. Why not? The days at this time of the year are warm and long, after all.
Getting off the Pyramid ridge and into the Arrow Basin did not prove to be easy. After several attempts to down climb, we had to return back to the ridge due to sheer drop offs. Finally we abandoned the attempt to find a direct route down and resigned ourselves to a more circuitous route that finally put us at headwaters of Arrow Creek 4 hours after leaving Pyramid Peak. At this point it was late and we were tired. We decided to bivy first and climb Arrow Peak in the morning. The first part of the night was tolerable as we huddled beneath a 402 space blanket; by 3 AM it got to be too chilly forcing us to get up and start a campfire around which we warmed ourselves until the dawn at 5 AM. After a breakfast of banana chips, carrot sticks, and a left over bread roll we headed for Arrow Peak at 5:30 AM. The final slog up the cruddy southern slopes of Arrow Peak was debilitating... we reached the summit by 9 AM. The original Arrow Peak summit register has been snatched and current register only dates back to 1991.
From Arrow Peak we dropped back down into Arrow Basin and decided to take our chances following Arrow Creek rather than re-negotiate the Pyramid ridge to get back to Window Creek. Arrow Basin and the upper parts of Arrow Creek are seldom visited and are very scenic with spectacular panoramas of Gardiner and Brewer. We enjoyed our decent crossing the creek several times and staying on its southeastern side for the final drop through the cliffs. At the bottom of the cliffs is where the real trouble began... a dense forest of willows, aspens and other botanical crud greeted us. For almost two hours and the last half mile we trashed through the jungle... at times wading through the middle of the creek... to reach the South Fork of the Kings River. We arrived at our 'base' camp in Paradise Valley at 3:30 PM that day. Whew!
Monday morning we packed out by 7:15 AM and reached the car at the roadend by 11:30 PM. A fine adventure was had, but access via Taboose Pass might have been more expedient.
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