OverviewNestled deep in the Sequoia National Park backcountry, Eagle Scout Peak is the beautiful peak that looms above Precipice Lake along the popular High Sierra Trail. (For those unfamiliar with Precipice Lake, it may be better known as the granite-bound lake immortalised in Ansel Adams' famous Frozen Lake and Cliffs). As impressive as the peak is from this trail, even more impressive is the wonderful view of the Kaweahs, Big Arroyo, and Hamilton Lakes area from the summit.
The peak was first climbed in 1926 by Francis Farquhar and several Eagle Scouts. It remains a popular climb with scouts today. (Besides scouts, the second-most popular demographic signing in the register seems to be climbers who've been thwarted by snow on Black Kaweah, and who then came over here for a consolation prize).
The peak is an easy scramble from Kaweah Gap and the Big Arroyo (class 2). From the Big Arroyo, climb either slabs or a grassy gully to the bowl southeast of the summit. Secor suggests climbing to the saddle south of the summit from here, and following the ridge to the summit. I disagree. This involves a good deal of sand, and while it makes an excellent descent route, for an ascent, it is preferable to instead angle right from the bowl and climb either the southeast face or east ridge (class 3 or 4, depending on the exact route, gradually becoming sandy class 2 as one moves further left). (By the way, if climbing the peak from Kaweah Gap, it is easiest and probably quickest to descend a couple of hundred feet before traversing south to join the usual Big Arroyo route. It is possible to traverse more directly, but this involves negotiating some exposed slabs--class 3--and some route-finding to avoid cliffs extending from the northeast ridge).
Both the northeast ridge from Kaweah Gap and northwest ridge from the Precipice Lake area appear to offer the opportunity for long, technical ridge climbs on good rock. Neither ridge is frequently climbed. The north face also has a couple of established moderate routes (both 5.7); consult Secor's book for details.
Getting ThereEagle Scout Peak is most easily reached via the High Sierra Trail (HST) out of Crescent Meadow, a few miles south of Lodgepole in Sequoia NP. Follow this for approximately 20-21 miles to Kaweah Gap, passing Precipice Lake en route (from where the technical climbs on the north face are accessed), and descend a short way into the Big Arroyo to reach the peak's east side.
This short description fails to do justice to the awesome scenery seen along the way. A sign at Crescent Meadow describes the first stretch of the HST through Bearpaw Meadow as passing through "sunny forest," which might strike one as being an NPS euphemism for a long, boring approach. But it's pleasant enough, with some nice views over the Middle Fork Kaweah River--although it becomes somewhat tedious on the return, especially on a dayhike.
But this pales in comparison to the trail from Bearpaw Meadow up to Kaweah Gap. This is--without hyperbole--possibly the most stunning stretch of trail in the Sierra. The trail crosses Lone Pine Creek via a bridge that spans a spectacular gorge, before making its way up through the sheer cliffs and buttresses of Valhalla. The path has been blasted out of the granite in many places, and winds its way up, down, forwards, and at times backwards as needed to make its way through the cliffs. At one point above Hamilton Lakes, the trail passes through a tunnel blasted into the mountainside. It's debatable which is more impressive--the dramatic scenery through which the trail passes, or the engineering that went into the trail's construction.
It is a breathtaking experience.
Red TapeThe peak lies in the Sequoia backcountry and is subject to all the usual wilderness red tape. See the Lodgepole logistical page for details.
A $20 entrance fee is charged to enter the park, and a wilderness permit ($15 camping fee) is required for backcountry camping. No permit is required for dayhikes.
When To ClimbLike most of the High Sierra, the usual climbing season is June through October.
Much of the approach is at relatively low elevation, and so melts out fairly early in the season. The major creek crossings (Buck Creek and Lone Pine Creek) are bridged, so early season climbs are feasible.
CampingHamilton Lakes are a justifiably popular camping spot, and a two night stay maximum is enforced here. (The lakes have bear boxes, a pit toilet, and designated campsites to try and assuage overuse). Closer to the peak, the lakes in Nine Lakes Basin offer greater solitude, and are a popular basecamp for climbs of both Eagle Scout Peak and Mt. Stewart.
Trailhead camping at Crescent Meadow is prohibited, and rangers patrol this area in the evenings. Unless you find a spot far enough back from the parking lot to be undetected, it is better to camp at Lodgepole instead; walk-in sites--along with a store, grill, laundromat, and showers--are found here.
Mountain ConditionsNWS Forecast.
NPS trail conditions.
Etymology"An expedition of Boy Scouts from the San Joaquin Valley was commemorated by giving the name 'Eagle Scout Peak' to a mountain on the Great Western Divide. Francis P. Farquhar of the Sierra Club led three of the scouts on a first ascent of the peak on July 15, 1926. (SCB 12, no. 4, 1927: 40.) The names first appeared on the fourth edition of the Tehipite 30' map, 1929. Before 1929, the creek was named 'North Fork of Middle Fork of Kahweah River.'"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada