Black Peak (Black Benchmark)

Elevation: 9,385 ft
Prominence: 205

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Climbing and access information for this peak is on Page 351 of the book. The newest 7.5-minute quadrangle shows a spot elevation on the summit as 9,385 feet. The National Geodetic Survey data sheet shows the elevation as 9,389 feet. The USGS Benchmark does not have an elevation stamped on it. claims that Black Peak is the high point of the Black Pine Mountains. However, claims that Black Pine Peak is the highest.

Livingston Douglas provides detailed route descriptions for both the south ridge and the east ridge of Black Peak. He also describes the double-humped summit of Black Peak. Liv reports that his altimeter reading agrees with the LOJ website, finding that Black Peak is lower than Black Pine Peak. This website will stick with the 9,385-foot figure for now because, simply put, the exact elevation of this peak is not clear from the conflicting data. Updated November 2018

Black Peak (9,385 feet) is located 1.25 miles north of Black Pine Peak (9,386 feet). Given the confusion discussed above and the potential margin of error in the survey process, it is possible that this peak is the highest point in the range. If your goal is to reach the highest point in the range, you should climb both potential high points. USGS Sandrock Canyon

Black Peak aka Black Benchmark. Dan Robbins Photo

Black Peak/Black Benchmark. Dan Robbins Photo

Use this link to read about the Classic Black Pine Mountains Traverse.

The USGS benchmark on Black Peak.

The USGS benchmark atop Black Peak

Traversing the ridge between Black Peak and Black Pine Mountain.

Traversing the ridge between Black Peak and Black Pine Mountain.

Gary Quigley on the summit of Black Peak.

Gary Quigley on the summit of Black Peak

2018 Update by Livingston Douglas 


Same as for the north ridge of Peak 8376

South Ridge, Class 2

The Climb

This route is part of a ridge traverse from Black Pine Peak to Black Peak. The route begins at the 9,180-foot saddle at the base of the south ridge of Black Peak. This is a short ridge scramble up open terrain that is a mix of embedded talus/scree, short scrub, and a narrow/poor footpath on the ridge crest.

The summit of Black Peak (the south summit) has a large cairn atop it. The nearby summit of Black Benchmark (the north summit) has two USGS benchmarks—one in a ground boulder and another that is cemented into the ground itself. It also had a torn-down cairn, which I studiously rebuilt and stuck a triangulation post into. Now climbers will be totally confused and will have to do both high points of Black Peak, as they should.

The summit of Black Peak is about 10 vertical feet higher than the summit of Black Benchmark. The two summits are only 100-150 horizontal feet apart. If you are a purist peakbagger like me, you must stand on the highest point (Black Peak). But if you also like to bag USGS benchmarks, you must visit the [slightly lower] Black Benchmark location as well.

East Ridge, Class 3


Same as for the south ridge

The Descent

This route is the final leg of a magnificent ridge traverse from Peak 8376 to War Eagle Peak to Black Pine Peak to Black Peak and back down to the meadow in the center of Pole Canyon. Black Peak has a beautiful east ridge that bends northeast as it drops to the canyon floor. Better yet, it descends to the original departure point on Pole Canyon Road for the ridge traverse.

From the summit of Black Peak (the south summit), descend the ridge on a dead east line. The upper section of the ridge is a combination of short scrub and loose gravel/scree with lots of sheep trails crossing the ridge. The scrub thickens and gets taller as you descend so it gets tedious. But there are still gaps and sheep trails to help navigate through this unpleasant stuff. Just below Point 8370, there is a hidden, rocky buttress that requires Class 3 downclimbing of its ledges. The ledges have vegetation and loose gravel on them so caution is advised here.

The ridge bends left/northwest after you downclimb the rocky ridge buttress. Enter the forest at just below 7,400 feet. Now is when things get rather unpleasant. It begins with scattered mountain mahogany. The forest soon becomes dense, the brush thickens, and the side-hilling is more challenging. A mix of pine forest and open scrub/veg then combine to punish your body. Find open areas on the right/southeast side of the ridge and stay there to avoid the steep, dense forest on the left/northwest side of the ridge. Unfortunately, the open terrain gets rough too, as the scrub and vegetation gets thick/tall and scattered trees and blowdown join the mix.

The terrain steepens as you approach the toe of the ridge and the canyon floor. For the final 50-100 feet of vertical descent, drop off the left/northwest side of the ridge into a gully and you will almost immediately reach Pole Canyon Road. Follow the road northeast then east back to the lovely meadow where you are parked and/or camped.

Mountain Range: Black Pine Mountains

Year Climbed: 1988

First Ascent Information:

  • Other First Ascent: East Ridge -Descent
  • Year: 2018
  • Season: Summer
  • Party: Livingston Douglas

Longitude: -113.125608   Latitude: 42.13866


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