Peak 3,425ft P300
Peak 2,975ft P300
Briceburg West P300
Catheys Mountain
Guadalupe Mountains HP P500

Mar 16, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


I was camped in the foothills of the Stanislaus National Forest on a short overnight visit. In the morning I hit up three summits before driving down the Briceburg Road to SR140. On my way home, I stopped for a longer hike in the Guadalupe Mtns between Mariposa and Catheys Valley.

Peak 3,425ft

This is an interesting summit overlooking the Merced River Gorge. There is a creek descending from the west that cuts around the north side of the summit before dropping steeply south to the Merced River. It appears that this creek once ran through the saddle on the west side of the summit, the combination of both flows having detached the summit from the higher ground to the northwest over eons. In 2022, Kerry Breen posted a TR on PB describing a Jeep road and old firebreak that one can take to the summit from the west. Having camped nearby, I drove to the end of the Jeep road in the early morning, roughly the same elevation as the summit which can be seen easily to the east, only 1/4mi away. I took less than 20min to work my way down the near side to the saddle (where I could see the creek flowing on the north side, only a few feet lower), then up the other side, arriving right at sunrise. Kerry had finished his TR with the amusing, "On top I built a cairn to house the register that Bob will leave someday." Indeed, it would be the only register I would leave on this trip, specifically to fulfill his prophecy. However, the only thing I could find was a few rocks collected in no semblence of a cairn, which I believe requires actual stacking to be worthy of this old Gaelic term. I found a few more rocks to make a crude house and left the register before returning the same way.

Peak 2,975ft

Kerry had visited these next two summits in 2021 on a long 15mi+ hike from the Merced River far below. He reported the OHV road going up from the river to be rough, requiring a Jeep or equivalent. I found the road was in excellent condition, such that any vehicle could drive it at the moment. Both summits are found on BLM lands below the National Forest. Peak 2,975ft can be reached from Briceburg Rd via a short Jeep track and a somewhat brushy, old firebreak/track. I parked only a short distance above Briceburg Rd and then hiked the mile+ distance over three intervening bumps to reach the highpoint in 35min. One can look into Yosemite Valley to the east, El Capitan and Clouds Rest clearly distinguishable. No views of the Merced River from the summit, however, even though it is a short distance away.

Briceburg West

This one proved a drive-up in the Jeep, via a steep spur road off Briceburg Rd. There are views of the Merced River from the summit looking west.

Catheys Mtn - Guadalupe Mtns HP

Both of these are part of the Guadupe Mtns, a small sub-range in the Sierra foothills, all of it private ranchlands. The two are of nearly equal height, but both PB and LoJ have Catheys Mtn as slightly lower. At one time Catheys must have been thought to be the range highpoint because it has recorded ascents by the likes of Lilley, MacLeod, and Carey. Jim Retemeyer had visited Catheys in 2014, then came back in 2021 for the other. His is the only successful TR posted on PB for the latter. There are two gates on the main road that leads up to the crest of the range. Jim had found the lower one open, drove in a short distance and hiked from there. I found the lower gate locked though unsigned. I ended up parking on a lower road that Google has as "Guadalupe Mountain Rd", not to be confused with the main "Guadalupe Fire Rd". This road leads to several homesteads between Catheys Mtn and Mockingbird Ridge. I parked just outside an open gate so as not to find myself locked inside upon my return. From there, I went through the open gate, then turned southwest towards Catheys and went cross-country, avoiding the roads. The cross-country travel to Catheys and then along the crest to the range HP is all very easy, open grass and oak slopes. I came across a handful of the cattle that help keep the grass and brush trim. It took but 20min to reach Catheys' summit among a scattering of rocks with no trace of the register I suspect Lilley and MacLeod would have left back in 2001.

I next turned south to follow the ridgeline to the Guadalupe Mtns HP, another mile away. This is also easy cross-country, more of the same open understory I enjoyed on the ascent to Catheys. At the midpoint saddle I picked up an old road that works its way nicely to the summit, avoiding some brushy sections found on the ridge near the top. 25min sufficed to see me to the range HP, which is found in a bit of downed trees and brush mixed with some poison oak. There is a nice view looking west into Catheys Valley below. I decided to continue the additional ten minutes south along the ridge to visit the old lookout site, a PB-only point. All that remains of the lookout is the concrete footing with stairs, a bit of railing and some odds and ends, both metal and wood. The view to the west is nice here as well. In the interest of taking it easy, I decided to return via the main road which I could follow nearly all the way back to my starting point. There is evidence of semi-regular usage on this road, but not a lot. It seems there are no residences up this way, just ranchers periodically checking on the livestock. At the gate encountered by Jim on his visit, I slipped under the adjacent barb-wire to let myself out. I was back by 12:30p, happy to find no nasty note on the windshield, no slashed tires, no anything. Best yet, I had only about two and half hours of driving to get myself home, finishing a short but productive Sierra visit...

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