Hawkins Peak P2K OGUL / WSC / PYNSP
Pickett Peak

Mon, Jun 30, 2008

With: Ryan Burd

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
Hawkins Peak previously attempted Sat, Jan 14, 2006

This was the beginning of a short road trip with 11yr-old Ryan. With three days to poke around in the mountains, I chose to head to the Lake Tahoe area. The peaks selected included a Nevada county highpoint neither of us had been to before and another that Ryan had failed to climb a few years earlier due to excessive snow on the trail. Today's peak was in California, not a county highpoint, but on the P2K list. It had the distinction of being one of the few peaks I had failed on where I had yet to got back and reach the summit. Matthew Holliman, Mike Larkin and I had attempted it as a winter climb, but blizzard conditions caused us to turn back when still about a mile from the summit. Today's hike would have no such hazards - warm temperatures, smokey blue skies and almost no snow to be found - these would be the order of the day.

We got a relatively late start out of San Jose, not leaving until almost 4:30a, about an hour after I had planned. Seems I still haven't figured out how to set a watch properly - one I've owned for more than seven years now. No matter, this wasn't going to be a hard day. When we got to the SR88/89 junction in Hope Valley we found the dirt road heading towards Hawkins in decent shape and easily driveable by our Honda Accord. We drove almost five miles from the pavement, following directions from Yamagata's web site. They seemed a bit overly complicated, mostly because they tried to acknowledge all the side roads that branch off from it. I might suggest simpler directions:

From the SR88/89 junction, turn right onto a dirt road that will take you around to the west side of Pickett and Hawkins. Take no sharp forks to the left or right, staying on the most-used roadway. Keep left at a major junction about halfway in, then follow the road gradually up as it climbs to a shallow saddle around the 4.6mi mark. Turn left onto a steeper side road heading up towards Hawkins. Park at the gate about 0.3mi further up. Suitable for all vehicles.

At the gate by 8:30a, we set off shortly thereafter, hiking past the gate and up the road. It was easy to follow and nicely graded, making for an easy hike up towards the peak from the west side. Where the road forked near the base of the peak we turned right, followed it a short ways, then headed directly for the peak cross-country across sparse, scrubby slopes. Ryan slowed as it grew steeper and turned to scree, eventually wishing he hadn't been the one to suggest the direct approach ("But it looked so close from the road..."). The only rock on the peak I found interesting was the very steep South Face that looked class 3-4 for about 30-40ft. I intended to go up it myself while directing Ryan around to the easier class 2 on the east side, but he wanted to try the harder route. Bold, these young ones be.

Up we went. It was not as hard as I had feared, nor as non-chalant as Ryan seemed to treat it. He clearly didn't appreciate that he could die on such terrain, and knowing this I took extra precautions. I made him climb slowly ahead of me so I could check any slip or fall, all the while I'm yammering about him to test each hold and pay attention and what not. I was so involved in the effort that I only got one photo in the class 3 terrain, right at the beginning. He thought the short section was great fun, even the part with 20ft+ of air on a short step across. I had been a bit worried while we were climbing that we might get stopped by a wall and have to climb down, but thankfully that didn't materialize. We got over the last obstacle and found easier climbing the last short distance to the summit.

Hawkin's summit is strewn with a small menagerie of antennae, enough to be a little annoying but not enough to block the views. Ryan climbed up one that had rungs like you see on telephone poles, getting up about as high as one could safely go on Hawkins. Smoke from various fires in California and neighboring Nevada pervaded much of the far views, but not as bad as reported in many places throughout the state recently.

Ryan wasn't really in the mood to do Pickett, but I told him it was too early to head back (not yet 10:30a). So we headed down the east side, Hawkin's easiest route. Though not all that steep, the slope has lots of loose rock that one must be careful of. Downclimbing a little too recklessly, Ryan unleashed a few of the larger dinner plates pieces of talus, slipping a few feet down. One of the large pieces scraped up against his leg, forcing a cry of anguish from Ryan. Tears came immediately as he started crying. In his mind he imagined his leg had just been shredded, blood must be everywhere and bones probably sticking out. But with long pants on he could not immediately verify this. I got him to sit down to keep him from hurting himself further in his panic. There was no sign of blood seeping through his pants and his cries soon diminished to sobs which made me believe it wasn't serious. I figured it would probably be better not to take a look and have him start up again. We didn't have a first aid kit, so there wasn't much I was going to be able to do anyway (I know - way to go, Dad...). I talked and yapped about being careful and taking it easy and what not, mostly to take the focus off his pain which was soon receding. After things settled down I got up to start leading us down again, when I heard another cry of anguish. "Oh my God, it's horrible!" He apparently snuck a peek at his leg right after I turned around. Having a little less sympathy now, I calmed him down again and responded, "Told you not to look..." At the end of the day after he'd taken a shower I took a closer look - three or four scratches down his leg, almost no skin loss, none of the cuts more than superficial. I chided him about how "horrible" it was, and he sheepishly tried to reason, "but it looked a lot worse with all the blood!" I didn't find a blood stain on his pants.

After calming down the second time, Ryan asked in a soft, whimpering, pleading voice, "Do we still have to go to Pickett?" My response - "Yup." Evil Dad. Down we went. A lot more carefully this time. Ryan had gotten a little needed religion on how rockfields can be dangerous. Down at the base of the east side we picked up the road that heads around the north side of the peak. We followed this until on the broad North Ridge which we descended cross-country on easy ground to a second dirt road located below. It was 11:30a when we reached the bend in the road at the saddle between the two peaks. Here I gave Ryan the option of continuing to Pickett or waiting for me, and to no great surprise he chose to wait. I gave him my watch, told him I'd be back in an hour, and pointed to a patch of snow he could play in off the east side of the ridge while I was gone. This wasn't the first time I'd left him to do a little extra hiking, and he was getting more comfortable with it each time.

Pickett is a good deal lower than Hawkins, but the summits are similar in shape and difficulty. The route I took along the ridge from the saddle was easy to follow, and Ryan reported that my white shirt could be easily spotted most of the way. Similar to Hawkins, I climbed some class 3 rock on the short South Face before reaching the summit. The top of Pickett is a field of large boulders, more difficult to manuever around on than Hawkins. It might have made Ryan extra nervous after his accident. I didn't find a register anywhere at the summit (nor had we found one on Hawkins), and I beat a hasty retreat the same way I had come. When I got back to Ryan, reclining against the daypack I had left with him, he commented, "Not bad - only 54 minutes."

We headed back down the road which took us nicely down to the main road we had driven in on, about a mile and a half from our car at the trailhead. It was a simple matter of hiking back up the road to our car where we arrived at 1:30p. Well, simple for one of us anyway. Ryan was pretty tired by this time and was more than glad to be done. I had planned to take him fishing in the Carson River after the hike, but he wasn't interested. That was a bit of a surprise - he almost never passes up an opportunity for fishing, his favorite pasttime. So off we drove to Carson City where we took a motel for the next two nights. Ryan soon revived as we engaged in his other favorite pasttime - moteling. This involves a number of activities he doesn't normally get to engage in, such as eating and drinking in bed while watching TV. We also took a nice tour of the town, including a self-guided tour through the state capitol buildings. Nevada had been Ryan's state of choice for a school report so he took particular interest in it. He knew the Governor's name, the state bird, motto, etc, and was delighted to see all this stuff displayed around the halls of the assembly and senate building. The old capitol building, used until 1937, was loaded with interesting historical artifacts and displays. Good stuff.

Continued...


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