The South Ridge on D.O. Lee Peak can be a fairly challenging Class 3 climb
for a number of reasons. The climb up from Ants Basin and the Warm Springs
Valley is a steep and short 3000 feet. Once onto the ridge, there's an immediate
tricky traverse over loose rock in a fairly vertical area. If faithful to the
ridge, you will encounter Class 4 scrambling over loose rock. Lastly, if
done in the summer there's no water source once above Ants Basin. Still,
climbing D.O. Lee Peak from the south provides an interesting and less traveled
climb of this magnificent peak. As an added bonus, a beautiful lush hidden
valley lies just to the southwest of the peak and can be explored on the
descent. Be on the look out for Mountain Goats that frequent these slopes.
South Ridge (Class 3+)- From the Fourth of July trailhead take the
well worn path to just before the lake. Take the left junction and follow it up
(north) past a small unnamed lake to the Ants Pass. Avoid the temptation to try
and cut the trail to save time. The map indicates this may be possible, but no
time will be saved based on personal experience. The trail is well designed, yet
gains elevation rapidly. At the Ants Pass enjoy the supreme views, including a
great view of the steepest part of the South Ridge Route.
Descend from the pass into the beautiful Ants Basin. Just after the last
switchback, look for some large rock cairns heading toward the north and away
from the main trail. Note that the USGS 1:24000 quad does not accurately reflect
the current trail system here. Follow the cairns north and any faint sign of a
trail. The prominence of this trail varies greatly. Be aware that absurd as it
may seem, motorcycles can be on this trail, even at the 9890 foot pass.
Soon this faint trail will meet up with the Warm Springs Trail, which is a
prominent trail. Follow this trail north until your SSW of the South Ridge. The
exactness of where you leave the trail is not crucial as long as you aim for the
bottom of the South Ridge.
Once off the trail, the scrambling is steep and continues this way mostly
until the summit ridge. Switchback your way up some loose white rock and note
that around the 10,000 foot level there's a small flat area. Above this, the
route steepens again as your immediate goal is Point 11,314. Just to the west of
this point is the route-it carefully traverses the ridge just on the west side
of the south ridge. Being on the east side of this ridge is not an option as it
drops off vertically and in impressive fashion. Continue north on the ridge and
take note of the small tower blocking the ridge. Climbing up and over is an
option if you like loose Class 4-5. To avoid that, carefully traverse over
extremely loose rock about 100 feet under (on the west side) the ridge. Note
that it drops off vertically lower on the west ridge, so choose you route and
potential fall zone carefully.
Once past the small tower, slowly traverse and climb back to the South Ridge
proper. The going here can be brutal with extremely loose rock. Soon you will
pass a small ridge rock tower that you can walk around easily. From here the
summit is easily reached. Enjoy the views, particularly the lakes basin (Big
Boulder Lakes) to the east that can hold snow and ice deep into the summer.
Approach- The logical starting point for this route is the Fourth of
July Lake trailhead to the south of this peak. This approach does require and up
and over climb of the Ants Pass (Blackman-Patterson Ridge) before you even start
climbing the route.
Another possible starting point would be the Warm Springs Trailhead.
Descent- Either retrace your steps, or descend the steep southwest
slopes to the hidden valley described above. After descending the scree you will
encounter some more solid, yet steeper rock. Look for a prominent slot that
funnels to a V notch. Avoid this notch and traverse left (south) and find a
blocky Class 3-4 chimney. Traverse too far south and you will end up in Class
4-5 terrain with broken rock covering the solid rock outcroppings. Once in the
hidden valley, follow the stream southwest until it empties into Warm Springs
Creek. Where the subsidiary creek steepens, stay on the south side to avoid
steep down climbing.
Gear- Typical scrambling gear and plenty of water. Desert style
gaiters can be useful for keeping out the scree. If your not comfortable down
climbing Class 3-4, then you may need more gear or another route option.
From the Fourth of July Trailhead via Ants Basin :
miles and 6373 feet gain (roundtrip)