Slate Mountain P500
Sand Mountain P300
Jakeys Hill
Hartless Mountain
Robbs Peak P1K
Bunker Hill P300
McKinstry Peak P1K
Red Mountain P500

Tue, Aug 28, 2018
Etymology
Red Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

I headed out to El Dorado/Tahoe NFs for three days of peakbagging, with the primary goal to reach a trio of P1ks in the Northern Sierra, west of Lake Tahoe, along with a couple of minor range highpoints. All of the first day's peak were relatively short (and thus, no embarassing elevation profile JPGs). I didn't leave San Jose until well after 6a, leaving me to battle some Bay Area traffic and not arriving in the hills until 10a.

Slate Mountain

This is the highpoint of the Slate Mtns, a poorly-named range which is really just a 6mi-long ridge in the Sierra foothills northeast of Placerville. Mosquito Rd climbs up out of Placerville through the backwaters of town before dropping to the South Fork of the American River and then climbing again up to the Slate Mtns. The road turns to dirt along the way and becomes incredibly dusty in late summer, a thick fog of dust particles following behind the vehicle and seeping into all its pores. An unsigned road forks off Mosquito Rd, running northwest along the crest of the Slate Mtns. A gated spur road goes the short, remaining distance to the summit of Slate Mtn at the southeast end of the ridge where a lookout used to be located. With parking non-existent, I left the Jeep at the gate and took my chances. A three minute walk gets one to the top where a telecom tower is found just below the open, grassy summit. The concrete pillars of the fire lookout that once stood here are all that remain of the older structure.

Sand Mountain

Back on Mosquito Rd, I continued north and northeast, intending to join paved Wentworth Springs Rd to Volcanoville. I found the road closed in the vicinity of Sand Mtn with no signs that the road is going to be opened any time soon, if ever. Nearby Sand Mtn Rd, whose fork I had just passed is a newer alternative and paved, too. It's also convenient for accessing Sand Mtn, so I decided on a whim to pay it a visit. The whole area around here is heaviy logged, so the roads don't always match the maps. I found logging roads that would take me to about 4,200ft WSW of the summit, leaving me with about 600ft of cross-country over roughly 1/3mi. It was steep but not very brushy, taking about 15min to reach the top. The summit is found atop a pine needle-covered rock outcrop buried in the forest with nary a view and not all that exciting. I noted a motorcycle track running across the summit and followed this initially on my way down, but as it began to deviate from the side of the mountain I needed to return to, I abandoned it for more cross-country and a return to the Jeep in about ten minutes' time.

Jakeys Hill

This is the highpoint of the Hornblende Mtns, another obscure sub-range of the Sierra found west of Volcanoville. Its boundaries are roughly the American River to the north and Canyon Creek to the south, but the eastern boundary is ill-defined, making the range seem poorly conceived. The summit lies on private property within a patchwork of forest lands, making access a bit tricky. Where the pavement ends in the old townsite of Volcanoville (a shell of it's former self), it becomes rough dirt road servicing a number of homesteads found at the base of Jakeys Hill. The road approaching the summit from the east and south is gated, leaving only the road going around the north side open to the public. There's little parking (and fewer places to turn around) on this narrow, dusty road and I felt like I was exposing it to abuse leaving it where I did. There is an old logging clearing on the north side of the mountain, making that side accessible on what otherwise would be a brushy, poison oak-laden cross-country effort. I still had to dance around poison oak at the start nearest the roadway, but once about 100ft from the road the poison oak disappears for the most part and the terrain opens up. There are some old roads that can be used to climb higher with less effort, eventually reaching the summit ridge. The lookout was located at the south end of the ridge but it has been removed, leaving only the concrete footings. The north closed contour is larger and appears higher than the southern one, but forest prevents one from using a level to determine this. It seemed a bit spooky up there even though there was no sign of recent usage. Thoughts of the Jeep being vandalized down below had me wasting little time to reverse direction and head back down. My boots were filled with the seeds and thistles of the dry, mature grass and weeds and I would spend some time getting these removed before I took off. Views are weak and the summit can't be said to have any redeeming qualities.

Hartless Mountain

I next turned east and began driving into the higher regions of the Sierra on my way to Mildred Ridge. I never got there because the road forking off in its direction north to French Meadow Reservoir was blocked to the public for unknown reason and duration. So I put that one off for later and turned my attention to McKinstry Peak, a P1K to the northeast found between Hell Hole Reservoir and Loon Lake (which is also a manmade reservoir). Hartless Peak is a minor summit found off paved Wentworth Springs Rd, an easy bonus less than a third of a mile from the road. I parked in a large clearing on the south side of the road where a dirt road leading to the summit is gated. There are no signs indicating No Trespassing, but the land appears to be owned by private logging interests that have heavily logged the area, judging by satellite photos. I tagged the top (where a collection of logging slash is piled up) and returned the way I'd come.

Robbs Peak

This P1K has a lookout and rentable cabin atop it. Access is via the dirt Robbs Peak Rd off paved Ice House Rd, a few miles south of the latter's junction with Wentworth Springs Rd. I drove up this decent road to where it is gated less than half a mile from the summit. A sign encountered earlier said there was no turnaround at the gate but I had little trouble doing so and even parking out of the way just below the gate. I walked the road up to the top, finding chairs and other evidence of someone staying in the cabin, but not currently there. The lookout was unoccupied and shuttered. I walked around to take a few pics (nice views from this summit), then headed back. I believe I crossed paths with the renters on my drive back down the dirt road.

Bunker Hill

I returned to Wentworth Springs Rd and followed it north to Gerle Meadow where I found a decent dirt road climbing up to a saddle between Bunker Hill and McKinstry Peak. Bunker Hill seemed an easy bonus with a road leading to the summit where a lookout is located. I found the road gated about half a mile below the summit and had to hoof it from there. In trying to avoid following the long switchbacks of the road, I went cross-country for portions of it with mixed success - not really sure if it saved much time due to moderate brush. The lookout was locked and shuttered, but the views were open and decent.

McKinstry Peak

After returning from Bunker Hill, I continued driving up to the very top of McKinstry Peak, featuring the best views of the day. It lies 3,000ft above the Rubicon River to the northeast, overlooking the Sierra Crest from Granite Chief and Squaw Valley to the northeast, stretching southeast to the yet higher summits of Desolation Wilderness. High-clearance vehicle needed to drive this one to its conclusion.

Red Mountain

It was after 5p by the time I drove back down the dirt road to the pavement at Wentworth Springs Rd and had intended to call it a day. I headed east to the pavement's end, then continued on the rough, rocky road that continues to Wentworth Spring in a couple of miles. I had hoped to drive this road further east towards the next day's first summit at Guide Peak, but the road seemed to grow worse, not better. It occurred to me that this was the western end of the infamous Rubicon Trail, a stock Jeep killer if there ever was one. Rather than take chances at getting myself into deeper trouble, I decided to turn around and approach Guide Peak from Loon Lake to the south. In another moment of impulsiveness, I noted that Red Mtn was just across Gerle Creek from where I turned around and decided to pay it a visit since it was less than half a mile away. I found a broken log to cross over the creek and then some minor bushwhacking to get me onto the more open slopes leading steeply up to Red Mtn's summit. Talus and low brush covered the slopes and it was with some effort that it took me half an hour to find my way to the top. Without a tree in sight, the views were open in all directions, but the summit rock I stood on was surrounded by waist-high manzanita that offered no room to sit down - not a very good place to watch a sunset from. I noted that another interesting point named Johnnys Hill lay about a mile to the west. I decided to make this the first peak of the following day instead of Guide Peak. To this end, I returned back to the Jeep via the same route, then drove a few miles to some primitive campsites on the west side of Johnnys Hill. The place was incredibly dusty (lots of OHV use in this area), but suitably flat and would do for spending the night in the Jeep. Not surprisingly, I had the place to myself and heard not a stirring outside during the night...

Continued...


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