The largest of the South Fork Lakes has two prominent fingers on the northern side of the lake and it sits at an elevation of exactly 10,500 feet. I camped on the east side of the eastern finger for 4 nights with my Dad, Kirk Ellsworth (my boss for the summer), and his troop of Boy Scouts. We had backpacked in 16 miles from the Dickinson Park trailhead for the purpose of fishing and camping at South Fork Lake for 5 days. For the first 3 days in camp, I had been eyeing a possible route to the summit of Lizard Head Peak and on the evening of the 11th, I decided to make an attempt the following day.
Route of ascent:
I set out in the morning with a day pack and nice, sunny weather. I skirted around the east side of the lake and headed for the east edge of the rather large glacier on the northwest side of Lizard head. Upon leaving the south end of the lake, I hiked in a southerly direction until I reached the glacial moraine at about 11,400 feet and was no longer in the drainage formation that drains from the north into the lake. From the edge of the glacial moraine, I continued due south for about 1/4 mile, ascending another 400 vertical feet on loose rock and boulders to where I found myself on a saddle between Lizard Head and an unnamed peak that is about 12,240+ feet in height and located 0.6 miles north of Lizard Head. From this saddle, I maintained a southerly direction up an increasingly steep ridge that consisted of very solid, dry granite. The angle of incline on this section was somewhat disconcerting when I imagined trying to stop my downward momentum should I find myself slipping and having to stop myself. However, given the favorable condition of the rock, I decided to keep moving upward. At one point I passed a bolted anchor with webbing still attached and questioned whether or not I was pushing my luck to proceed solo with no protection. Again, given the favorable condition of the rock, and continuing good weather, I continued upward. The route I was climbing continued to get steeper and steeper until I reached the base of some vertical rock about 250 feet below the western end of Lizard Head Peak. At this point, there was a noticable ledge that angled up to the east and took me right up to within a short hike from the summit. The rock along this "shelf" that angles steeply upward from west to east is solid and forms a nice route betwen the very exposed vertical rock above and below this "shelf." After topping out, I found a cylindrical metal canister about an inch and a half in diameter and about 9 inches in length. Engraved lettering on this cylinder read, "IN MEMORY OF JOHN SPECK CHICAGO MOUNTAINEERING CLUB." The canister screwed apart in the middle and was hollow inside with some paper and a pencil inside which allowed me to record my visit. Total time for ascent was 2.5 hours from basecamp.
Route of descent:
The route down was essentially the same as my route up except for the section between the previously mentioned saddle that sits at 11,800 feet and South Fork Lake. On my descent I traversed more to the west in order to get a closer look at the glacier. The only significant memory I have of this detour was seeing the remains of a bull moose in the depression below (north of) the glacier and south of the moraine ridge that exists north of the glacier. That was memorable because it struck me as an odd place for a moose to have been.
The climb was spectacular and I enjoyed having the mountain all to myself. Of course, that is fine as long as no injuries occur. I would imagine this peak is still not climbed very regulary and is a great climb for those seeking solitude and scenery in the mountains. Once I figure out if I can scan in my old photos of this climb, I'll come back and try to post photos.