North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

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Chip Down
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North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

Post by Chip Down » March 25th, 2019, 6:08 pm

Camp Creek is a tributary of Herman Creek, flowing down a drainage on the west side of Nick Eaton ridge. Perhaps you've crossed Camp Creek as you hiked up Herman Creek. It's not very distinctive.

Camp Creek is flanked by steep ridges on both sides, which rise to meet Nick Eaton ridge. A few weeks ago I descended the southern Camp Creek ridge from Eaton, and along the way I noticed its sibling ridge across Camp Creek looked fun. Snow delayed my return, but I finally took a chance on it for my first hike of spring on 3/24 (I just now realized it's spring).

Getting up onto the ridgecrest was a hassle. Steep, crumbly, loose. Once on crest, it was narrow and rocky, not exactly a challenge, but much more fun.

I had noticed an insurmountable step as I approached the crest, and I knew I'd have to descend to bypass it, but I followed the crest to the base of the step, knowing that would give me a better opportunity to size up options. Well, there was a nice little ramp on one side, and so I never had to descend to get around the step (actually, turned out to be more like a gendarme). But then I was immediately faced with a steep spine that I didn't feel comfortable following, so I was forced down. At the first opportunity, I climbed back up to crest, and decided to follow it down towards the section I missed. Came to a flat grassy spot, almost, couldn't quite get to it.

I'll stop the play-by-play, or I'll be writing all night. There were fun challenges, changes in terrain, decisions to be made. Although it was a fairly well-defined ridge, people will disagree on the best way up.

The map suggested I would probably find the ridge faded at 2800'. Indeed, at 2820' I came to a landing, above which the route changed radically: it was forested (although burned), it was snowy (none to speak of up to that point), the ridge became broad and gentle, and there were people, lots of 'em! I had wondered if it might be prudent to get out my map/compass soon, but I was suddenly at the Nick Eaton trail, no hunting required. From the trail, I was amazed at how clear the top of my ascent ridge was. I bet countless hikers on that trail have looked at the gentle ridge and wondered if it would be a better way to Herman Creek than the switchbacks a couple ridges to the north.

My ridge took me to a great place to meet the trail, right at a distinctive high point (about 2850'). That made the route even more satisfying, much better than if it just faded into nothing (e.g. Ruckel Ridge).

I dipped into the saddle headed "up" the Nick Eaton trail, then continued up to the 3100' barely-off-trail high point I like to call "eccentric triangles" because it's vaguely three-sided, and it's in, but not centered in, a trail loop that's somewhat triangular (see map).

I returned on the trail to where I first met it, at the top of my ridge, and continued on the trail. I'd never been on this section of trail, and the snow/char is a pretty combination, if you like stark things. But soon the snow faded, and I was at the start of a long series of switchbacks. Looked ugly and boring. Nope, can't do it. I turned and walked back up a ways, then dropped down the ridge that runs parallel to me ascent ridge.

I was a little nervous dropping down an unknown ridge. It soon became uncomfortably steep/loose, and a bypass was needed, but after that it was doable. It was pretty fun all the way down, even though I knew I might cliff out and have to figure out another way.

My descent ridge ended at a bench, which I followed to the top of Herman Creek Falls (stupid name, as it's actually on an un-named tributary) [edit: I see our fieldguide calls it Nick Eaton Falls]. From there I explored around a bit towards my ascent ridge, but it was horribly steep and unstable, so I eventually gave up and dropped to the trail.

Overall: neither of my ridges were great, but with a convenient loop opportunity, a safe escape route from the top via trail if you wish, plus a well-defined end-point, I'd say this is a good solid B route, maybe B+.

PS: You'll notice there's a ridge between my descent ridge and the Eaton switchbacks. Looked enticing. I might go check it out.
Attachments
1.jpg
The day's first challenge.
2.jpg
Couldn't find a comfortable way over there.
3.jpg
See that oval snowy clearing right of trees? PCT skirts the top on a ridgecrest, near teakettle spring.
4.jpg
The last bare spot on the ridge, 2800'.
5.jpg
Looking down my ascent ridge from Nick Eaton trail.
6.jpg
My high point of the day, roughly 3100'.
7.jpg
8.jpg
My descent ridge.
9.jpg
Heard water where it didn't belong, went looking for a spring, found this. Between Herman Creek and Herman Trail, west of Nick Eaton foot.
Capture.JPG
A = ascent, D = descent, H = high point.

mwesterm
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Re: North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

Post by mwesterm » April 10th, 2019, 7:52 pm

Funny. I went up the same ridge last week and again this week - was wondering to myself if anybody else had ventured the same way. Great off-trail route.

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Chip Down
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Re: North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

Post by Chip Down » April 11th, 2019, 7:21 pm

Hi mwesterm, welcome to the board!

Yeah, it's funny, I was told via PM that there's been a lot of travel on that ridge lately. Weird. Maybe the EC closure has funneled people into the Herman Creek area, or maybe it's random (probably), or maybe that ridge always has been popular (probably not).

At the unclimbable spire, did you pass it on the right? And at the little saddle after the spire did you continue up the spine, or chicken out as I did? (I'm told the spine isn't that bad, but I thought it looked way too loose and crumbly.) Finally, what beer did you carry (don't worry, I'm kidding about that one, most of us hike sober :lol: )

mwesterm
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Joined: April 10th, 2019, 7:45 pm

Re: North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

Post by mwesterm » April 12th, 2019, 8:36 pm

At the spire I skirted it to the right, stayed close to the base; then I climbed up at the first notch around the spire. Wasn't too bad and once on the top was flat and wide open with lots of Grass Widow flowers. I waited until after the hike for the beer but am not against a celebratory beverage at the completion of a solid off-trail ridge climb! I'm impressed you tried the neighboring ridges - they looked a lot sketchier than the one I went up.

I've always thought Herman Creek was under-rated and Nick Eaton is just awesome - I'm sure once the more popular trails open up it will thin out a bit but I guess it's good to spread the wealth around the gorge a little since those trails on the west end get so overused.

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Chip Down
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Re: North Camp Creek Ridge to Nick Eaton

Post by Chip Down » April 14th, 2019, 7:37 am

mwesterm wrote:
April 12th, 2019, 8:36 pm
I'm impressed you tried the neighboring ridges - they looked a lot sketchier than the one I went up.
I'm tempted to bask in the glory, but the truth is I stayed essentially on crest on the other ridges (I gather you saw my twin TR), so I'd say the ridge just north of Camp Creek is probably the toughest, since that's the only one where I bailed from crest for a significant distance. Or maybe I was just particularly timid that day (it happens).

Agree that Nick Eaton is a nice route. Should stay closer to crest in spots, I think. Trying to remember, I don't think I've ever done it bare, always in the snow, so I've sort of picked my own variation.

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