Square Top, The Castle, The Keep, and The Slide

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Square Top and the surrounding country is pretty darn rugged.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

We had several missions in mind for this three-day excursion. First was to try to climb The Castle, which I have also called Crenelation Peak ('Crenelation' just seems too high-brow, but go ahead and look it up to see the relevance). I was excited when I realized you can see it from the Paddy Flat Road, peeking above Needles Summit.

Second was to go back to Square Top when we could see more than 50' from the summit (see the 2018 report linked above). And of course, Dave put his own spin on the improved view by taking photos from the summit of the sunrise (more to follow).

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Dave picked me up at 11am on Thursday and we were on our feet a little before noon. It wasn't long until we were cooling off our feet.

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Then the No Trail sign, and after that we hit Needles Summit. Somewhere in here we got a new view of The Castle, on the right.

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And since we were on Needles Summit, there's The Needles.

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After we passed the next saddle, we were now looking back west at The Castle.

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And finally, after what had seemed a really long day (in reality, about 4.5 hours) we were at our lake, which Dave dubbed Le Lac du Platt (or, in English, Flat Lake). Pretty little spot. Already had a fire ring.

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And this special flat accoutrement (click for a bigger image).

Yes, we were drinking that water.

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We set up camp, had some lunch, and just rejoiced in getting the big packs off. Then we were off for our first peak, The Slide. Later, you'll see why I named it that.

For now, that's Square Top Lake.

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More Square Top Lake as we climb the ridge.

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Dave just below the summit of The Slide.

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That's the actual summit, with Square Top in the background.

(Dave Beck photo)

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Fun stuff to look at. The Needles, and a closer view of The Castle (gulp).

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Looking back at the way we came in. If you have sharp eyes, you'll be able to find our tent in the bigger version.

We cruised back to camp, had dinner and just the right amount of merlot, and hit the sack. Tired boys.

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And if you can see our tent from the summit, surely you can see the summit from our camp. Trailhead
The next morning, we were up early headed across the valley for The Keep. Along the way, we passed several gorgeous little lakes. Trailhead

Looking back at The Castle. This was our first views of this end of the ridge, and we were totally stoked at the view of a possible route.

Note: There is an old, mostly-unused trail going throught this valley, but for the most part we saw no sign of man.

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We continued south down the valley past several more lakes. Then up the south side of The Keep. As we neared this highpoint, my GPS beeped to tell me we were at the somewhat vague LOJ coordinate (only four digits after the decimal).

Hey, we can get up that no problem! To confirm it was the summit, we found sort of a cairn and a bunch of rusty wire, which I assume once held a summit survery marker.

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The problem was that looking north, this little knob is about 4' higher. Trailhead
So off I went to see if I could get up the little knob. I spied a possible route, but it looked a little tricky, and there was a big staub sticking up out of the tree. A fall would likely end in skewering oneself. And the exposure off the other side was impressive! So the true summit of The Keep shall remain untouched. Trailhead
But the view of The Castle made this little trip completely worthwhile. Trailhead

Zoomed in, I think I see a route.

I had done lots of study of my previous photos, and had planned on climbing The Castle from where the Squaretop Trail crosses its northern ridge. But it appeared that this gully met my previous plan at the saddle. And from there, who knew what it might take to sit astride that block?

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Here's a picture of The Castle as viewed from the other side, from a trip to Needles Summit in 2017.

I found this view intriguing. Maybe obsessing?

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And here's amother view from atop the north fork of Kennally Creek. Trailhead

Looking back after our ridge traverse from The Keep. We're most of the way up The Castle here.

 

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Is that the summit? Feeling hopeful about this one. I think I see a way....

 

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I did climb 'au cheval' onto the summit block of The Castle. After thinking about this peak for several years, it was really fun to finally be on top.

(Dave Beck photo)

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We had had a wonderful morning. We visited a gorgeous collection of lakes, and explored and climbed two unknown peaks. When we got back to camp, we had a nice lunch and hung out in the shade or a while. But it was still early.....

So we decided to hike down to Square Top Lake. This is the view from the saddle five minutes above camp. The lake is about 500' below us.

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Getting down to the lake started out pretty easy, but then got complicated. Near the lake, there is tons of brush. And huge cliffs (look at the right edge of the photo).

This is the shot that explains the name of yesterday's peak: The Slide. 'Cuz that's yesterday's summit right there.

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Looking back at the hillside we descended. And the ramparts of Square Top. And yes, there were LOTS of fish. As we toured the lakeside, we also found a large frying pan and an unfortunately broken fishing pole.

Then it was time to escape the lake. Our route brought us into the brush low to the lake, then up a very steep hillside though some pretty intense slide alder. There were several places where I went quite a distance without touching the ground. Reefing myself up the hillside by pulling on branches. Dave was able to duplicate this, but Ruby had a pretty tough time of it.

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So when we got back to camp, we just relaxed.

That night, we were both awake listening to a booming bass of someone's music. We're pretty sure there was no one in our basin area. Where the heck was it coming from? I thought it was aliens coming for my organs.....

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The next morning, we were up and moving by 5am. This is the view of Square Top from the day before, and more or less our route: moving up from lower right to upper left. Trailhead
We summited at around 5:40, just in time to watch the sky glow off to the east. My camera couldn't take photos in that low light without the flash, but Dave got some doozies. Trailhead
Similar shot with a bit more light. Trailhead
The Lick Creek range. Trailhead

Square Top Lake.

After the sun was fully up, we scampered back to camp and packed it all up. We were on our way out of the valley by around 8am.

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Moon setting over The Castle. Trailhead
Needles Summit, with the valley in the background. Trailhead

Click on the Dave Beck photo, to the right, to see Day 1 of Dave's photo blog.

(Dave Beck photo)

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Click this one for Day 2 of Dave's photo blog.

(Dave Beck photo)

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Click this one for Dave's sunrise shots on the summit of Square Top, day 3

(Dave Beck photo)

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Map

 

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