The Gothic Basin "Enchainment" - Del Campo Peak (South Face) & Gothic Peak (West Ridge), October 2006
With more exciting climbing objectives for the final nice weekends of autumn on hold courtesy of a ruptured finger pulley (injured in the climbing gym no less), I set my sights on some low hanging fruit in the Mountain Loop area. Having failed at a previous attempt climbing a snowbound Del Campo Peak in November 2001, it's long been a nagging goal of mine to complete those final feet above the notch to the summit. Since Del Campo alone makes for a relatively short day trip, I chose to combine it with an ascent of nearby Gothic Peak and thereby complete a small enchainment of sorts. Jeff Rodgers and partner had completed a similar trip earlier in the year and confirmed that it is possible to descend through cliffs low on Del Campo's South Face in order to reach the saddle between the two peaks. Doing so keeps the backtracking to a minimum and makes for a rather aesthetic tour of scenic Gothic Basin.
I parked the car at Barlow Pass and started hiking down the Monte Cristo Road around 10am. I turned off the gravel roadway just before the bridge (partially collapsed?) and started the steep grind up the Weeden Creek Trail. Reaching Gothic Basin after about two hours of hiking, I began making my way up a heathery shoulder beneath Del Campo's prominent Southeast Buttress. A worn path for the most part leads all the way to the edge of a large talus slope (snow earlier in season) beneath a rocky gully in the South Face. Once above the talus slope, I scrambled blocky terrain just left of the gully (exposed 3rd class). Aiming for a small clump of trees above a notch, I soon gained the ridge crest and turned left (west) for the final scramble to the summit. Staying on the far-left side of a small amphitheater, I enjoyed some fun scrambling directly along the crest and reached the summit soon thereafter.
After a quick lunch, I began the descent - this time staying to the left side (climber's right) of the amphitheater. Some dealing on unpleasantly loose and exposed terrain eventually saw me back the clump of trees above the notch. Retrieving my trekking poles near the bottom of the gully, I began traversing right across the talus slope. Unable to locate a viable route down through the brushy cliffs this high above the Gothic-Del Campo Saddle, I continued down on talus for a bit longer and dove into the next break in the tree-lined cliff edge. Here I was able to link various steep heather patches together to eventually reach grassy slopes above Crater Lake and just a short distance below the saddle.
From the saddle, I hiked up glacier-polished slabs beneath Castle Rocks aiming for a prominent notch between Gothic Peak and the southeast-most tower of Castle Rocks. I gained the notch after a short move on the wall to the right. The steep drop-off on the other side was unexpected, so I carefully inched my way onto the upper West Face and began pulling heather and rock to reach the crest of Gothic's Northwest Ridge. Easy scrambling soon saw me to the summit.
A short descent along Gothic's SE Ridge brought me down to talus and slabs above Crater Lake. A tedious descent led to the lakeshore, then down to the lower lake whereupon I regained the Weeden Creek Trail. Reaching the Monte Cristo Road in good time, I arrived back at my car around 6:00pm (8hrs round-trip). All in all, a fine end-of-season solo outing with just enough scrambling to distinguish itself from...um, a hike.
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