TRIP REPORT: Dragon Peak to Gould
3rd Class, Summit 12,995ft, mileage varies depending on route
Onion Valley out of Independence CA
You have the option to make this a climb into a circle. I chose a counterclockwise circle heading to Dragon Peak first, traversing to Gould and then dropping down to Kearsarge pass to hike back to the trail head.
To reach Dragon Peak from the east you start out on Kearsarge pass trailhead but promptly veer right onto golden trout lakes/dragon pass trailhead. While an official trail, expect to focus on navigation at times, as you make your way to the dragon basin. Sections have been damaged by erosion and flooding. Once you gain the upper lakes you will be rewarded by great views. Dragon peak and Dragon tooth are both very striking and worthy of their names. You can read about my ascent up dragon tooth HERE.
I went up the south chute from Dragon lake. We did this route in May and were able to avoid any unwanted snow (it’s an extremely low snow year). Once we gained the saddle we traversed Dragon Peak’s southern spine. Early on there is a short chimney with a chockstone, various options exist to climb around this. Once you gain the upper ridge you can choose your level of exposure. I often choose to stay true to the ridge line because I LOVE exposure and climbing but please be aware of the loose rock. There is quite a lot on this route.
Once you are at the final summit section you will encounter a smooth wall of rock. This can be climbed in a few different ways depending on skill and presence (or not) of a rope. A good option is to traverse in diagonally along a foot ledge. We climbed directly up and intersected this traverse ½ way across. While none of the climbing movement is hard (3rd class only) it is VERY exposed. Plan accordingly and consider a rope.
Descend the same way you came. If you are choosing to continue to Gould look for a faint footpath across the saddle between peaks. The views are spectacular. You will pass a few weather instruments, probably installed by the park service.
Gould is an easy walk up with a nice little summit block. The descent to Kearsarge pass was all sand and a pleasure on the knees.
You can always reference Mountain Project for more photos or additional route information.
The regular layers and equipment for a day at elevation in the mountains. If you go early season, plan for snow and the equipment and skills to navigate it. Anyone unused to exposure or climbing may want to consider a rope and gear to protect the summit block.