Rocky Point ESS
Peak 4,505ft
Peak 4,864ft
Peak 4,549ft

Sun, Oct 2, 2016

With: Matthew Holliman
Nga Do

Etymology
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Continued...

We were gathered in the Southern Sierra for Tom Becht's SPS list finish the previous day, having climbed Lamont Peak and celebrated the end of this years-long goal. There were celebrations on the summit, back at the TH, at dinner in Kernville and then back at the Chimney Creek Campground around campfire, though this latter one was rather subdued thanks to the prior ones. Most of the folks had petered out by 9p, leaving Matthew, his wife Nga, and I to tend the dying fire and make plans for hiking the next day. The rest would be content to eat breakfast and head home. Years earlier while hiking through Domelands Wilderness, Matthew and I had spied White Dome and thought it would make a good future project. Jenkin's guidebook, Exploring the Southern Sierra: East Side, describes a relatively short approach from the east, starting from Rockhouse Basin which can be reached by the Chimney Peak Recreation Loop. Unfortunately we had to drive some 11mi out there to find that the last three miles of this route were gated shut and looked to have been so for some years. Rather than have our 13mi hike become a 19mi one with a late start, we decided to find something easier. We drove back out to SR178 and then south on Kelso Valley Rd in order to do a short hike to Rocky Point and then a longer one to Kelso Peak further south. We never made it to the latter because I discovered there were an additional three bonus peaks we could do with Rocky Point in a nice ridgetop loop that made for an enjoyable half day outing.

Rocky Point lies at the western edge of the Scodie Mtns overlooking Kelso Valley. Lying in the Kiavah Wilderness, an old mining road, repurposed as a trail, switchbacks up the north side of this small mountain, stopping just short of the summit. Fire had recently swept over the top, charring what little vegetation managed to grow here in this dry, hot land. The only trees are a few hapless junipers that have managed to eeke out a living and keep from being burned in the grass fires that seem to frequent the area. There are ranches and irrigated farmland around the base of the peak in Keslo Valley, along with a scattering of squalid abodes and some not-so-pleasant dump sites that weren't cleaned up when the Wilderness was created. The area looks far more inviting in the springtime when the new grass is a bright green, but in October all is brown. Still, it made for a pleasant hike, taking us about 45min to cover the distance to the top of Rocky Point. From there we could see the three other bonus peaks roughly forming a rhombus overlaying a 2mi-long drainage rising to the east, the summits each about a mile from its nearest neighbors.

Nga decided that she didn't want to join us for the entire 6mi-loop, but she would continue east to the first bonus peak before heading back. The going is pretty tame and enjoyable, a cool breeze blowing over the ridgeline keeping temperatures at bay and the outing pleasant. We would wait periodically for Nga to catch up, and by 1p the three of us had reached Peak 4,505ft. We dropped east to a saddle with the next peak before Nga turned north and dropped further down the center of the drainage, the shortest return to the car. Matthew and I continued east to the highest of the group, Peak 4,864ft, doing some sidehilling to avoid a few unnecessary bumps southwest of the summit. The highpoint of Peak 4,865ft turned out to be a granite block with a single class 3 step needed to surmount it. Now almost 2p, we turned northwest and dropped quickly to a saddle with Peak 4,549ft thanks to some easy sand. The last summit had an even faster descent, dropping more than 1,000ft in 6-7 minutes to get us in the dry creekbed in the drainage we'd circumnavigated. We finished up by 2:45p and called it a day, though we still had some 5hrs+ of driving to get back home to the Bay Area. Kelso Peak would have to wait for some future effort...


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