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 while they 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 south. 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 better bridge is just to the right a little and helps you follow Robinson Creek on the west side, where you want to be. Then angle uphill until you hear 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 can be some of the better turns all day if it doesn’t get too warm. 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 glaciers.
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 more steep and 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 to the north and drop in. If you think your 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 get to Avalanche Lake. And it won’t look really long and worthy being right underneath it. This is the backside of the Hulk and you can cross the col on the north side of it’s summit to ski down the north facing Hulk Couloir into Little Slide Canyon. I found it one day after climbing the Hulk Couloir in firm conditions and just dropped this south slope in perfect corn snow to get home via Blacksmith Canyon.
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 harms 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. And then there is the steepest couloir along this ridge that looks like a snow knife blade on top….someone needs to go do that one and tell us how it goes here on the reply feature below!