OverviewThe easiest rout to Argonault's summit has been maligned - it's quite pleasant, has little brush, and is mostly class 2/3 with one class 4 move.
ApproachOur approach was from Esmerelda basin (at the end of the Teanaway River Rd), over Longs pass, down to Ingalls Creek trail, and 2 miles down to the Fourth Creek junction: total 6.1 miles with 2100' ascent, but will require climbing back over Long's pass on the return.
Sp member Fred Spicker suggests taking the Berverly Creek Trail to the junction with Fourth Creek Trail, then the Fourth Creek Trial to Ingalls Creek. This brings you out right at the base of the route. It is about 5.1 miles with less vertical than Longs (about 1800 ft. to Fourth Creek Pass and then 1200 ft. from the pass down to Ingalls Creek - reclimb on return). Best of all, he says - no NW Forest Pass required to park at the trailhead?!
An alternative approach is up Ingalls creek trail 10.4 miles & 2300' ascent. Factoring in the return, the Longs pass method is 8.6 miles shorter, has better views, but has 1800' more ascent - pick your poison.
The Route at a Glance
From the Forest to the GulleyFrom the junction of 4th creek, walk 50 paces E and then ascend the fall line in open timber soon following solid game trails. Avoid brush by these trails, staying in timber, or following rockslides. Look for the summit whenever possible - it's smooth reddish slabs are distinctive and obviously high when seen from a distance, but as you grow closer it is useful to know what the summit looks like.
At 5600' head E into a meadow, cross a small creek and continue upwards on W side of meadow and W side of a rocky outcropping, again following game trails. Above the outcropping follow trails up and slightly E. At 6300' contour E into the major gulley draining the summit region of Argonault.
The GulleyFollow the gulley up and slightly W. Bypass obstacles (e.g. waterfalls) on the right (E), class 2. Ignore a smaller gulley branching off to the R at 6500' and another branching L at 6900' - instead stay in the major drainage. At this point you will be well W of the summit. At 7100' the gulley branches with both forks heading up and R; both forks are reputed to work (they join right below the E ridge); the R gulley is perhaps a bit bigger, but I advise that you take the L gulley, which seems cleaner - follow it up and then R (E) under the smooth reddish summit slabs (class 2 and 3) until you are just beneath the E ridge at ~8200'. Here the forked gulleys merge and the rock steepens.
Gaining the Summit RidgeThe route's 'crux' is gaining the E ridge in front of you. There are three obvious gulley/chimneys to consider (see photos below). The left-most gulley (just next to the smooth slabs) is capped with 2 big chockstones and requires low to mid class 5 climbing. The middle chimney is obviously hard. The rightmost gulley (maybe 50' to the R of the reddish slabs) is easy class 3 except for one exposed class 4 move surmounting small chockstones to the R. Above this move, it is easy class 2 and 3 to the leaning summit block.
Time 5-7 hours from the trail to summit (4250' ascent).
Essential GearAn ice axe in early season.
A rope and light rack will be overkill for experienced scramblers, but might be welcomed by some.
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