Black Butte revisited - no access for me from north/west

Published by 360 Pro , 14 June 2016, 19h29.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:14 August 2015
Hiking grading: T5 - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: II (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 300 m 984 ft.
Height loss: 300 m 984 ft.
Access to start point:Fishing Parking Lot at the east end of Caples Lake

Even though I've visited Black Butte already (*see here), I had the urge to go up there again. Since I didn't have all day for my hike on this day, but I still wanted to do some fishing at Caples Lake, I thought that I could try a different approach for this interesting little gem. My goal was to try to climb the peak from north or west and then stay on top of the ridge for the whole N-S traverse. However, I did not find any route which would have taken me to the top neither from north, nor from west, everything I explored was a tad too difficult for me.

After some (unsuccessful) early morning fishing, I start my hike shortly before 10 AM. From the fishing parking lot at the west end of Caples Lake I walk to the little river west of Badaraco Camp (ignoring a few no trespassing signs). After crossing the stream I walk up the rather steep grass/rock slope. It's not very clear how to best get up to the little lake at around 8500ft, but there are several options which don't exceed class II. From the tiny lake I head straight towards the north side of the northernmost pinnacle of Black Butte. From my previous visit I knew this is not the high-point, but the pinnacle south of it. However, I was hoping to get up on this and then follow the ridge to the high-point.

I try to scramble up to this false summit at several different points, but have to turn around and give up. The most promising trial is an approach which starts on the north side and turns around to the northwest side and up towards a rather vertical drop. I even see a rope hanging in a bush very close to the top, but can't make it there, because I can't find any trustworthy grips in the very exposed, almost vertical drop. I also try my luck from west, to maybe get to the gap between the two pinnacles, but this scramble is even more difficult. So I end up walking to the very south end of Black Butte along its base on the west side and then get to the highest point along the south ridge. I only have to leave the ridge in a few places to get to the top of Black Butte. The one hardest to find is from the pinnacle south of the high-point. In order to avoid the vertical drop there, I need to get down a chute on the west side and climb back up to the lowest point between the two and from there straight up to the very top.

Since I haven't completely given up any north/west approach I want explore the northernmost pinnacle from this side and maybe find a way down. However, shortly before the lowest point between these two pinnacles, there is a little overhang of about 10 feet. I could easily jump down, but probably wouldn't make it back up again and since I kind of know that there isn't a feasible way further down from the northernmost pinnacle for me, I decide to give up and just take the normal route down on the east side of the mountain. From there I then walk to the north end again and pretty much retrace my footsteps back to the parking lot.

Hike partners: 360

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