Adams County High Point Trip Report
Mounument Peak (8920+ ft)
Date: July 22, 2001
Author: Ken Jones
Note: Three independent sightings have shown that Monument Peak is higher than the 8933-foot spot
elevation 0.9 mile south. In my view, you don't need to visit 8933 to claim Adams county. All mileage in
this report is reconstructed from maps. If they don't match your odometer, don't be concerned - use a map!
Drive: This drive is a bear. 4WD and high clearance is definitely recommended, and likely required.
From Council ID, head west and then northwest out of town on the paved Hornet Creek Road (which becomes FR002).
The pavement ends before you get to the national forest boundary. There was a lot of construction
going on when we were there (including flag men and one-way traffic on a Sunday night on a gravel road!),
so I can't guarantee what you will find. We followed the excellent gravel FR002 and signs to the small town
of Bear (estimated at 28-30 miles) and continued straight on FR105 (instead of bearing left on 002) to just
short of the Bear work center. This is about 4.5 miles past Bear. Here you'll find a junction - the good road
goes right and becomes FR110; you go left on the lower-quality continuation of FR105.
Follow FR105, past the junction (right) to the work center, about 1-3/4 miles to a saddle. There is a historic
marker here (referring to mail service to Black Lake - prepare to be amazed!) and a four way intersection.
Turn hard right onto FR112 and follow it about 11-12 miles to the campground at Black Lake (you'll pass
the turnoff to Smith Mountain lookout about halfway there, and keep left about 3/4 mile short of the lake).
This road is rough, narrow, and steep - and gets an amazing amount of local traffic. We found the tiny
campground full, and camped near the lake's outlet instead. There's an outhouse, but bring everything else.
We didn't see piped water.
Hike/climb: There is a good, signed trail leaving from the road just before the campground (very limited
parking at the trailhead - you might have to walk a short bit of road). Follow the trail about 0.8 mile to
Purgatory Saddle (keeping right at a junction just before the saddle), and continue northerly past Emerald
Lake (roughly 2.5 miles from trailhead) and on another mile or so to the 6600-foot level (we did not see the
trail split shown on the map here) to where the trail crosses the creek draining the basin southwest of the peak.
The trail to this point is reasonably good, with some wet patches and downed logs to climb over.
Leave the trail and bushwhack east-southeast. We traveled almost entirely north of the stream. There are
plenty of bushes you will have to whack, and some places you can go further left (north) and work on
boulder fields instead. We had a few small cliff bands in the bushes, but nothing difficult. You're headed for
the major slot in the cliffs towering above you. At around 7400 - 7500 feet you'll pull into the lower part of
a steep basin and the vegetation opens up to stay.
This basin leads to a headwall south of Monument Peak. The summit is the large, somewhat triangular
prominence to the north of the headwall. Walk up the basin until you can see a good route to your north,
and scramble up through gaps in the cliff bands and up the steep wooded slopes to the base of the summit area.
There are a number of chutes which will take you to the ridge north of the summit. The one
immediately north of the summit will work but has a couple of more exposed spots (we came down it).
The next major chute north of that was a little easier (we went up it), and the ridge in between them was much
easier than it looked (with detours on both sides). From the last notch north of the summit, the easiest route
headed up and left, approaching the actual summit from its eastern side. I would rate some moves in the
summit area as class 3.
Round trip is about 10 miles and 4400 feet of gain (1200 of which is on the way back out).