OverviewTwo Eagle Peak (12,966) rises directly west of Fifth Lake in the North Fork of Big Pine Creek basin. Although technically just a high point on a spur extending northeast from Gendarme Peak, it’s a half mile from Gendarme, and a worthy objective on its own. At least two technical routes have been done on the south side, and at least two third class routes exist for the experienced scrambler. The east ridge (Class 3, 3-4 hours round trip from Fifth Lake) could be considered the “standard” route, and is a thoroughly enjoyable scramble.
An ascent may be combined with Gendarme Peak, if one is prepared for a half mile traverse of a fourth class ridge. Such a link up would obviously take longer.
Getting ThereThe best (in my opinion) approach is via Big Pine Creek. Drive west out of Big Pine to the end of Glacier Lodge Road (about 15 miles). The hiker parking is about 0.6 miles from the end of the road and the site of the former Glacier Lodge (alas, the historic old Lodge burned to the ground a few years back. After a bizarre episode with the Forest Service selecting a moonbase-like design for its replacement, the owner opted to reconstruct a new lodge in a style similar to the old one). For those who would rather cut a mile + from their round trip, and bypass the sweltering traverse from the hiker parking to the entrance to the north fork canyon, parking is available at the Glacier Lodge Store for $3 a night.
There was a female bear lurking in the vicinity of the store in August 2004, attracted by the sloppy food storage habits of the denizens of the nearby campground. Please do your part and store food responsibly so both the humans and the bears will experience a minimum of friction.
From wherever you park, follow the trail up the north fork of Big Pine Creek. Depending on what else you plan to do in the area, pick a campsite almost anywhere in the basin. It’s about 6.5 miles to Fifth Lake, the closest to the Peak, and arguably the loveliest in the north fork area.
An alternative, more challenging approach may be done from South Lake. From 395 in the town of Bishop, head west on Highway 168/West Line Street. After approximately 15 miles, turn left onto South Lake Road and proceed for 6 miles to South Lake (the end of the road) and the trailhead for Bishop Pass. There is both day use and overnight parking, so park appropriately. Bear lockers are available. When I consulted the Forest Service in summer 2004, they did not report any serious bear problems at the trailhead, but given the damage done to vehicles by hungry bears at Whitney Portal, I’d say it’s better safe than sorry.
Follow the trail towards Bishop Pass between 4.5 and 5 miles to just below the switchbacks leading up a headwall to the pass. Jigsaw Pass lies about 0.4 miles due east and 1,000 feet above this point. The pass is third class. The correct notch is supposedly one peaklet south of the true low point. Since I have not crossed this pass, I encourage those considering this approach to consult R.J. Secor’s The High Sierra Peaks, Passes, and Trails. The peak lies about one mile northeast of Jigsaw Pass.
More exotic approaches are possible for those with a masochistic streak.
RoutesSecor describes the following routes. Since I have only climbed the East Ridge, and SP has a policy against using copyrighted material, I hesitate to include too much information. Consult Secor’s book for route details, especially for the class 5 routes.
East Ridge. Class 3. First Ascent by Norman Clyde, July 6, 1929. From Fifth Lake, follow the north side of the east ridge to the summit.
South Buttress. II, 5.6. First Ascent by Grant Hoag and Don Jensen, July 1972.
The Diamond. III, 5.6. An excellent route with “wild exposure”.
North Couloir. Class 3. A couloir leads through the cliffs at the base of the north face, and meets the East Ridge a few hundred feet from the summit.
Red TapeBoth approaches pass through the John Muir Wilderness. Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping. There are quotas for both trailheads, so reservations may be in order if you plan to go on a holiday weekend in the summer, or if you have a large group. Permits may obtained at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop. Check out their web site . It’s got a lot of useful information.
White Mountain Ranger Station
798 N. Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
When To ClimbJust about any time. Winter ascents will require snow travel and avalanche skills for the approach.
CampingThere is ample camping in both the Big Pine Creek and Bishop Creek drainages. Fifth Lake is especially gorgeous, though it’s hard to go wrong in this area.
The usual wilderness rules apply. No fires. Camp at least 100’ from water. Pack out all trash. In 2004 bear canisters were required in the Bishop Creek drainage, but not in the North Fork of Big Pine Creek.
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