Thompson Peak - Trinity Alps - Canyon Creek LakesDate:
I climbed Thompson Peak in the Trinity Alps via the Canyon Creek trailhead in 9:42, starting at 6:20 am and finishing at 4:02 pm. The climb involved 16 miles of trail and nearly an equal amount cross country travel, entailing bushwhacking, routefinding, scrambling, and snow. I found spectacular mountain scenery and a true wilderness feeling beyond Canyon Creek Lakes where there is virtually no evidence of human impact.
Upper Canyon Creek Lake
Panorama from Thompson Peak
Topping out at just over 9,000 feet, Thompson Peak is the highest point in the Trinity Alps, which is a rugged section of the Klamath Mountain Range in northwestern California. The peak is at the headwaters of the most rugged drainage in the Trinity Alps, the Canyon Creek drainage, where several peaks rise above 8,800 feet. Due to the geographical location of these mountains, they contain elements of the Cascades to the north and Sierras to the south. Their height is not impressive when compared with the Sierras, but their higher latitude and proximity to the Pacific Ocean allow for significant winter snow accumulation and the existence of a few small glaciers.
Trailhead elevation is around 3,000 feet and the first few miles are very runnable terrain. After the junction with Boulder Creek lakes at mile 7, the trail becomes rougher and ascends to picturesque Lower Canyon Creek Lake at 5,600 feet. Traveling through the lakes is circuitous and involves needless elevation gain to get around granite walls that come right down to the lake shores. Past Upper Canyon Creek Lake is a gorgeous meadow. From here, it took me awhile to find a route through cliff ledges to the next cirque to avoid brush. Once above the first headwall, travel became easier through more meadows and then a talus/scree ascent up the second headwall. One more meadowy area was followed by a third ascent into the highest snow-covered cirque at the head of the drainage. From here, I put crampons on my trail running shoes and headed up the snow slopes to the ridgeline between the Wedding Cake and Thompson Peak. The climb from the ridge to the summit of Mount Thompson is a slog through steep dirt and loose scree and then a class three scramble. The actual summit block is a bouldering problem and the easiest route I found was class 4. I reached the summit 4:52 after beginning and rested for 22 minutes enjoying the views. There were no fewer than four USGS markers on the summit pinnacle. I generally retraced my route on the return trip with a couple areas of better routefinding and a couple areas of worse that on balance saved a few minutes. The return trip took 4:28 including waterfall side trips and an ice bath in Upper Canyon Creek Lake!
Final cirque still snowcovered.
A look down at Canyon Creek Lakes from the summit
Mount Hilton (middle) and the Wedding Cake (bottom left)
Thompson Peak, the route goes up to a notch in the ridgeline to the left of Thompson and ascends the backside.
Outlet into Upper Canyon Creek Lake
Waterfalls galore on Canyon Creek. Gear Notes:
Ice axe and crampons (needed crampons for running shoes, otherwise probably not necessary), La Sportiva Fireblades, Ultimate Direction Wasp PackApproach Notes:
The Canyon Creek Lakes Trail is in excellent condition with no trees down and straightforward stream crossings on logs. No snow remains at Canyon Creek Lakes and the snow level is actually about 7,000 feet and melting fast.