Eocene Peak 11,569′
Location: Twin Lakes Campground – Bridgeport, CA
Elevation Change: 4481′
Recommended Map: Hoover Wilderness – Tom Harrison
Eocene Peak is the left side of a huge bowl seen from hwy 395 in Bridgeport. This adventure doesn’t get much attention, but it should. Bring your fit ski touring friends who don’t want to ski steep couloirs up there. It’s pretty far back, but not as big of a day compared to Matterhorn. Then ski a few steep couloirs in between Blacksmith Peak and Eocene or lap the lower angle terrain beneath them. The views from the top of Eocene are pretty cool. You can look down the Sawtooth crest to the north. And you can dream about overnight tour on the west side of the crest. You are likely to have the whole area to yourself.
To get into Blacksmith Canyon, find a wooden bridge to cross the creek at the south end of Twin Lakes Campground. Don’t use the second bridge past the willows at the true south end which aligns you with the horse creek trail and Matterhorn drainage. The correct bridge is due west of the parking area, through the woods. Cross here and follow Robinson Creek north for a few minutes. Then angle uphill into Blacksmith Creek. If you try to cheat and go uphill too early and before finding Blacksmith creek, the terrain just gets too steep to skin. However skiing back down through here on the return has been quite fun for me in this area in the afternoon slop. The crux of climbing Eocene might be this first bit of steep skinning through tight trees above the campground. Blacksmith Creek is your obvious handrail to lead you into the canyon, don’t bother crossing to it’s north side. When the trees open into a beautiful little meadow, just keep on going until you find paradise at the end of the canyon below the remnants of some small glaciers and a sweet cirque.
You cannot see the summit of Eocene Peak during your ski tour. The summit is on the left side of the Eocene bowl and just a few hundred feet beyond the top of the slope you can see from below. You will also notice just for a moment up there that the far climbers left side of the bowl provides a little steeper and more hidden NE facing gully that is more protected from wind. Head over here in search of powder. Or if you are going for corn, traverse the peak’s north end and drop back in a south direction. If you think you are going for corn snow because it froze hard and wind is low, check out the big funnel looking line on the right side of Blacksmith Canyon that drops through a narrow rock couloir below it. You won’t notice this until you skin underneath it, and it won’t look really long and worthy from this vantage point. This is the backside of the Hulk Couloir. I found this on a day where the Hulk line was terrible, so we dropped his backside in nice corn and got home faster to boot.
The terrain below Mt. Walt is steep on both sides, and wet slides will come down naturally into the Blacksmith Drainage as the day warms. You don’t really want to hang out too close to these south facing slopes going in or out. The path is wide enough where you don’t have to travel in harm’s way, but you probably will forget during this lengthy and scenic route. Blacksmith Peak just steals the show up there. You can’t take your eyes of it for most of the day.
The ridge in-between Eocene and Blacksmith Peak offers at least 3 impressive couloirs that reach the crest. I haven’t found what these cols are named or if the sub peaks along this section of the Sawtooth Crest are named. Most of these pics are from my day up there on 4-3-19 with Peter Leh and Danny Shimmon. After skiing the hidden NE facing side of Eocene Peak, we skinned over and up to the top of the center couloir out of the 3 big ones. This looked to be the highest and offered a really nice little nest up there and passage that looked reasonable to cross over into the west slopes on snow. Next time I’ll have to go up and check out what it’s like to cross over the col on the north side of Blacksmith Peak. The final note I have for Eocene is the steepest couloir dropping off the north side. You can see it in all my pics from high on Victoria Peak. This couloir always has a rock down lower that may make a tricky ski descent. I’ve never been close enough to see how much of a problem this bare spot would cause. One day I’ll go up Eocene from Blacksmith and drop into Little Slide Canyon using this line, after scoping it out from below on a previous tour. Maybe it’s trivial, maybe you need a rope, maybe it gets covered in a big winter.
I went up to Eocene one time with Stevie and Michael Decker and brought my big old dog Chester. The snow was firm, and I wanted to check out this peak for the first time on a nice corn snow day. Well the wind didn’t let the snow soften up there, and the final few hundred feet felt pretty steep. we used ice axe and crampons. I couldn’t believe how well Chester’s claws helped him do what we were doing. I was a little horrified watching him go down the slope, but he knew how to do it instinctually. Straight down, all 4 claws in 4×4 LOW.