Cook Peak P900 ESS
Wyleys Knob P1K ESS
Bright Star Wilderness HP
Pinyon Mountain P750 ESS
Gold Peak ESS
Walbrecht Peak P1K

Mon, Nov 18, 2013
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2

On my way to the Ridgecrest/Trona area for a few days of desert peakbagging, I stopped in the Southern Sierra to tag a couple of P1Ks south of SR178 around Lake Isabella. None of them was particularly difficult, but the collection of them made for an enjoyable, full day.

Cook Peak

This near-P1K overlooks the south side of Lake Isabella on the east side of the town by the same name. There is a small communications tower north of the summit and a decently graded dirt road goes almost to the top. I had thought I might have to hike much of this route when I drove in the previous night, but was happy to find it driveable even by my van. There were several stops to get out and move 6" rocks in the middle of the road that I doubted I could clear, and the last steep stretch to the summit turnaround had me nervous and my palms sweating, but I managed it without any serious damage to the undercarriage and went to sleep soon after I pulled in around midnight.

There was a beautiful pink and orange sunrise in the morning shortly before 6:30a when I first awoke, but I did not venture outside for another hour (it was 30F outside). This gave me a chance to warm the van and myself and eat breakfast before starting the day. From the parking area, there is a use trail zigzagging a short distance to the highpoint, less than five minutes' effort. There was both a benchmark and a register can, but sadly the can held only a marker, no notepad or paper. The summit has a very fine view, west to town, north to the lake and the higher Southern Sierra north of SR178, south into the heart of the Piute Mountains. The peak looks good from below as well, which makes it a bit of surprise that it isn't on the HPS list.

Wyleys Knob

About 12 miles south of SR178 and just south of Bird Spring Pass is Wyleys Knob. Overshadowed by the higher and more forested Scodie Mtns on the north side of Bird Spring Pass, Wyleys Knob is a P1K nonetheless. With a high-clearance vehicle one can drive to the summit on BLM roads. Washouts can make this road more difficult as we found the first time I visited the pass. Luckily we had Mike Larkin's Jeep which managed it with some effort and the use of ultra-low gears. I wasn't going to try my luck with the van, but I did manage to drive almost 2.5 miles from the pavement at Kelso Valley Rd before deciding to not push things further. From where I started it was less than three miles to the summit, most of it cross-country. The terrain is fairly dry here and without too much vegetation, making cross-country travel no trouble at all. The slopes were somewhat sandy and tedious, but at least there wasn't any bushwhacking to contend with. After climbing the steeper slopes on the north side, I came upon one of several BLM routes that can be used to access the summit. The rest of the hike was a piece of cake, the whole ascent taking less than an hour and a half. There is a newish-looking communications tower at the top surrounded by a burly fence, but the highpoint is found a short distance to the north outside the fence. There are the remains of an old survey tower found here, but no benchmark or other notables. From the summit, The Scodie Mts and Skinner Peak rise prominently to the north, the Piute Mountains to the west, and the lower, more desert-like summits of Mayan, Walbrecht and Butterbredt to the south. I was back by 11:30a, taking about two and a quarter hours all told.

Bright Star Wilderness HP

This Wilderness takes in the drier, easternmost portion of the Piute Mountains west of Kelso Valley Rd and north of Piute Mtn Rd. Kelso Peak is the only officially named summit within the Wilderness boundary, but the highpoint is in the southwest corner just off Piute Mtn Rd. It's not that I'm chasing Wilderness HPs, but this one seemed like an easy bonus while I was driving Kelso Valley Rd south. Though dirt, Piute Mtn Rd is well-graded and easily driveable by any vehicle, at least the first five miles necessary to reach near the highpoint. I parked off a side road that ends just outside the wilderness boundary and just west of a clump of rocks that marks a local highpoint. The Wilderness HP is a liner about 1/10 mile from where I parked, on the northeast side of this rock outcrop. The coordinate came from LOJ, and loaded in my GPS it was an easy walk taking all of three minutes to find a plastic tub that Dan Baxter and Bob Packard had left only 4 months earlier. They referenced another nearby register placed by John Vitz, but I was unable to locate it (I only made a cursory look). After signing the register, I scrambled up the class 3 rock outcrop for the view. The area burned over some years ago, but it looks like enough of the pines survived to allow it to reforest naturally over the next 50-100 years. The better views were on the drive up Piute Mtn Rd where one gets a fine view of Mayan Peak and a decent one of Walbrecht Peak, both east of Kelso Valley Rd in the drier part of the range.

Walbrecht/Pinyon/Gold

These three summits lie east of Kelso Valley road, southeast of Mayan Peak. Walbrecht is officially unnamed, the name given by the HPS to honor the second person and first woman to finish the HPS list, Freda Walbrecht in 1952. It was proposed for list addition in 2002 but failed in the membership voting later that same year which is too bad because it is far better than many HPS summits and the highest one in the area (and a P1K to boot). Pinyon and Gold were two lower, nearby summits that served as bonus peaks to make the outing more challenging.

Butterbredt Canyon Rd is a dirt/sand BLM road that conveniently connects Kelso Valley Rd with the saddle between Walbrecht and Gold. A high-clearance vehicle can easily negotiate the road. My van might also have been capable, but I didn't notice the condition of the road until I was well along on the hike. I had played it safe by starting at the end of the pavement where the PCT crosses Kelso Valley Rd, a longer way to do the three, but still only about 4.5hrs. In the end I was glad to do it the longer way since it let me fill up the rest of the remaining daylight. I followed the PCT for the first four miles, until at a dry canyon on the west side of Pinyon Mtn. As part of the Jawbone Canyon OHV area, there are other roads and motorcycle single tracks that can be used throughout the area. One of these leads to the summit of Pinyon by circling around the west and north side before going over the summit.

Pinyon's summit has the smashed beer cans and other detritus that comes with motorized access. Pinyon's benchmark similarly showed the abuse heaped upon it by the same folks, as though defacing a benchmark can somehow pay back for a lifetime of injustice at the hands of The Man. These things are pretty tough, so you have to really go at it with a hammer or heavy wrench or something. It amuses me to imagine someone taking swings at it with unleashed fury, their buddy next to them asking, "Dudes, what's your problem?" The views stretch east into the Mojave desert and the drier portions of Sequoia National Forest in the other three directions. To the south, Gold Peak and Walbrecht are most prominent, and it was to these I next turned.

The obvious route is to follow the motorcycle track down the south ridge, but for some reason I questioned this and dropped to the southwest, eventually having to sidehill across sandy rocky slopes to get back on track to the saddle with Gold Peak. From the saddle, a road continues around the east side of the peak, bypassing the summit, but a decent use trail can be picked up from the saddle leading to the rocky, almost-class 3 summit blocks. A register found in a plastic jar from 2009 had four pages of signatures, most recently from a party in February that included Bob Rockwell.

I dropped west off the summit, cross-country down a short distance to a road, making use of an older one at a junction that is closed to vehicles. The BLM went to great efforts to enforce this closure, digging up large pits in the track to make things as difficult as possible for motorcyclists that might not be happy with the restoration (i.e. curtailment) effort. At the saddle with Walbrecht I climbed directly up the northeast side, reaching the summit after 4p. There are two summits found here, the south one is class 2-3 and has an HPS register. It was from this register that I first learned that the peak had been given an unofficial name. The peak saw many visitors in 2002-3, probably in anticipation of it being added to the list. But this never came to fruition and the visitors became fewer. The highpoint is actually a large summit block at the north summit which I investigated, but appears to be class 5 and not the sort I would solo. The holds are there, but the rock is somewhat crumbly and I would prefer the safety of a rope tossed over the block. Not having one handy, I left it unclimbed.

I descended the NW Ridge back down to the start at the end of the pavement several miles away. The PCT use to share much of this ridge with OHV enthusiasts as is shown on the 7.5' topo map, but the PCT has since been re-routed lower on the north side of the ridge, bypassing Walbrecht altogether. The sun had set behind the Piute Mountains to the west before I could return to the car but not before providing some color displays on the thin clouds overhead. It was 5:15p by the time I returned. As the stretch of road here is pretty lonely, I used it to take a shower in the middle of the pavement before dressing in fresh clothes and heading out. I drove to Ridgecrest and then on towards Trona, spending the night at a small overlook within the Trona Pinnacles area south of Trona. The next day's adventure to Straw Peak was a long one, and Trona Pinnacles would be my starting point.

Continued...


Submit online text corrections or comments about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Wyleys Knob

This page last updated: Wed Apr 27 14:53:25 2016
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com