Earthquake Dome P500

Thu, Aug 6, 2015

With: Jim Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

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Between the town of Mammoth Lakes and the main lodge of the ski area, along SR203, is the world-famous Earthquake Fault, a small picnic and tourist stop maintained by the USFS. Okay, it's not really world-famous and in fact wasn't created by an earthquake but by volcanic venting, but these two violent forces of nature tend to go hand in hand so we won't quibble about specifics. It's a pretty cool looking crack in the ground running more than 10ft deep in places and only a foot or two wide. In a good snow year you can even find some leftover snow hiding in the shadier corners well into summer (we haven't had a good snow year in a while, so maybe that's a thing of the past). North of this attraction is a small volcanic dome named Earthquake Dome for its proximity to the fault. Visiting with family in Mammoth, brother Jim and I wanted to get in a last warmup hike before the start of the Sierra Challenge following day. Jim wanted something easy since his feet weren't quite up to a more strenuous outing just yet. How he planned to fare at the Challenge wasn't yet clear, but I found this nearby summit that should qualify as easy - less than 2mi roundtrip and barely 600ft of gain. It would be the easiest hike I'd done in the past month.

We spent a bit over an hour hiking to the summit from the southwest, starting from one of the many OHV roads that permeate the area north of Mammoth. We came across a smaller version of the Earthquake Fault near the start, just before starting the uphill portion. Halfway up the slope we came across what may have been a practical joke by some of the ski area's maintenance crew - a four-person chairlift seat had been hauled up the side of the mountain and secured by heavy chain to a couple of large trees, allowing a nice seat with a view of Mammoth Mtn. It looked to be in excellent condition and placed relatively recently, perhaps in the past year or two.

Finding the highpoint would have been a challenge without the GPSr as the heavy forest cover makes it difficult to pick out just where to find it. After zeroing in the location, we found a MacLeod/Lilley register from 1990. It's a fairly popular ascent with many recorded entries. There are some views through the trees if one walks around looking for openings. To the southwest can be seen Mammoth Mountain (it was the first time I'd seen not a hint of snow anywhere on the mountain) with a finer view of the Ritter Range far to the west. I took us down a more direct route on the descent that proved to be a brushfest through a slope covered in manzanita. Jim didn't complain too much and I had to agree the ascent was a better route choice. And with the preliminaries dispensed with, it was time to get on with the 2015 version of the Sierra Challenge...

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