Enjoying a beautiful Fall that consisted of warm days and no snow in the mountains, I set out for Thompson Peak. The last time I did Thompson was in 1997 with my wife, so it had been a long while. My plan was to climb Thompson, then drop down into the Limbert Basin near Lake 9425 and then climb the Schwartz Pinnacle. My biggest mountaineering goal is to climb all 146 peaks and recognized pinnacles in the range. Interestingly, when I first started out there were 116 recognized peaks and pinnacles, so it's been a moving goal. Currently I'm at 75 of the 146, and to my knowledge no one has climbed them all. So climbing some of the more obscure peaks like Schwartz Pinnacle, has great importance to me.
I drove down the Redfish Lake Road and it was closed. I went past the sign to investigate and the road was being worked on, but the construction guys let me through. I was the only car at the Redfish Lake parking area- ahhh the Sawtooths in the Fall. I started out a little past 10am and hiked up the Fishhook Creek trail until the Marshall Lake turnoff. I ascended through a magnificent Aspen grove until I was on the prominent moraine that overlooks the Fishhook Creek valley and Horstmann Peak. Further up the moraine and close to where it turns north, I left the trail at a very prominent junction and climber's trail. This climber's trail traverses some steep rocky slopes above Lake 7670 and soon enough reaches the lake near 9300 feet that sits just NE of Thompson. Just above this point is a headwall. This wall can be bypassed on the left via Class 3 blocky ledges and ramps.
Once above the headwall, I reached the Williams-Thompson saddle where the going became slower as I had to boulder hop my way across the lower west slopes of Thompson. There was still an old snowfield to cross and I carefully found a manageable route that utilized a platform of sorts to get to a point just under the Mickey's Spire- Thompson saddle. The views over the edge here are spectacular and from this point upward there was a clear climber's trail ascending the south gully. Once at the top of the gully I reached a prominent notch with a massive drop off. From here, it's a ridge walk with some blocky Class 3. There is no 4th class if done carefully. The summit register was just below the high point and I left it there instead of putting it 10 feet up only because winter was coming and I would probably be the last one this year.
The summit box is a hefty Mazamas box from 1961 with 2 screw locks. I was glad to see this here since there has been a recent rash of summit register robberies in the range. I had made the summit in about 3 hours, so I had plenty of time for getting over to the Schwartz Pinnacle. I retraced my steps to the Mickey's Spire- Thompson saddle and made a surprisingly easy traverse over to the Carter- Mickey's Spire saddle. This saddle is a very prominent thoroughfare that takes one from the huge alpine valley west of Williams and Thompson and down to the Limbert Valley (Lake 9425 area). The Iowa Mountaineers heavily explored this area in the 1940's and had a summer base camp near Lake 9425. They were the first to climb many of the peaks near here. But more recently, little exploration has occurred on the peaks just south of Thompson.
I reached Lake 9425 after hiking down from the saddle and through a gorgeous high meadow. From here I climbed the only route up to the ridge via a loose and steep ramp. From the Harriets-Schwartz saddle I climbed to the notch below Schwartz Pinnacle. I mistakenly opted for the south crack route and it was Class 4+, but I reached the summit. I climbed down the east slabs which is just Class 4. The east slab route from the notch is the way to go. My original plan was to descend back down to Lake 9425 and take that out to Fishhook Creek. But since I was good on time I decided to descend the south slopes directly back to Fishhook Creek.
Before dropping down to the valley I wanted to check out Harriets Pinnacle. After traversing some narrow ledges with massive drop offs, I determined there was no route less than Class 5 on Harriets from the west and south sides. But I did spy a possible Class 4 route on the east ridge of Harriets. Having done Mt. Bruce, further down the ridge, it was clear to me that Harriets Pinnacle was the most impressive point on this lower ridge. I easily scree slogged down the south slopes from the Harriets-Schwartz saddle and found a climber's trail on the north side of Fishhook Creek. I made it back to the car well before dark, even with the short days.
Trip Stats: 14.1 miles, 5172 ft, 8.5 hours (includes Schwartz Pinnacle ascent loop)
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