Proposal Peak
Peak 6,980ft
Peak 5,952ft

Wed, Jan 7, 2015
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

I was heading to the Death Valley area for a week-long road trip and was looking for someplace along the way that I could use to break up the 6hr+ drive. With the early rains we had in December the hills have turned a pleasing green, particularly in the Diablo Range which are brown for most of the year. It occurred to me that the Kern River Canyon along SR178 might also be more green this time of year as well, making it a more scenic drive than that over SR58 through Tehachapi. And so I settled on a trio of unnamed peaks north of Walker Pass that would occupy my time for a few hours and fit the bill nicely. I was happy to find both Pacheco Pass and the Kern River Canyon as pleasant as I might have hoped for early January - one can only hope that the rains don't take too long a break.

Reaching Walker Pass shortly after 1p, I found the weather highly cooperative for hiking, cool and a bit breezy with fine, clear skies. Starting off on the PCT heading north of the pass, I soon left the trail to start directly up to Pt. 6,366ft on my way to the first summit, Peak 6,529ft. It wasn't the easiest way to reach it. Had I stayed on the trail I would have reached the crest at a point just north of the summit, but the more direct route tempted me, partly because it would get me warmed up more quickly after the 5hr drive, and partly because I misjudged where the summit was, mistaking Pt. 6,366ft for the highpoint. Though steep, the climbing wasn't dangerous and the footing was quite good with the sandy soil damp from previous rains. I took about 50min to reach the summit where I found an old, water and fire damaged register dating to 1992. Most of the old names I didn't recognize, but in the past ten years there have been visits by Nathan Schultz and the KRV, Shane Smith, at least three by Richard Piotrowski and Jim Freeland with a record nine ascents. But the most interesting entry was from 2005 when Jeff Hilde asked Esther to marry him on the summit (she said "Yes!"). They came back for the next 5 years as an anniversary hike, but stopped after 2010. One hopes all is still well with the happy couple. Anyway, Esther suggested the name "Proposal Peak" which seemed far better than "Peak 6,529ft", so I'll do my part to promote the name. The last entry in the register was from Richard Carey. I thought he had higher standards than myself, but apparently not. :-)

I continued north off the summit, dropping down to the PCT and following it for less than a mile before leaving it to start up to the second summit. Peak 6,980ft is the highest of the three I visited, less than a mile southwest of the HPS summit of Mt. Morris. The SW Ridge I followed up was fairly short and without any difficulties. A second register was found at the top, this one left by Richard Carey only a few months earlier - no surprise that mine was the only other entry. The view north is dominated by the summits of Jenkins and Morris. If I'd had more time I might have continued to Morris, but by now it was almost 3p. Instead, I turned south and dropped directly down to the grassy canyon on that side. After the initial steep descent the going becomes quite pleasant, mostly dry grass with some joshua trees to add some interest. Cows appear to semi-regularly graze the area and have left easy-to-follow paths down the center of the valley. Partway down I picked up an old road, no longer used now that this area is part of the Owens Peak Wilderness. Near where the road turns from south to southeast, I left it to head up the slope to the third summit, Peak 5,952ft. The slope here had good footings and relatively easy climbing, now in the shade from the lowering sun.

It was nearly 4p by the time I reached the summit. Here was a second register left by Richard Carey. It appears he visited all three summits on same day in November. Seems I wasn't even being creative on this peak combination. I descended the west slopes, a bit rocky and sandy at the top, easy cruising at the bottom. In the small valley between the last summit and Proposal Peak I picked up another old ranch road, following it back to SR178. I was about 2/3mi from the pass and the van at this point. I considered thumbing a ride back while I was walking, but I would have been embarrassed, I think, to be shuttled such a short distance. Back at the pass I checked out the trio of monuments to Joseph Walker, the intrepid explorer and first white guy to cross over Walker Pass (later named for him by John C. Fremont).

My outing checked in at a little over 3hrs, a fine way to spend the afternoon. Had I more time (and not gone to Morris), I would have stopped near the junction with SR14 to scramble up the iconic Robbers Roost just off the highway. I've seen it on numerous occassions as I've passed by this junction and thought I might visit it today. It was likely to grow dark before I was done so I decided to leave it for another day. I continued on to Ridgecrest where I stopped at Starbucks for wifi and refreshment. I was to meet Tom and Karl that night in Ballarat, so I sent Tom a text with my ETA. As it turned out he was already in Ridgecrest, having left LA earlier than planned and we ended up getting dinner together at the Grape Leaf there in town. Not exactly cheap, but it was a fine meal. Afterwards we caravaned east on SR178 through Trona to our destination at Ballarat. Karl was already there, having arrived not ten minutes earlier. We shared a few drinks and caught up with one another before calling it a night around 9p. We had big plans the next four days and were eager to try out Tom's new toy - a 1992 Jeep Wrangler.

Continued...


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