RT-11 miles & 4,700-vertical ft
Starting at the Piney Lake TH (9,380-ft) locate a nice trail and begin your long approach. There are two trails that will escort you to the Upper Piney Valley that bends to the southeast. The upper trail, which is the new trail, ascends the aspen-laden slope to the left and eventually gets you into the cliff-ridden, lower ramparts of the Peak C area. The lower trail, which is shown on the USGS TOPO map, is considered the old trail. This trail that may or may not be faster, stays low in the meadow and doesn’t begin its ascent until the valley finally narrows and one must go up. The lower trail eventually intersects the upper trail very close to 9,700-ft at the very end of Lower Piney Valley. From the TH to this intersection is around 2.6 miles.
From here the trail meanders through some dense tree cover and begins to fade in and out. Use some route finding skills and continue another 1.2 miles to another open meadow and locate a deep, inset creek bed
that descends the slopes to the north. This creek drainage runs parallel to the south ridge of Point 12,367. Your 3.8-mile approach is over.
For your 1000-ft creek drainage ascent, staying to the left avoids most of the difficulties. With snow this drainage would be tough going, it is choked up with downfall and it is steep. At around 11,200-ft you will top out at a tundra-ridden basin. From here, ascend the slope to a small saddle just east of Point 12,367 and follow a west ridge (class3) to the crest of Ripsaw Ridge.
For Peak D, descend to a saddle at around 12,790-ft and climb the southwest face to the summit. The climbing here is class 3.
From Peak D, the route to C-Prime is almost too difficult to convey. My description to C-Prime will be short, so let your route finding do the work.
Descend Peak D’s north ridge until the ridge crest becomes too difficult. Locate a solid, class 4 -50-ft dihedral that descends through a mess of loose rock to a grassy area on the ridge crest. Work hard locating this dihedral, for it is a crux.
From here you get a good view of the soaring C-Prime. There is another huge gendarme residing directly in front of the actual C-Prime. It is hard to differentiate the two from the southeast.
From just north of Peak D, scramble the ridge crest, and bypass any notches in the crest by descending to the west. Soon you will encounter the first soaring gendarme. There is an amazing notch that separtes the two. Climbing this gendarme will not get you to C-Prime because of this enormous notch, so bypass it to the west unless you want a good photo of C-Prime.
Once at the base of C-Prime’s south face, locate the slabby southeast face. There is a steep dihedral that splits the closer south face; this is not the route although it looks like it may go. Instead, ascend the super exposed and slabby southeast face to the summit. Again, route finding is key.
From here, Peak C is only 100 yards away, however the notch in between the two is too difficult to negotiate. One must down climb C-Prime and continue a descent into a huge, rubble-filled gully that separates C-Prime from Peak C. It is the same snow-filled couloir that is used to ascend Peak C in the spring. Descending C-Prime into that couloir is the last crux of the day. The upper reaches of the couloir are loaded with loose rock, and it is very steep.
Descend into this gully via some class 4 down climbing. Continue another 300-ft to a spot where you can climb out of the couloir onto Peak C’s south slopes. Ascend the class 3 slopes to the summit of Peak C.
For the descent, locate Point 12,225-ft to the west. This point separates two big basins west of your location. Locate the saddle just northeast of the summit. Descending that saddle into Kneeknocker Basin will escort you to a trail that will deliver you back to the Pine Creek pack trail.
From Peak C’s summit locate a steep rock rib that parallels the huge couloir. Pick your way down this rib until it becomes easier to traverse west across the southwest face of Peak C. Finally, pick your way over to that saddle just north of Point 12,225 and descend it into Kneeknocker Basin. Traverse around a big boulder field and locate a trail. This is the Kneeknocker Pass Trail. Take the trail back to the Pine Creek Trail and continue 3 miles back to the TH.