East Rixford Peak (12,800′) via South Face (Class-3 Scramble)

Looking south at East Rixford Peak (center) from Rae Lakes.

Looking south at East Rixford Peak (center) from Rae Lakes.

East Rixford Peak is a 12,800-foot (3,901-meter) peak located in the Sierra Nevada of California. It does not carry an official name, but looks like a twin of slightly smaller proportions to 12,877-foot Mount Rixford, less than one mile to the west and connected by a sharp ridgeline. This ridgeline extends eastward from the twin Rixford peaks to the snow-capped mass of Mount Gould, where the crest takes a right-angle turn to the north and creates the fantastic fingers and spires of the Dragon Peak ridgeline. All of this alpine glory stands as a great amphitheater to the popular Rae Lakes basin and surrounding drainages, with East Rixford Peak an eye-catching pyramid standing above the heart of it all.

The summit can be reached by class-3/4 scrambling routes on all sides on the mountain. The south face is an aesthetic wall of striped metamorphic rock that provides a non-technical and relatively secure path to the moderately experienced alpinist.


SUMMARY: I climbed East Rixford Peak with Max and Giselle in late June of the year 2015 during our 50-day northward romp along the main crest of the Sierra Nevada. This ascent occurred on the third of ten days spent bagging peaks between the towns of Independence and Bishop. Casey, who accompanied us on ascents of Dragon Peak and Mount Gould, made his departure at the highest pass below East Rixford Peak, returning to his home in Mammoth while Max, Giselle and I scrambled our way to the summit via the south face. We descended the east face of the mountain back to our camp below Gould Pass.


26 June, 2015

We snooze until 9:00am at our little camp on a small bench in the vast moraine on the west side of Gould Pass. The air is thick with smoke due to rampant wildfires in the western United States, but Rae Lakes basin still looks majestic with its aesthetic ring of colorful metamorphic peaks. Rising almost directly at the head of the basin is the twin-peaked massif of Mount Rixford. The 12,800-ft East Peak beckons us from camp, as we know that we will need to take Casey across its eastern shoulder in order to send him on his way over Kearsarge Pass, to the trailhead and then home. It looks like an entertaining scramble from whichever side we might choose.

Looking northwest over the Rae Lakes Basin from our camp on the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the left is East Rixford Peak.

Looking northwest over the Rae Lakes Basin from our camp on the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the left is East Rixford Peak.

Looking northwest over the Rae Lakes Basin from our camp on the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the left is East Rixford Peak.

Looking northwest over the Rae Lakes Basin from our camp on the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the left is East Rixford Peak.

The author looking west at East Rixford Peak (left).

The author looking west at East Rixford Peak (left).

The four of us start slogging up to Gould Pass, an affair which involves over one hour of climbing up a delicate staircase of sharpened talus boulders.

Looking west at the Rixford massif (left) from the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the far left is East Rixford Peak.

Looking west at the Rixford massif (left) from the west side of Gould Pass. The closest peak on the far left is East Rixford Peak.

From the pass, we trace the singular knife-edge ridgeline as it arcs across Mount Gould and the Rixford massif. We tag the 13,005-ft summit of Mount Gould along the way, an ascent which will be detailed in another article on this website.

Looking west at the twin peaks of the Rixford massif from the 13,005-ft summit of Mount Gould.

Looking west at the twin peaks of the Rixford massif from the 13,005-ft summit of Mount Gould.

The four of us scamper down to the 12,200-ft saddle below East Rixford Peak, marked by a gully of bright green scree.

Looking west at Max (bottom left) approaching the southeast ridge of East Rixford Peak. The massive summit on the left is Mount Rixford.

Looking west at Max (bottom left) approaching the southeast ridge of East Rixford Peak. The massive summit on the left is Mount Rixford.

Here at the saddle we bid farewell to Casey, who goes skipping down to Kearsarge Pass and thence onward to meet his father at Onion Valley trailhead.

Casey heading south back down to Kearsarge Pass on his way home to Mammoth.

Casey heading south back down to Kearsarge Pass on his way home to Mammoth.

Looking north at Dragon Peak (right) above Dragon Basin from East Rixford Pass (12,200').

Looking north at Dragon Peak (right) above Dragon Basin from East Rixford Pass (12,200′).

Attacking the summit of East Rixford from this aspect seems like an intimidating prospect, especially taking into account the presence of a series of rather forbidding gendarme towers en route to the top. We contour the gendarmes on the south side of the ridge and commence scrambling up the south face directly.

Max (bottom) scrambling up towards a gendarme on the southeast ridge of East Rixford Peak.

Max (bottom) scrambling up towards a gendarme on the southeast ridge of East Rixford Peak.

The terrain on the south face begins at low-angle scree and progresses to fun blocky climbing on fairly exposed rock.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

Looking down at Max on class-3 terrain on the south face of East Rixford Peak.

We succeed in reaching the 12,800-foot summit of East Rixford Peak in less than half an hour from the saddle. The most spectacular view is to the north, looking down the barrel of Rae Lakes Basin into the hazy sea of distant peaks. Lakes and stone towers adorn the eastern ridgeline, which extends all the way to Dragon Peak.

Panorama looking north from the 12,800-ft summit of East Rixford Peak. The hazy peaks on the left belong to the King-Cotter massif, while Dragon Peak (black) and Mount Gould (red) stands on the far right,

Panorama looking north from the 12,800-ft summit of East Rixford Peak. The hazy peaks on the left belong to the King-Cotter massif, while Dragon Peak (black) and Mount Gould (red) stands on the far right.

The summit itself is a treat to explore, featuring several hundred yards of airy knife-edge ridge to explore. Continuing along the ridge to Mount Rixford does not look as fun, however, so we take to descending back to camp.

Looking west at the author on the 12,800-ft summit of East Rixford Peak. The massive summit behind is Mount Rixford.

Looking west at the author on the 12,800-ft summit of East Rixford Peak. The massive summit behind is Mount Rixford.

Giselle and Max descend the east face directly while I re-trace my steps and meet them down in the depths of Dragon Basin. Forty minutes of talus-hopping takes us back to camp just before sundown.

Looking north down into Dragon Basin from East Rixford Pass (12,200').

Looking north down into Dragon Basin from East Rixford Pass (12,200′).

Snowfields, tarns, and glacial rubble in Dragon Basin.

Snowfields, tarns, and glacial rubble in Dragon Basin.

The east face of East Rixford Peak seen from Dragon Basin.

The east face of East Rixford Peak seen from Dragon Basin.

The three of us enjoy the surreal sunset scene that unfolds on the western horizon, turning the pointed granite spires of the King-Cotter massif into fantastic silhouettes.

Looking west at upper Rae Lakes Basin from the west side of Gould Pass. The furthest-left peak is East Rixford Peak.

Looking west at upper Rae Lakes Basin from the west side of Gould Pass. The furthest-left peak is East Rixford Peak.

Panorama looking west at upper Rae Lakes Basin from the west side of Gould Pass. The furthest-left peak is East Rixford Peak.

Panorama looking west at upper Rae Lakes Basin from the west side of Gould Pass. The furthest-left peak is East Rixford Peak.

Sunset behind the King-Cotter massif.

Sunset behind the King-Cotter massif.

Sunset behind the King-Cotter massif.

Sunset behind the King-Cotter massif.


 

27 June, 2015

In the morning, the three of us pack up camp and descend Dragon Basin (in rather exciting fashion!) to the popular Rae Lakes. Along the way we are treated to splendid views of East Rixford Peak. It’s such a prominent pyramid that one can hardly believe it doesn’t carry a name of it’s own.

Looking south at East Rixford Peak (center) from Rae Lakes.

Looking south at East Rixford Peak (center) from Rae Lakes.

…later in the day, Max and I reach the summit of Fin Dome (read the article on Fin Dome here) and are able to survey the entire awesome ridgeline stretching from Dragon Peak to Mount Rixford. The pyramid of East Rixford Peak stands as one of the most prominent features along the crest.

Looking southeast at the Dragon-Rixford ridgeline towering above Rae Lakes from the 11,693-ft summit of Fin Dome. The second peak from the right is East Rixford Peak.

Looking southeast at the Dragon-Rixford ridgeline towering above Rae Lakes from the 11,693-ft summit of Fin Dome. The second peak from the right is East Rixford Peak.

 

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