Pistol Peaks by Beauty Peak via Monument Creek Trail / 手槍峯

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Pistol Peaks by Beauty Peak and Lake Mountain sit atop Eureka Creek. Like Three Pinnacles, three high points occupy this long ridgeline. Though tedious, Monument Creek Trail offers the most direct way to the summit.

Pistol Peaks main summit up ahead
Pistol Peaks main summit up ahead

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Pistol Peaks at a Glance

Access: Monument Creek Trail
Round Trip: 18.4 miles
Elevation Range: 2520′-7802
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

Monument Creek Trail

We’ve slept by this trailhead twice this season. Both times I thought we could go up Pistol Peaks the day after the other outings. But those trips ended up being hard on the dogs to even think about climbing this one the day after.

This time, the 3.5-mile walk to Eureka Creek wasn’t nearly as warm in the pleasant fall weather. Having two dogs to entertain me en route also made it quicker. Before long, we were at the creek crossing.

A quiet stroll
A quiet stroll

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Crossing Eureka Creek

It looked like the forest service never restored the washed-out bridge. But the water level over Eureka Creek was low enough to hop through on rocks. Soon, we went up the defined but rocky trail with little shade.

Two people were resting by the lower trail when we walked by them. The path took us to the southwest before rising steeply in the trees for the next 1000′. Along the way were a few spur trails we avoided.

The washed-out bridge over Eureka Creek
The washed-out bridge over Eureka Creek

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Pistol Peaks South Ridge

We almost lost the trail at a few brushy spots below the crest at 4500′. Even with a day pack, the steep incline plus tree debris slowed us down quite a bit. Meanwhile, views improved as we went above the trees.

I remembered the most from the first trip were the heat and the humidity. But glad that this time it wasn’t the middle of the summer plus a multi-day pack. At 5500′, we were back on mild terrain with fewer windfalls.

Looking south
Looking south

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Pistol Peaks South Peak

At 6600′, the trail moved to the ridge’s west and continued to Pistol Pass. Right then, I decided to leave the path and climb the south peak first. Then we’d traverse the short ridge over to the actual high point.

It took another 800′ of climbing to the ridgetop, which was rockier than I expected. So naturally, the dogs moved to the back of the line as I guided them. We stayed west of the crest before finally reaching the south peak.

The final stretch
The final stretch

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South Peak Summit Views

The view of the main summit from the south ridge has been spotty. So it was the first thing I checked out the minute we were on top. Then I looked at the joining ridgeline, which gave me pause and seemed undoable.

Meanwhile, the otherwise grand Robinson Mountain looked lackluster under the afternoon sun. Even the giant peaks to the east, like Lost Peak and Three Pinnacles, looked less impressive under direct lighting.

Northern panoramic view on Pistol Peaks South Peak
Northern panoramic view on Pistol Peaks South Peak

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Onward to Pistol Peaks Main Summit

After a quick break, we dropped onto the steep west side to the main summit half a mile away. There I saw our first larches on this trip–fall has arrived. Then we weaved through some krummholz down on the saddle.

We mainly stayed west of the crest because of the rocky ridgeline. But sometimes, I’d poke my head over to check out Pistol Peaks’ steep drop-offs on the east. Before long, we were on the summit on a warm afternoon with a light breeze.

This way to Pistol Peaks
This way to Pistol Peaks

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Pistol Peaks Summit Views

As I looked around, memories of the yellow pup and my trip through Pistol Pass soon surfaced. The east face of the seldom climbed west peak was quite impressive. The high points on the west were now casting long shadows.

In contrast, the eastern peaks didn’t show many definitions with their sunlit western slopes. Most of them looked rather dull from a distance. Silver Star Mountain was the most striking structure to the south.

Southern panoramic view on Pistol Peaks
Southern panoramic view on Pistol Peaks

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Leaving Lost Creek Valley

We took the southwest ridge from the top and plunged through the talus. Later at 7200′, the outcrops forced us to move into the gully. Then we went over the scree and a small larch forest before meeting the trail at 6400′.

A mile south on Monument Creek Trail brought us back to the south ridge. Then it was four non-eventful miles over the long ridgeline. Soon as we crossed the creek, we walked the rest 3.5 miles back to the car in the dark.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

See more trip photos here.

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