Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

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VanMarmot
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Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

Post by VanMarmot » July 13th, 2018, 1:36 pm

Our quest to reach the high points in seven of Northern California's wilderness areas concluded with a backpack and subsequent steep scramble to the summit of Preston Peak (7,313 feet), the highest point in the Siskiyou Wilderness. Preston rises more than 500 feet above any other peak in this wilderness and presides over a superb landscape of gem-quality green-blue lakes, rugged geology, meadows flush with wildflowers, and a biodiversity matched by few places on earth (hence the Preston Peak Botanical and Geological Area). Preston's bulk is easily recognizable from the summits of many other peaks in the Klamath Mountains, Siskiyou Crest, and Southern Cascades, and its presence on the horizon has taunted us during many of our hikes in these areas. It felt good to finally get up close and personal with this peak.
My approach was from the Youngs Peak Trailhead (because the road to the Doe Flat Trailhead has washed-out), only to find that the bridge at the start of Forest Road (FR) 18N07 (Knopti Road) - the shortest way to the trailhead - was being replaced. The detour that was offered (FR 18N11) worked fine but added several gravelly miles to the drive. It's about 7.5 miles on the Clear Creek Trail (USFS #5231) and then the Raspberry Lake Trail (USFS #5231) to the lake and the start of the scramble up Preston's northwest ridge. At one point, I could see the entirety of the northwest ridge I'd be following to Preston's summit.

Image Preston's northwest ridge from the Raspberry Lake Trail

After setting up my tent near the lake and dumping extra gear, I went west up through the trees (much easier than trying the adjacent scree slope) for 300 feet to the top of the ridge, where I got a good look down at the round little lake.

Image Raspberry Lake from low on Preston's northwest ridge

On top of the ridge, there are use trails that tend to come and go, as well as some infrequent cairns that only confirm you are going in the right direction (but you need to be going in that direction to find many of them). I tried to stay on top of the ridge as much as possible, but there were exceptions to this. At 5,680 feet, I came to a large outcrop which I passed to the east (the west side was a massive bushwhack). Just above that, a clear use trail, marked with cairns,

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A cairn (arrow) marks the path around the west side of Point 6121

took me around to the west below Point 6121,

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Point 6121 from the saddle; the arrow points to the path around its west side

From the saddle, the final 1,300 feet or so to Preston's summit loomed above me. From here on it would just be up, followed by more up, then even more up.

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The last 1,300 feet to Preston's summit

I stuck close to the ridgeline, tucking and weaving to find the ever vague use trail and those confirmatory cairns. There were boulder fields to by-pass,

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One of the boulder fields along the ridge

rock slabs to balance across,

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Rock slabs began to appear higher on the ridge

mindless graffiti to NOT appreciate,

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Vandalism on the ridge

and a fair amount of loose rock and boulders to negotiate as I got further and further above the big saddle.

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Looking down from high on the ridge

Finally, the summit came into view,

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Just a few more rocks to climb below the summit

and after some more scrambling,

Image
Getting closer...

I was finally level with the summit! The climb, while strenuous (2,200 feet in 1.8 miles), was, for me at least, never more than high YDS Class 2 (hands and feet needed). I would say that if you find yourself in definite Class 3 terrain, you're off-route.

Image
The summit of Preston Peak with Mount Shasta in the distance

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Preston Peak's benchmark

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Preston's summit

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A cloud bank over the Pacific Ocean

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Mount Shasta (S) and the Trinity Alps (T) from Preston's summit

I briefly enjoyed the summit and then started a careful descent to my camp at the lake. I'm impressed by people who do Preston as a dayhike but spending the night at the lake meant that I didn't have to hurry my descent. Even though the use trails and cairns were (slightly) easier to see from above, I took my time, mindful that the ridge, while only Class 2, was still loose and slippery in spots, with significant exposure. Call it the mindful caution of a solo hiker. After the lake came back into view,

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Return to Raspberry Lake

I was soon enough back in camp, some nine hours after I'd left the trailhead. Serious re-hydration and dinner preceded the welcome embrace of my sleeping bag. I was soon out cold, only awakening briefly to note some large critter (probably one of the black bears common in this area) crashing through the trees behind my camp.

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Sunset at Raspberry Lake

I was awakened the next morning by the bird's dawn chorus and, after a small breakfast, enjoyed a quick hike back to the trailhead in the cool of the morning. A tough trip (17.8 miles round-trip; 5,200 feet of elevation gain) but a very good one and a great way to end the Saga of the Seven Summits!
Boots on the Trail (vanmarmot.org)

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

Post by Don Nelsen » July 13th, 2018, 7:21 pm

Nice! Beautiful photos and a great TR. I only wish this area wasn't so far away but, then, living vicariously isn't so bad :)

Thanks for the TR.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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markesc
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Re: Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

Post by markesc » July 14th, 2018, 11:48 am

Wow really cool!

Brings me back to my S. Oregon days!

Thank you for posting!

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VanMarmot
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Re: Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

Post by VanMarmot » July 14th, 2018, 12:57 pm

Don Nelsen wrote:
July 13th, 2018, 7:21 pm
Nice! Beautiful photos and a great TR. I only wish this area wasn't so far away but, then, living vicariously isn't so bad :)

Thanks for the TR.

dn
Thanks! We're not THAT far away. You could combine Preston with the Devils Punchbowl (now that the easy road to Doe Flat is washed-out) to make a longer trip worth the longer drive. :D
Boots on the Trail (vanmarmot.org)

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