Peak 8438 (Rattlesnake Basin Peak) by Livingston Douglas

Elevation: 8,438 ft
Prominence: 578

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This peak is not in the book. Published November 2018

Peak 8438 is located about a mile west-northwest of Harrington Peak. It sits at the head of Rattlesnake Basin and has plenty of aspens on it to qualify it as a member of the Aspen Range. Aspen Benchmark (8,410 feet) is about ¾ mile due west of Peak 8438. This peak is seldom visited and has two potential summits. The southwest summit (8,438 feet) is the high point. USGS Harrington Peak

East Face/South Ridge, Class 2+


Same as for the west ridge of Peak 8098. This route is part of a ridge traverse from Harrington Peak to Peak 8438. It begins at the 7,860-foot junction of FSR-097 and CR-1251 at the head of Rattlesnake Canyon.

The Climb

From the FST-097/CR-1251 junction, walk briefly northward on CR-1251 to reach the base of the east face of the south ridge of Peak 8438. This area is quite open, so you can get a good look at the terrain on the east face. Contrary to the USGS topo map, the east face is mostly open terrain, albeit somewhat steep. Leave the road and bushwhack west through a short section of thick aspens and pines to reach the base of the steep desert scrub and willows that cover the upper half of the face. There are no game or sheep/cattle trails here to help you navigate your way up this awfulness. Grind your way up the face, weaving through the thick brush. In some short sections, the slope feels like a headwall.

When you finally reach the south ridge, you will be greatly relieved. The south ridge is open, relatively easy terrain. Scramble up the south ridge to the elongated, scrub-covered false summit area. This area is NOT heavily forested, as the USGS topo map suggests. Perhaps this false summit area (8400+ elevation) is slightly higher than the [measured] southwest summit. Just to be sure, I checked the altitude on this open area of scrub and talus. Visually, the rocky outcrop to the southwest (Peak 8438) appears to be higher. The southwest summit is 5-10 feet higher according to my altimeter measurements.

To reach the true summit to the southwest, descend 40 vertical feet to a saddle then climb 45 vertical feet to reach the rocky outcrop, where you will find a summit cairn. The terrain in this traverse from the false summit to the true summit is a combination of desert scrub and talus. The rocky outcrop (and cairn) is at the east edge of the true summit area. But is it really the high point? The USGS topo map suggests that the true [measured] high point is a bit farther west. AND IT IS.

I found this out by bushwhacking through a patch of aspens to reach the true high point, a gentle, open rock-and-scrub area hidden behind the aspens. My altimeter measured it at 5 feet higher than the [more obvious] rocky outcrop slightly to the east. Both of these high points offer a splendid view of Rattlesnake Basin. I considered descending to Rattlesnake Basin to pick up FST-1336 to return to Rattlesnake Canyon, but decided not to because of the torturous aspen forest that lies between the summit and the basin. The better descent route appears to be the open south ridge.

South Ridge, Class 2


Same as for the east face/south ridge.

The Descent

From the true summit of Peak 8438, return to the south end of the false summit area by descending 45 feet to a minor saddle then ascending 40 feet to the false summit area through a combination of desert scrub and talus. The objective from here is to descend the south ridge all the way to the 7,780-foot saddle where FST-1336 crosses from Rattlesnake Basin to Rattlesnake Canyon. This ridge descent requires just over a mile of traversing.

The south ridge is mostly open terrain, with some undulations and sections of scattered trees. You will find a game trail on the ridge crest or on its right/west side for quite a ways. At about 8,080 feet, the ridge becomes rounded and less well-defined. In addition, it bends slightly right/west and becomes thickly forested with copious amounts of blowdown. Consequently, it is difficult to hit the 7,780-foot saddle dead on. If the slope is pulling you southeast (there are two shoulders here that will do that), force yourself to contour right/west to stay closer to the ridge proper.

If you continue to bash your way south (or slightly southwest), you will emerge onto the [blessed] ATV/MC trail (FST-1336). Follow the trail southeast and downhill about 200 vertical feet to intersect the Rattlesnake Canyon Road/FSR-097 at a signed junction. Follow FSR-097 down the canyon to return to your parked vehicle.

Additional Resources

Mountain Range: Peale Mountains

First Ascent Information:

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

Longitude: -111.35919   Latitude: 42.58739

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