Arriving at the Trailhead
Left the bay area at around 4:30am for this mid September solo scramble up the Blue Canyon route to Leavitt Peak. Arrived at the trailhead on CA 108 shortly after 8am. The trailhead is shortly before the 9000ft elevation sign on the western side of Sonora pass. Theres space for about 4-5 cars on the side of the road slightly downhill from the sign. I was the only one there in the morning, though all of the spaces were taken when I returned in the late afternoon. Leavitt peak is about 2 miles south of trailhead. Highs for the day were in the 80's at this elevation and the day was mostly cloudless.
Blue Canyon creek empties into Deadman creek a hundred yards or so below the parking spot. There is a is a small waterfall at the confluence that is visible from the road. I scrambled down and crossed the creeks near the waterfall. (The crossing did not present any issues this late in the season.) The trail up the canyon can be picked up on the right (east) side of the creek right above the falls. From there, the trail followes the creek up the canyon, crossing it several times. About a mile from the road, the creek forks near a minor ridge to the south. The goal was to end up on top of the ridge and I appeared to have a couple of options: The trail followed the right fork around the ridge towards Blue Canyon Lake (a small blue snowmelt lake) The left fork also looked passable, though it appeared to be much more marshy. I had some time so I ended up scrambling up a class 1-2 chute on the right side of the face of the ridge. (There also was a class 3 "staircase" that looked interesting). From the top of the ridge, at a little over 10,300ft, I was treated to a great view of Blue Canyon back down to the road. High above on the ridge to the west, the PCT heads between the Leavitt and Sonora passes.
Up the Ridge
From the plateau, Blue Canyon lake was visible on the right. To the left a small stream cascades down from the vicinity of Deadman Lake. There were some late season wildflowers on the slopes leading up to the creek, and the sound of the water was the only noise to be heard. At the top of the slope, there was a use trail leading up the ridge to the left of Deadman Lake. The trail followed the knife edge ridge up the steep gravel slope. (Class 1, but exposed in places). The trail petered out a few hundred feet from the top and the slope became increasingly covered by loose gravel. The last leg up required a little scrambling as I climbed up onto the scree at the top. Excellent views of the Leavitt north face on the left while climbing ridge and down to Deadman Lake on the right.
From the top of the ridge, its a short walk over to the rounded top of Leavitt. Was feeling a little bit woozy after the altitude gain (~11.5K in 8 hrs) but not too bad. The summit registry is on the east side of the peak and had entries back to 1991. Secor's 2nd ascent was on the 2nd page (though the peak didn't make his book) and Pete Yamagata had the oldest entry. Had the summit to myself and spent a half hour or so reading through the registry before heading down.
Down the PCT
Decended the peak using a use trail on the SE slope heading toward the PCT. The slope was quite gravely and it was difficult footing in places. The PCT is hard to miss and can be seen winding from Leavitt Pass in the north towards Yosemite in the South. The PCT looped around Latopie Lake and then headed up to Leavitt Pass. Was expecting wind in the pass, but it was calm as I headed through. Ran into some hikers heading to the peak (First people I'd seen all day) and overtook another party talking on their cell phones before reaching the next pass. From there, the PCT traveled along a ridge overlooking Blue Canyon before heading eastward. On the decent down to Sonora Pass, the PCT seemed to wander in every direction *except* for heading to the pass and it took much longer then I had anticipated to return to route 108. Once back to the road, it was a 1-2 mile trek down the road back to where my car was parked.
The full set of photos from the trip can be found here
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