Explaining the Doodad
"A doodad? What the heck is a doodad?"
While I'm not exactly sure what a doodad is without bothering to look it up, I can tell you what THE Doodad happens to be.
The Doodad is arguably the most spectacular and recognizable feature on the technical Sawtooth Ridge. Just getting to the base is an adventure no matter what the season --- technical rock and cross-country travel are mandatory. The climb from the ridge base to the summit block is 4th class at best, and the final summit pitch is currently rated somewhere around 5.6.
While many Sierra summit blocks are of a technical nature, this one may be the king of them all when it comes to sheer intimidation. Roughly 30' tall and 20+' on a side, this cube of granite is overhanging on all four sides. It is perched precariously on the crest of the infamous Sawtooth Ridge in a position that somewhat defies gravity. The entire west side of the block involves a 5-8' roof hanging over very steep 4th class slabs. On the northeast, a featureless 30' face gazes down on the glacier hundreds of feet below. On the south, another 30' face blocks passage along the Sawtooth Crest. If it weren't for a set of wide cracks splitting the southwest corner of the block, the best route to the top would involve a rocket pack. As it stands now, an enterprising climber can stem and wiggle his way to the flat summit after executing a harrowing transition off a large flake around an exposed corner. These moves would be fairly difficult to reverse, so the presence of two old bolts on the summit is quite welcome.
Not many folks climb the Doodad, mainly because of its remote location and the approach difficulty. This fact, in addition to the endless quality climbing available along the Sawtooth Ridge, should make the Doodad a prime destination for the ever-growing population of backcountry climbing enthusiasts.
Anyone planning a climb in this region is highly recommended to check out bearbnz's Blacksmith Peak page for additional details on the Sawtooth area.
Getting Back There
While the Sawtooth Ridge may be approached from several directions by backpacking, the shortest way involves the Horse Creek Canyon trail from Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, California. Take US Highway 395 to Bridgeport, and look for the sign indicating the Twin Lakes Road on the south side of main street towards the west side of town. Follow the Twin Lakes Road for 10 miles to Twin Lakes as it meanders through farms, ranches, and residential areas. Continue following the road as it skirts Twin Lakes for another 3.5 miles before terminating at Mono Village. The trailhead is on a private campground, but dayhikers may use the parking for free and backpackers pay a nominal fee. The Horse Creek Trail is then taken out of the campground to the south (this is the same trail used to access Matterhorn Peak --- see the Matterhorn page for additional details). This trail is taken for the first 2.5+ miles, and then cross-country travel begins.
The exact point of leaving the trail depends on the point of the Sawtooth Ridge that one desires to access. The Doodad may be accessed from either side of the Sawtooth, however the climbing on the west side is limited to 4th class. To reach the west side, there are a few notches in the Sawtooth Ridge that may be negotiated with the aid of ice equipment or careful bypassing, but nothing is ever easy here. The notch between Cleaver Peak and Blacksmith Peak is limited to sporty 3rd class during times of low snow accumulation, and this passage may be accessed from the Horse Creek drainage via a notch in the Cleaver (a prominant sub-ridge of the Sawtooth).
The difficulty of the other notches is currently unknown to the page author.
Parking fees are required at the Twin Lakes trailhead for overnighter's, while dayhikers may park for free.
There are already a couple pages out there with the essential information on the Twin Lakes trailhead, so instead of re-writing the encyclopedia I'm just going to hijack the existing one:
This from bearbnz's Blacksmith Peak page:
"If you intend to leave your vehicle overnight, you must buy a pass from Mono Village to park there, $7 per vehicle. The pass is purchased from the person in the building at the entrance to the campground. You may stay for as many nights as you wish for your $7, but if you leave and come back, you will be required to buy another overnight pass. If you are a dayhiker, Mono Village requests that you park alongside the shore of the lake rather than in the overnight parking area in the loop at the end of the road, and there is no cost.
"If you wish to stay in the Hoover Wilderness, a wilderness permit is required. To get one, go to the Bridgeport Ranger Station , a USFS facility just south of Bridgeport along US 395."
This info is shamelessly taken from gordonye's Matterhorn page:
"If backcountry camping, a free permit is required for Hoover Wilderness (north of Horse Creek Pass) or Yosemite National Park. The ranger office for this part of Toiyabe National Forest is on Highway 395 1 mile south of Bridgeport. Maximum party size is 8 in the Sawtooth Ridge zone, including Horse Creek canyon. Since the permits are on a quota system in summer, it can be difficult to obtain during popular summer weekends. Advance reservation of wilderness permits is a good idea (fee charged)."
FYI --- Gas at the Twin Lakes trailhead (Mono Village Resort) is also quite a bit cheaper than in downtown Bridgeport most of the time...
When To Climb
The Doodad is best done in the early-summer through early-fall season, unless one prefers snow-dusted rock to climb on. Approach methods will vary greatly depending on snow & ice cover.
Again, I steal the relevent info from gordonye:
"A free permit is required for backcountry camping. See Red Tape section for the location of ranger office. No campfires are allowed. Bear boxes are required for food storage to deter black bears. Roadside camping is generally prohibited except in the fee campgrounds along Twin Lakes Road. There is a coin-operated shower facility a short ways east of Twin Lakes. Near the Green Lakes and Virginia Lakes trailheads there are also fee campgrounds. Commercial lodging can be found in the Mono Village resort at the Twin Lakes trailhead, or in the town of Bridgeport."
Mountain & Rock Conditions
For regional weather, check the Bridgeport, CA forecast. Actual conditions on the peak may be very different than what is reported for the valleys...but I'm sure you already knew that!
Does the Doodad difficulty change over time? The original, ages-old rating was 5.2, however those who climb it today insist that the rating is several grades higher. Due to the exposed and weathering nature of the rock, it is possible that the final pitch to the summit may have been altered recently. When looking at the fractured base of the block, one wonders just how long the life span of the Doodad might be...