Twin Peaks & Virginia Peak via Green Creek

  • Updated: June 21, 2015
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 19th to 21st, 2015
Twin Peaks (12,323')
Virginia Peak (12,001')

Twin and Virginia are two peaks accessible from the eastern side of the Sierra near Bridgeport

The planned outing to Tehepite and Spanish two weeks before had been canceled (again) due to weather and I was itching to get back up to altitude.

This had originally started as an official Sierra Club I rated trip Jen and I were planning to lead before we realized that keeping it 2nd class meant we had to drop down 1500 ft from one peak and them climb back up the other.  Then it morphed into a Sierra Club M trip led by Laurent and I which could do the 3rd class ridge traverse only to have that fall through.  And I just wanted to bloody get out and climb so the three of us decided to do it privately.

And at long last it looked like the weather was going to cooperate. So far this spring it seemed like storms kept hitting every weekend but this time beyond a little wind it was supposed to be clear and relatively warm!

The trailhead was Greek Creek which is just south of Bridgeport and just north of Virginia Lakes which we last went out of for the Pettit and Volunteer trip last year. The peaks are just south of Matterhorn and Whorl which I climbed during a spectacular trip waaaaay back in 2010.
Jen, Kristen, and myself left Thursday night at 8 pm hoping to have a (relatively) easy drive to the east side, bivy (relatively) early somewhere around Sherwin, and have an easy morning since we had to pick up a permit in Bridgeport.

Unfortunately for us the 15 at Cajon Pass was down to a single lane at the very top due to some sort of road work or accident.  We had 2.5 hours to contemplate our strong dislike of Caltrans before we were finally through.

The good news is after that things moved fairly quickly.  The bad was we were so far behind this was going to be a late night no matter what.  Oh, and Big Pine was apparently slightly on fire....

We ended up stopping at the runoff pools near Keough Hot Springs.

Keough is a paid hot spring resort but the water flows to the north where there are a few publicly accessible pools.  The water is more warm than hot but it was a place I'd heard about yet never had an opportunity to visit.

The first pool had a white van already parked there but the second was unoccupied.  We found a place to crash amid the scattered trash, beer cans, and one dirty diaper left distressingly close to the water, threw out our bags, and got a few short hours of sleep.

The next morning we could look around a little more.  The trash situation wasn't any better in daylight but the water was nice to put our feet in and had a number of little fish in it much to Jen's delight.

The spot is somewhat close to the road and not overly quiet.  So not my favorite as far as bivy spots.  Also while we didn't notice signs it's posted online that no camping is allowed there so I'd be careful using it as a bivy spot.

We picked up our permit in Bridgeport and headed off for Green Creek.  The trailhead is just south of Bridgeport down a easy dirt road.  The only significant turn was signed and the trailhead well marked with a single vault toilet and no bear boxes.

The start was very lush and green with a surprising amount of flower.

We saw a number of people along the trail.  green Lake is only a few miles in and seemed to be a popular fishing destination.  There's a junction there and additional lakes in both directions and a few people were also doing loops and coming out at Virginia Lakes.

We turned right at the junction and then  took a use trail around the north side of Green Lake where we saw a number of people camped and fishing.

From there it climbed gently past some cabin and old mining ruins.

The pass itself had a clear trail  and once up top we had a spectacular view of some of the ground we'd walked last year.

We'd intended to camp at Return Lake which we could see from the pass.  It was already shadowed by the peak killing any thought of an afternoon swim and Jen was really excited by the meadow down below.

We left the trail and picked our way down off the pass eventually finding a nice looking camp right on the side of the meadow.  It was isolated, had clearly been used before, and had a rather nice view.  We were home.

The reddish peak on the left is Virginia
The next morning we got moving at sunup and climbed Virginia Canyon towards Twin.

The canyon was spectacular but the mosquitoes were brutal.  I started to regret leaving my headnet and DEET at camp.

Looking back towards camp
A quick water fillup

Our plan was to climb Twin and then walk the ridge down to Virginia possible grabbing a bonus peak or two before dropping back to the canyon.  We had beta on the gully to the left of the peak promising higher quality (ie not as loose) 3rd class rock than the ridge.

On approach to Twin Peak
The chute we climbed is to the left of the bunny eared peak that has a small amount of snow in it.

The mosquitos stayed with us a distressingly distance up the chute but eventually we outran them.

Looking back down Virginia Canyon
The chute looked better and better the closer we got.  One writeup mentioned a tricky move over a chockstone but the only chockstone along the route had an easy bypass around the right hand side.

It turned out to be a solid climb without anything too tricky.

We topped out and followed the ridge a short distance north to the summit.  We could see figures on it which turned out to be some people who I knew by name but had never met in person.  Small world!  They were day hiking Twin and planned to head back down the 2nd class chute that runs between the two summits.

We traded summit shot duties and they took off while we double checked that the bump beyond the one with the register wasn't actually higher and then we headed back south along the ridge towards Virginia.

The ridge was 3rd class off and on and a lot of the rock was less than solid.

It did look rather awesome though.

Eventually we reached Twin Pass where the terrain becomes easy 2nd.  Since we planned to drop back down Twin Pass we decided to leave the girls packs here and climbed Virginia with me acting as a pack mule.

Virginia was exceedingly straightforward if a bit loose but had spectacular views from the top.

We would have stayed longer except it was getting late in the day and we had to figure out how to get back down to the canyon.

We had reports that you could continue over Virginia to Stanton Peak and drop down to Return Lake but it looked like more loose 3rd class that way.  We wanted down before dark so dropped back to Twin Pass.

We descended the slopes on the left

It wasn't quite something you could scree ski down but went quick.

Virginia on the right in the background
Once down in the drainage we were in a hurry to use the daylight we still had left.  We initially eyes taking the rocky ridge down but couldn't tell if it was passable and after an initial cliff out took a gully just north of it down.

This got us mst of the way down but ended up just about cliffing out near a waterfall we'd seen from below that morning.  The last 200 ft or so took some care to get down.

We reached camp just as we needed headlamps and got to work making dinner.

The night before it had felt like we had the entire area to ourselves but tonight we could see at least three separate groups of headlamps including some which seemed to be wandering around maybe looking for campsites.

The next morning we could see at least one of the groups camped in a somewhat questionable spot.  We enjoyed the view towards Shepherds Crest while we had our coffee and tried to avoid getting blown away.

The wind had arrived and gusts were strong enough we had to grab the tent to keep it from blowing away at one point.  Jen was less than amused by this.

We climbed back over the pass taking the trail this time.  The higher we got the harder the wind and by the time we crossed the pass we were struggling not to get bowled over by the stronger gusts.  So much for climbing Camiaca Peak on the way out.

Things improved on the far side and once we were down in the trees things were downright pleasant.

We spent a little time at Green Lake enjoying the view and were sorely tempted to go swimming.

We made it out at a decent hour which was nice considering the long drive home.

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