A Hundred Peaks - page 4


Away from the San Gabriels

With the advent of the Summer Holidays, time for a change of scenery. Up to now, the peaks have all been in the San Gabriels, quite close to home. The next step was to branch out and address some of them in the Southern Sierra Nevada. The plan was to do six over three days - drive up there on Thursday June 11 and set up camp at Walker Pass, then hike one peak that afternoon. Two each for the next two days, one the last (Sunday) morning and home that afternoon. With the 19 I had already completed, this would round out the first quarter-century of peaks. Didn't exactly work as planned, but some good hikes nonetheless.

Thursday I set off, after the rush, and arrived in good time at Walker Pass. After setting up the tent, I drove back a short distance along Hwy 178 to the trailhead for Mt Backus, setting off from there at 1:40. The trail is quite clear, but after some distance it worked out better to get into a gully and follow it, since the trail appeared to wander off. A little nerve-racking to hear thunder in the distance Trail to Mt Backus(hiking up a dry stream bed in a thunder storm is second only to hiking along an exposed Gully to Mt Backusridgeline in a thunderstorm for stupidity, and I was planning doing both - ideally without the thunderstorm), but happily it amounted to nothing. Did get some nice clouds for a while though, and without them it was a bit warm. There comes a point where I had to leave the gully to hit the ridge, and the climb up that part was steep. Apparently I was more out-of-shape than I thought, because I struggled on that. Go 100 paces. Stop and rest. Next 100 paces, no, better make it 80. Painful. Unfortunately, things didn't get any better over the four days, but more of that later.

Mt Backus ridgeAnyway, the ridge was exhilarating, partly because of the magnificent views and partly because of the 40 mph winds.


Finally made the top after a little over 3 hours, and then hiked back down in 90 minutes. I was really tired by the end.


Next day, two peaks along the Pacific Crest Trail. (Walker Pass Campground is on the PCT and there were some through-hikers camping there. This was the only day I saw anyone on any of the trails I did this trip - a grand total of three people.) From Walker Pass to Morris Saddle, along the PCT, took about 1:40 of very nice walking. There is one set of switchbacks, but for the most part the trail is not steep (although the pull up from the pass is a bit unrelenting). Beautiful views back to the pass on the first part, then into the next Morris Peakvalley after reaching the first saddle. The first part is in the open, then the trail goes into oak woodland. A very nice start to the day. From Morris Saddle the spur up to Morris Peak is supposed to be straight up a steep ridge, but it was clear that othersCollared Lizard had hiked it up a more gentle, and accordingly longer, trail, which I followed. It was all up, but at a much more reasonable gradient, and in a little over half an hour I was at the top. I tried to go down the north oside to rejoin the PCT on the other side of the mountain (the trail maps show this is possible), but after a while I realized that I was going down steeper and steeper slopes, and if the trajectory I was on did not make it as far as the trail I would have a devil of a job climbing back up, so I chickened out, scrambled back up to the top and went back the way I came. adding considerably to the length of the day's hike. The next target was Mt. Jenkins, and the trail from Morris Saddle to where the Mt Jenkins trail split from the PCT seemed interminable. I kept thinking I was there, only to find I was at a different ridge, and the correct one was further along. Finally, I arrived at the right place, only one hour after leaving Morris Saddle, but it seemed much longer. A quick lunch, although I wasn't feeling great (pretty tired) and start up the ridge. It was like yesterday - a few feet and rest, repeated over and over. When I came out of the trees and could see the final ascent I just said to heck with it. It wasn't that far away, but it looked like some serious boulder cliombing and Mt JenkinsI was completely knackered. So I gave up. It really hurt to turn back so close to the peak (shades of Ontario Peak, though this wasn't because of stupidity), but I really didn't think it would be safe. I will try it another day, when Owens Peakit is the only peak. Yesterday's slog up Backus and this morning's up Morris had taken their toll. Also, from this part of the PCT I could see Owens Peak and The Five Fingers, which I had planned for the next day. That was when I decided to change the plan - I just couldn't face them in my tired condition.




Next day, Saturday, I figured a one-peak day was called for, so I brought Russell Peak forward from Sunday. This was an interesting hike, similar in some ways to Backus Peak. The start was similar, from the trailhead along Hwy 178 across the footslope of the mountains. This is on an old road all the way to an abandoned well, then, a little further along, it heads cross-country From Russell Peakup a ridge. That part was spent climbing without any respite - a little bit (though not enough) of gentle traverse, mainly stairstep-like slog up the ridge, and a little all-fours scrambling. Finally the approach ridge hits the main ridge and then it was straightforward, with a little nervousness climbing uip rocks at the peak itself. Fortunately I had missed the best approach, so coming back down off the peak was much easier then getting to it.

I was very tired by the time I got back to the car - 4 hours and only 6.5 miles, but 2,300 ' elevation gain. I struck camp at Walker Pass and drove over to the west side of the Sierra Nevada, west of Kernville, and camped at Cedar Creek Campground, on Hwy 155.


Sunday June 14. From the campground it was a short drive to the dirt road leading to Forest Road 24S07Bohna Peak, then 2 miles to the trailhead for Bohna Peak. The first part, up a jeep trail, is just continuous straight up. What is it about the Sierra Nevada hikes? The easiest part of one of these is like the hardest in the San Gabriels. So, once again, I was exhausted. But, the trail levelled off and meandered through a magical forest, in the clouds. It was like being back in tropical cloud forest. Amazing. This made up for all the tired muscles. The approach to the peak is off the trail, and I was a little nervous about doing that in the cloud, but those who had gone before had been very gracious and left plenty of cairns. Just as well, because there are some pretty good dropoffs close to the peak.


Sunday Peakl TrailFrom Bohna, I could have walked along a ridge trail to Sunday Sunday Peak TrailPeak, but given the cloud (no visibility from the ridge) and my general state of tiredness, I elected to descend Bohna and drive to the Sunday trailhead, saving myself about 10 miles. I'm not sorry I did, because the Sunday Peak Trail is equally delightful, again in the clouds. I had hiked most of this 3 years ago when I was first exploring the Southern Sierra Nevada, and I wanted to do it again. Couldn't ask for better conditions, especially since it cleared as soon as I reached the top to give some magnificent views.

View from Sunday PeakSunday Peak and me

A fitting end to the day and the trip. That's 24 so far. This turned out to be the last peak before my first anniversary date of starting the Hundred Peaks. Given that my original goal was to complete 10 per year, this isn't a bad start.






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