Back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 102 on 10-29-14, Lupe had approached from the N to successfully climb St. Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.), but despite a valiant effort, she failed to reach Peak 6733. Huge amounts of deadfall timber had choked the way. It slowed SPHP down so much that Lupe ran out of daylight before reaching Peak 6733, although she did make it as far as Peak 6634 just 0.5 mile to the NNW.
On this beautiful warm morning in early November, SPHP had a new plan of attack for Lupe. She would climb Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) and then follow the ridge around the S end of the valley to the W until she got to Peak 6733. Trekking along this high ridge might be quite an adventure. SPHP wasn’t certain how rugged it would be, but there could be some scenic and difficult to navigate large granite formations along the way.
Lupe didn’t get to find out. At least 2 miles from where SPHP had intended to park the G6, Hwy 87/89 was barricaded. The road was closed! SPHP had never seen this part of Hwy 87/89 closed before, but it was now. Well, what’s new? Adventures often require flexible planning. USFS Road No. 352 left Hwy 87/89 heading W right in front of the barricade. Time to see where it would lead.
SPHP expected No. 352 would head SW toward Peak 6733, and it did, but not until after it went NW first. About 0.75 mile from Hwy 87/89, No. 352 entered the NE end of the long valley between Sylvan Hill and Peak 6733, where the road divided. USFS Road No. 352.1B went W. A sign said “Private Drive”.
Lupe needed to go S, anyway, and No. 352 continued in that direction. Just a little past the fork in the road, SPHP parked the G6 along No. 352 (9:14 AM, 47°F). The immediately surrounding terrain was nice and level. The forest had been thinned and cleaned up. It looked almost like a park. Lupe was less than 0.5 mile S of St. Elmo Peak. She would start her trek to Peak 6733 from here.
Lupe and SPHP headed S along No. 352. With the change in starting points, SPHP had abandoned all thoughts of having Lupe climb Sylvan Hill, at least not before she climbed Peak 6733. Instead, she was going to follow the road to the S end of the valley, get up on the ridge, and go directly for Peak 6733.
No. 352 gained elevation at a steady, moderate pace. Within about 10 minutes, Lupe came to a green metal gate. No vehicles could get past this point, so it was just as well that the G6 was parked back where it was. Lupe and SPHP went around the gate and continued S, climbing steadily all the time.
The S end of the valley was less than 3 miles away. SPHP expected the road would gain elevation nearly all the way, but when Lupe was a little over halfway there, suddenly No. 352 turned SW and started losing elevation rapidly. The road went clear down to the bottom of the valley, where there was a junction with USFS Road No. 352.2A. No. 352.2A headed back to the NW following a little stream down Bear Gulch.
The route No. 352.2A took looked grassy and inviting, but was headed the wrong way. Lupe did go check out the stream for a big, cold drink before she was ready to leave this nice, secluded spot.
Lupe and SPHP got back on No. 352. The valley narrowed a great deal just to the S, with towering rock formations on both sides. The road led between them, following the creek upstream.
Once beyond the rock formations, Lupe was in the upper end of Bear Gulch. Here the valley widened out considerably. Much of the floor of the valley was a big grassy meadow. This hidden area, protected on all sides by high forested ridges, seemed like it would be a popular place for deer to graze, but Lupe saw none.
No. 352 continued S along the E side of the big meadow. Looking over at the big ridge to the W, SPHP saw a high point that was probably Peak 6634, the farthest point S Lupe had reached up on that ridge on Expedition No. 102. It was hard to be certain, though.
Lupe came to a junction with USFS Road No. 352.2B. It headed W across the meadow and disappeared into the forest. Lupe and SPHP stayed on No. 352. Soon another road, which was likely USFS Road No. 352.2D, branched off heading E. Lupe was getting close to the S end of the valley. She came to more little roads branching off in various directions.
SPHP was hoping to find USFS Road No. 352.2C, which should go SW before turning sharply to climb NNW up to a saddle on the ridge between Peak 6733 and Peak 6634. When Lupe reached a road going SW, SPHP took it. Soon unmarked roads were branching off of it in all directions. Clearly, this wasn’t No. 352.2C. The road continued SW deteriorating rapidly. Before long, it disappeared entirely. Lupe and SPHP were left climbing steeply straight up the ridge at the far SSW end of the valley.
Lupe reached the top of the ridge. There would have been some great views to the N and S, but the forest was too thick to see much. It looked like there might be a considerably higher point off to the SE hidden by the trees. Another less prominent high point was close by to the WNW. Peak 6733 had to be somewhere NW of there.
Down in the valley, No. 352 had been almost entirely free of any deadfall timber. Up here on the high ridge, there was plenty of it. Lupe explored while SPHP worked slowly along the ridgeline, picking a way through the deadfall. There were frequent granite outcroppings along the way, and occasionally some pretty good views toward St. Elmo Peak or Sylvan Hill.
Lupe and SPHP went up and down following the ridgeline from one granite outcropping to the next. Some of them were large enough to force SPHP around them. Others were easily traversed. Gradually the ridgeline curved to the NNW. Peak 6733 came into view. There was a considerable drop from the last high point Lupe went over down into the saddle leading to Peak 6733. On the way down, Lupe found the only really clear look at Peak 6733 ahead.
There was a lot of deadfall timber and several big granite outcroppings on the way up the SSE spine of Peak 6733, but Lupe and SPHP made it up the mountain. At the very top was a large steep granite formation. SPHP had to climb slowly and carefully up the last dozen feet, lift Lupe up on top, and then crawl up there, too.
The summit was surprising. A narrow band of granite a few feet wide, and all about the same elevation, snaked around for 20 or 30 feet. There were sheer, but not particularly high drop offs on both sides. Still, they were plenty high enough so one really should take care not to fall off. Lupe was fine up there, but SPHP crawled along the granite path looking for a more secure place.
Somewhat surprisingly, SPHP only had to crawl along the granite for ten feet or so before it became evident that there was a small patch of level ground nearby to the NW. It was almost as high as the summit. SPHP scrambled over there, and got off the granite.
Now both Lupe and SPHP could relax and enjoy the views. SPHP sat on the ground petting Lupe and taking a break. Water and Taste of the Wild for Lupe. Water and a golden apple for SPHP. After eating, it was time for a few photos from seldom visited Peak 6733.
Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.), only 0.75 mile to the W, presented the most interesting view from Peak 6733. Lupe had a great view of the rarely seen E side of the Crazy Horse memorial carving on Thunderhead Mountain. The Crazy Horse carving has been in progress for decades, and is still far from being finished, but remains a popular tourist attraction in the Black Hills.
When it was time to leave Peak 6733, Lupe took a different route back than the way she had come up. Lupe and SPHP worked around the SW and then W sides of the large granite outcropping at the top of the mountain. The route was a real tangle of deadfall timber and thistles, but eventually Lupe regained the ridgeline N of Peak 6733. She fought through more deadfall going N along the ridge all the way to USFS Road No. 352.2C at the saddle just S of Peak 6634.
Getting to No. 352.2C brought relief from all the deadfall timber. Lupe and SPHP followed the road as it wound down into the upper end of Bear Gulch to the E. It eventually led to USFS Road No. 352.2B, which brought Lupe to No. 352.
There were still a couple of hours left before sundown. If Lupe was going to climb Sylvan Hill, now was the time to do so. SPHP dithered. Lupe had been on Sylvan Hill once before almost 6 months ago. She climbed it from a different direction on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 89 on 5-17-14. The views were fantastic, but there had been a lot of deadfall timber to contend with along the summit ridge.
From upper Bear Gulch where Lupe was, it was over an 800 foot climb with no roads or trails. Deadfall timber appeared to be strewn all over the steep ridge. No doubt it would take a long time to reach the top, and another long time to get back down. SPHP wanted to go, and Lupe was willing, but maybe it really wasn’t all that feasible even with several hours of daylight. No sense getting stuck in the dark in a horrible tangled dead forest.
So instead of climbing Sylvan Hill, Lupe turned N on No. 352. The road led her back between the big rock formations at the narrow part of the valley. Lupe reached the merry creek bubbling along near USFS Road No. 352.2A. It still looked inviting to explore the grassy valley along No. 352.2A. So, Lupe did. She eventually left No. 352.2A, and climbed up on some interesting granite formations where there was a nice view of St. Elmo Peak.
Lupe’s explorations of Bear Gulch led her to USFS Road No. 352.1D, which in turn took her back to No. 352. At 3:58 PM (55°F), Lupe was back at the G6. Despite having taken a relatively easy return route, it was only 30 minutes until sundown. Maybe that decision not to climb Sylvan Hill had been the right one!
It seemed a bit strange to be leaving for home before the sun was even down. Lupe was happy enough, though. She stood gazing intently out the windows of the G6 looking for deer, cows, horses or anything else it might be fun to bark at. She had a great day climbing Peak 6733, and wasn’t disappointed on the way home either!
Note: Starting on USFS Road No. 352, the easiest and most direct up Peak 6733 would have been to take No. 352.2B heading W in upper Bear Gulch. No. 352.2B leads to No. 352.2C. Don’t follow No. 352.2C all the way NNW up onto the ridge. Instead, at the very S end of No. 352.2C, leave the road and climb SW up to the saddle on the ridgeline. From the saddle turn NNW, and finish the climb up Peak 6733.