Ever since SPHP ran across the site Peakbagger.com early in May, 2014, Lupe had been working on climbing all of the peaks she was able to on Peakbagger’s list of Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks. By now, she had been on top of almost all of them. Of course, the list contains a number of peaks Lupe will never be able to climb, because they are legally off limits or require climbing gear.
American Dingoes are purists. If a mountain requires climbing gear, they don’t even try it. They only bother to climb mountains they can summit completely unaided under their own power. They never rely on ropes, or crampons, or snowshoes, or ice axes, etc. At least that’s what American Dingoes claim. In practice, Lupe has fudged at a few peaks by allowing SPHP to lift her up onto the highest rocks.
On this beautiful October day, Lupe was intent on reaching a couple of the few remaining climbable peaks on the Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks list that she hadn’t been to yet, Zimmer Ridge (6,600 ft.) and Peak 6600. Both peaks are in the same general area 5-7 miles SW of Hill City. Lupe would begin her quest on USFS Road No. 387.1, about 0.5 mile from Hwy 385 (10:37 AM, 54°F).
Lupe and SPHP started the day following No. 387.1 as it wound its way NW through a narrow canyon. There was a creek near the road, which Lupe was glad to see, since it meant she could help herself to cold, clear water anytime she wished. The maps show different names for this creek. SPHP’s old USFS map show it as Whitehouse Creek. The Peakbagger.com topo maps show it as White Horse Creek.
The canyon widened out into a bigger valley, as Lupe continued NW. The road was wide and appeared to be built to county specs, which made it uninteresting. After Lupe had gone a mile or more, the confusion about the creek’s name cleared up. A little way ahead, Lupe saw a white horse standing with a few friends at the edge of the forest. Lupe assured SPHP that this was the actual White Horse of White Horse Creek, which seemed logical enough.
Toward the S end of the valley between Zimmer Ridge and Peak 6600, the USFS map shows 160 acres of private property in the shape of an upside down and reversed “L”. The horses Lupe was approaching were probably on that private land. To stay on USFS land, Lupe left No. 387.1 angling NE up Zimmer Ridge.
Lupe’s route grew progressively steeper as Lupe climbed through a dense forest of young trees. It had been sunny and warm down in the valley, but when Lupe and SPHP arrived up on the ridgeline, it was breezy and cool. Lupe was close to the S end of the high ground on the summit ridge. After a short break, Lupe went N looking for the summit.
Along the way, Lupe reached two false summits. The second false summit provided the first real views in any direction. Lupe could see to the SSE toward Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.). She could also see the true summit of Zimmer Ridge. It was still farther N along the ridge.
The ridgeline going over to the true summit was broad and fairly level. It should have been an easy trek. However, there was a lot of deadfall timber. Several rocky spots and dense stands of thistles slowed SPHP down, too. It took SPHP a while to get over to the true summit. Lupe had plenty of time to sniff and explore.
Zimmer Ridge culminates in a couple clusters of boulders jutting up right next to each other at the true summit. The highest rocks were all very nearly the same elevation. Despite the purist intentions of the American Dingo, it was fudging time. SPHP had to lift Lupe the last few feet to get her up on top. She didn’t look all that comfortable perched high on Zimmer Ridge, but she did her best to act as if everything was just lovely.
SPHP was surprised to see that there was yet another high point on Zimmer Ridge about 0.33 mile to the NNE. It looked almost the same elevation as the true summit. SPHP had to consults the maps to make certain it wasn’t actually higher. The maps showed that it was only 6,583 ft., or 17 feet lower.
Even though Lupe had already reached the summit, it seemed like a shame not to go on and finish her explorations of Zimmer Ridge all the way to the N high point. The first part of the trek over there wasn’t bad, but as Lupe got closer, there were big rock formations to maneuver around. The deadfall timber and thistles were bad, too.
The N high point was a better place to relax than the true summit. Some flat ground provided a high perch with a great view to the N. Lupe and SPHP took a break there. After the break, Lupe finished her climb up a big rock pile to the top of the N high point.
With her explorations of Zimmer Ridge complete, it was time to start for Peak 6600, located 1.75 miles due W. Lupe and SPHP left the N high point heading WNW down the mountain. Lupe lost hundreds of feet of elevation, and arrived at USFS Road No. 387.1B a short distance NE of a saddle over to the next ridge. Lupe and SPHP followed the road up to the saddle.
SPHP had intended to just cross the road, and follow the ridgeline NW until it swept around to the W to a point where Lupe could turn S to Peak 6600. However, while Lupe might not be tired of the deadfall timber yet, SPHP was. Even though Lupe would lose more elevation that would have to be regained, it seemed easier to just stay on No. 387.1B.
So, Lupe remained on No. 387.1B continuing SW from the saddle. The road reached its low point where it turned NW to start gaining elevation again. A small pond was shining in the sunlight near the bend. Lupe was happy to see it. She ran to the pond, plunked herself down in it and had a big drink.
Fully refreshed from her pond break, Lupe shook herself off and was ready to go again. Lupe and SPHP followed No. 387.1B into the upper end of White Horse gulch. The road went NW 0.75 mile, turned W and soon came to a turnaround loop. Lupe was now at almost the same elevation as the ridge to the N. From the turnaround loop, it was only a short trek off the road to get on the ridgeline for a look at the country on the other side.
SPHP went to take a look at the view, but Lupe never made it that far. As Lupe approached, a gray and white rabbit suddenly dashed off and disappeared in the forest. Lupe lost all interest in the view. She preferred to sniff around excitedly trying to figure out where the bunny had gone. As it turned out, the rabbit must have had prior experience working with a magician. It had completely disappeared.
The road continued W beyond the turnaround loop, and climbed more steeply for a short distance up onto an even higher ridge. Peak 6600 was now just 0.75 mile to the S. Lupe and SPHP left the road to follow the ridgeline. Lupe came to several places where there was a view back to the E toward Zimmer Ridge.
It was late afternoon by the time Lupe reached the top of Peak 6600. The summit area features two high points enclosed by the 6600 foot contour on the topo map. Lupe arrived at the E summit first. Unfortunately, forest blocked the views. Lupe got up on the highest rock at the E summit, and struck a rather dramatic Carolina Dog pose.
Lupe left the E summit to check out the W one. It wasn’t very far away, but there was a huge amount of deadfall timber navigate through. The effort was worth it. A rocky ledge at the W summit provided good views off toward the high country in that direction. Lupe and SPHP stopped here to take a break. Lupe finished almost all of her Taste of the Wild. SPHP ate the last apple.
The forest made it hard to tell for certain, but in SPHP’s opinion the E high point was the true summit of Peak 6600. However, the views were better from the W one. Lupe and SPHP lingered on the W summit of Peak 6600, watching the sun sink toward the horizon.
A hoped for colorful sunset didn’t pan out. Lupe and SPHP left Peak 6600 heading S along the ridgeline. SPHP wanted Lupe to stay up on the ridge as long as possible before turning E to head back down into White Horse Creek valley. Lupe didn’t make it far, though. There was too much deadfall timber up on the ridge.
At the low point of the first big saddle S of Peak 6600, Lupe and SPHP left the ridge and started down. Lupe had to lose a lot of elevation before the deadfall diminished and the terrain started leveling out. As twilight was fading, Lupe strayed onto private property somewhere along the way.
Although this was White Horse Creek valley, a very friendly black horse noticed Lupe and SPHP passing through the forest. The most likely explanation in the horse’s view was that the Carolina Dog was bringing him a nice supply of fresh carrots to munch on. It whinnied a greeting, and trotted jauntily toward Lupe looking forward to carrots and company. Maybe Lupe was even bringing oats?
Lupe loves to bark furiously at cows and horses from the safety of the G6. This was different. Up close, the gigantic black horse approaching rapidly in the dark forest was quite unnerving for the American Dingo. Lupe mistook the black horse’s cheerful whinnying as a threat. The evil apparition was out to get her! Lupe dashed off, without so much as a single bow-wow.
At 7:05 PM (38°F), Lupe and SPHP arrived back at the G6. Lupe headed for home, content with her peakbagging successes. Meanwhile, a disappointed black horse heaved a sigh and resigned itself to its dull diet of dry grass. Some days it’s tough being a black horse in White Horse Creek valley.Want more Lupe adventures? Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index. Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.