Relief Peak is a relatively seldom climbed peak in the Emigrant Wilderness just South of Leavitt Peak/Sonora Pass. The fact that it is shadowed by several larger peaks that have easier access is another reason it recieves so few visitors. The register on it's summit dates back to Bob Miller in 1964.
While the rock quality leaves something to be desired, the views from the summit are nothing short of spectacular. One can see the Dardenelles, Relief Reservoir, Granite Dome, the Emigrant and Yosemite High Countries, Tower and Forsyth Peaks, and Leavitt Peak.
NOTE: This route is best done with snow from 9400ft up, otherwise a lot of scree and gravel are present.
The route is accessed from the Kennedy Meadows Trailhead
. Take highway 108 to Kennedy Meadows then head past the campground. For overnight parking you must park 1/4mile up the road or buy a $5 parking permit from the resort. Dayhikers can park at the resort in their large lot.
Follow the dirt road up to the official trailhead(accessible by car for only authorized vehicles as far as I know). Follow the trail toward Relief Reservoir/Kennedy Meadows. After crossing the first bridge stay left at the unsigned junction. Note that the trail has been moved in the past several years and thus no longer alligns with the USFS Topo maps. At 7000ft you'll come to a signed trail junction, head toward Relief Reservoir(right) past the Forest Service Cabin. Follow the trail part way around the reservoir and cross Grouse Creek. Here is where the adventure begins.
About 100yds past Grouse Creek ascend a dry creek bed following either the creek bed or game trails up the slope(stay left of the slabs/cliffs). Follow game trails and pick your way through the brush staying SW of Grouse Creek as to avoid any cliffs. Some bush wacking and route finding is require to navigate up the slope. Once you reach the 8400ft mark the terrain levels off and the walking becomes much easier. Ascend up the valley on the right side, staying above the creek and meadows. Stay low in the valley until the terrain starts to steepen. Turn directly South and head up the slope toward Lake 9400ft. The forest is very open and there are nice benches to follow the entire way.
Once you reach the cirque where Lake 9400ft resides pick your line. I found the best route started by ascending the slope from the NE shore of the lake. Don't go too far East(climbers left) as there are cliffs. Once you top out on this slope(ranging from 25-35 degrees) you will see Relief Peak across the valley. The easiest route to the peak is to ascended directly up the North Ridge and follow it to the summit(class 1). Make sure to note where you top out on the summit plateau, as it is easy to descend too far East and end up ontop of the cliffs.
NW Ridge Side Note: I also attempted the NW Ridge which borders Grouse Creek canyon to the West. The approach is the same except you ascend up the ridgeline propper. The ridge is beautifully laided out with easy hiking UNTIL the 9800ft mark. Here a 30ft loose class 4-5 notch blocks passage. I could not find a safe way around it. If anyone knows of a route around I have pictures and data on this route. The rest of the ridge is easy class 2 except this 50ft section.
Crampons and axe are necessary when snow is present on the North Slope(usually into late June). This route is best done when snow is present on the North Slope, otherwise it is a scree/gravel slog.
When dry no gear is needed except hiking shoes, food, and water.
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