Black Giant, Charybdis, Mount McDuffie


By: Larry Tidball, Dave Petzold

Dave and I split off from the latter part of R.J.'s week long CMC trip to Devil's Crag and the Palisades to pursue some "needed" peaks in the Ionian Basin. We had hoped to get an early start from our Helen Lake campsite to try to climb these 3 peaks in one day. The previous 4 days of storms made us wary of having enough time to attempt them all before the daily thunderstorm drove us for cover. A check of the pre-dawn sky looked ominous, more sleep was in order. Later we arose to a clearing sky and in spite of the late hour decided to "go for it".

8:30 saw us leave Helen Lake and start the hike over Black Giant Pass. We dropped down from the pass to Lake 11,828', crossed at the outlet and started the ascent of Charybdis via the NNE ridge route. We stayed East of the ridge crest on mostly class 2 until near the summit. We gained the ridge just below the false summit and followed the crest over the false summit, down into the notch, and then out onto the East face before scrambling up to the summit. We picked up the SRC register box that had been left on the ridge below the false summit and carried it to the summit to join the historic nested Vagmarken tin cans.

From the top of Charybdis we headed for McDuffie by climbing back down the 3rd class portion of the NNE ridge and then dropping straight down a likely gully heading due East to the highest of 4 lakes at the head of the NE fork of Disappearing Creek. From the lowest of 4 lakes we climbed up about 40' to a ledge system at 11,800' that we followed above Lake 11,600'+ (below the "Y" in "CANYON" on the map) to a saddle at 11,800' Walking past the 4 small lakes and traversing into the basin NW of McDuffie is a walk in a very special place; incredible beauty and isolation, and a geologists nightmare of rock types and colors.

At the 11,800' saddle we took a lunch break while examining the NW face of McDuffie. Our planned loop trip was based on finding an alternate to the standard North Ridge route on this peak . Roper , Voge , and previous trip write-ups had provided no known route. However, directly opposite us a West "spur" off of the SW ridge looked "do-able" An ice axe equipped party could try the remnant snow/ice gully on the northwest face.

From our lunch saddle, we climbed down 60' to Lake 11,720'-t and walked up the gully separating the West Spur of McDuffie from a glacial exposed bedrock hill due south of Lake 11,720' Above this gully 100' of talus slope put us onto good solid 3rd class. We stayed just left of the crest of this spur ridge. About 300' of straightforward 3rd class put us onto class 2 boulders that soon merged with the broad class 2 slopes of the SW ridge which we followed, staying right of several false summits.

It is interesting to note that this peak was not first climbed until 1951. A check of the register did not indicate any other ascents from our direction. After descending the North Ridge Route we decided that our ascent route to be much more straightforward, to have less loose rock, and no routefinding difficulties in comparison to the North Ridge. I recommend our route, especially if doing this 3 peak loop. From the base of the North Ridge Route we went past Lake 12,000' and up a great ramp to the saddle at 12,600' south of Black Giant. The climb of B.G. was up easy slopes as was the descending traverse back to camp at Helen Lake . Round trip time 12 hours. This loop certainly is within reason for an average paced group. I have marked our route on the map.

Larry Tidball

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section