Modoc County Highpoint Trip Report

Eagle Peak

Date: August 5, 2006
Author: Garrick Meeker

I summited solo on a Saturday and the register from 1998 is pretty full. This is of no real use to future Eagle Peak trips if you make rational decisions but I thought I'd share how I ended up fracturing my hand on the descent. The ascent was uneventful except for the wild horses at Poison Flat following me around. There were at least 20 running up 10 feet away from me and after a while I stopped trying to follow the trail just to get away from them and went cross country for a bit. Strange.

I spent a long time on the summit enjoying the view and thunder started on my descent. I decided to take Suttle's steeper route to descend to the trail quicker but somehow I ended up going northwest. I hadn't bothered replacing my broken compass because most of the hike is on trails and the sun was completely behind clouds. I rushed along Summit Trail in the wrong direction for several miles before I stopped to look at the peak, only to see a view of the north face. (I hadn't realized how fast I was hiking.)

Instead of backtracking along the trail like a sane person, I decided to take a shortcut and cut over to the Mill Creek trail. This worked out okay but the upper part of this trail seems to be poorly maintained after the 2002 fire and with cows grazing nearby. It got dark and I probably followed a game trail along Mill Creek. The banks are very steep and even a headlamp didn't help much.

I looked around for the trail in case it hadn't turned away from the creek yet. I thought about a bivy but my clothes were lightweight and I really wanted to get back to the car. Well, I discovered I had walked to the top of a bit of a drop-off that I couldn't see very well. I turned around and as my feet slipped in the dirt I grabbed some dead branches that immediately broke. I slid down onto a bit of a ledge maybe 6 feet down but then I was off balance and fell backwards onto the ground below, another 10 feet. I landed in soft dirt on my pack and apparently my hand. It didn't hurt but I couldn't hold anything.

I found a tree to lean against to stop from sliding down the roughly 35 degree dirt slope and pulled out my space blanket and went to sleep.

In the morning, I retrieved my scattered gear and hiked along the creek to Clear Lake, where I joined a trail back to the trailhead. The fracture was clean and should heal easily and of course a fall like that in a remote location like that (alone) probably should have been my demise.

Now if you've read my story in Yolo county you might think many of my outings are like this. The majority have been uneventful, including more difficult climbs like North Palisade. I'm rather embarrassed by this disaster My decisions got exceptionally bad as I became more anxious to return to the car. Maybe this story will remind everyone, even the most experienced members, that as our skills increase, so do our stubbornness and potential for greater mistakes.

Eagle Peak is remote and entails a bit of distance and gain but it's not terribly difficult.