Ascension Mountain P500
Bear Mountain P500
Ackerson Mountain P300
Peak 6,220ft P300
Peak 4,642ft P300
Peak 4,500ft P300
Hells Mountain P300
Peak 7,071ft P300
Peak 5,540ft

Wed, May 12, 2021
Bear Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX Profile


I was in Tuolumne County and the Stanislaus NF for some peakbagging to modest summits - high enough to avoid the heat at the lower elevations, low enough to avoid snow. The morning was spent between SR120 and the Tuolumne River, while the afternoon was spent north of the river, in the vicinity of Cherry Lake. I had spent the night camped on the north side of Ascension Mtn, my first stop on the day. I would have none of the ticks I had encountered the previous day, but plenty of brush. Most of these peaks had burned in the 2013 Rim Fire to varying degrees, leaving burnt snags, tons of downfall and thriving brush - not ideal conditions for peakbagging, but one works with what one's given.

Ascension Mountain

From my campsite, I roughly followed the NE Ridge to the summit in about half an hour. There was a faint use trail through the low brush, but this was easy to lose where downfall was plentiful, with some careful route-finding needed to avoid heavier brush in places. I got to the top not long after sunrise, with a partial view to Sawmill Mtn to the west. I left a register here before returning the same way.

Bear Mountain

There are some well-maintained Forest roads in the vicinity of these first three summits that any vehicle can navigate. I drove such roads from my campsite around to the north side of Bear Mtn several miles NE of Ascension Mtn. A spur road in rougher condition gets one higher on Bear Mtn, leaving about 1/5mi to the summit. This took all of about seven minutes to reach the top. There is a partial view to the Tuolumne Gorge to the northeast, but you have to imagine there's water down there. Nowhere can the river be seen, nor Hetch Hetchy Reservoir which you have to know is down there, out of view. The fire left a number of the taller trees still standing, though plenty of less fortunate souls are lying in charred heaps about the summit.

Ackerson Mountain

Back on the better roads, I drove southeast to the north side of Ackerson Mtn, a few miles in that direction and about two miles due east of Ascension Mtn. This one took about 25min to reach the summit, a messier affair with more brush, all cross-country on the ascent. I found what looked like a recent trail, poorly constructed, running over the summit ridge. There are two summits, the SE one appearing to be higher. I left a register there with decent views looking south. I followed the half-ass trail on the way back, finding it connected to a bulldozed path running down the NW side to a saddle on that side where one of the better roads crosses it. I suspect it was created as a firebreak during the fire in 2013. This would probably have been the easier way to go up the mountain. It didn't lead back to where I'd parked, so I had some hiking along the roadway at the end.

Peark 6,220ft

This peak is located within Yosemite National Park. I drove paved Evergreen Rd (aka Hetch Hetchy Road) to the Evergreen Lodge where a moderately rough dirt road forks off to the east towards the park. The folks at the lodge seem to maintain this road for the use of their guests, as I saw them doing trimming work as I drove in. The topo map shows the road continuing into the park with a cherry stem into the Wilderness several more miles to a water tank and a park trail. The road was gated and locked at the park boundary, about a mile northwest of Peak 6,220ft. I simply parked here and headed up the ridgeline. There was less brush on this one, probably due to the higher elevation, though it still had challenges and lots of downfall. I spent about 45min reaching the top where I found two points vying for highpoint honors. I measured the northwest summit to be about a foot higher than the LoJ location to the southeast, though it was easily within the error range - best to visit both points for full credit. Trees blocked most of the views.

Peark 4,642ft

These next two summits are found along paved Mather Rd, running west along the south rim of the Tuolumne River from Mather. I used a dirt road to get somewhat closer, but starting from the pavement would have been nearly as good. The slope from the south was mostly clear of vegetation and trees, making cross-country travel a snap until nearing the summit. Then the usual brush returned. There are no views of the gorge, but partial views to the south. It looks like a weak effort was made to bulldoze a path across this summit, but appears to have been abandoned before completion.

Peark 4,500ft

About three miles further west, Peak 4,500ft is most easily reached from the southeast at the junction of several forest roads. A faint trail can be found through the low heather. An old road not shown on the topo map once went over the summit, traces of which can still be found. It did not seem helpful for navigation purposes as I lost it fairly easily. The summit is wide and flattish with poor views despite few trees. I found a register jar with its contents charred from the fire.

Hells Mountain - Peark 7,071ft

This was the most interesting outing of the day. The two summits are located on the boundary of the Emigrant Wilderness, about four miles north of Cherry Lake. The name Hells Mountain suggests hours of horrendous bushwhacking to reach an awful summit, but I was happy to find this was not the case. The hardest part may have been the drive on barely cleared forest roads to get in the vicinity. From Jawbone Pass, I first tried to drive FR2N05A, but that ended in an overgrown mess that took some effort to extract myself from. I went back to Jawbone Pass and drove 2N05 which was better, but had not yet been driven on this year and required some clearing. I had a tow strap that I used to move 3-4 fallen trees from the road, eventually getting stopped by trees I had no chance of moving. I was within 2mi of Hells Mtn, so I figured I was close enough.

I hiked the road for about 15min before coming to its end at a loop in a small meadow area. The topo map shows the road continuing, but it has been decades since it was driven. It is now loaded with downfall, making it hard to follow on foot up to the ridgeline where it ends. From this point, I followed the ridge NNE towards Hells Mtn. My GPSr showed a trail not shown on the current topo (but it can be found on historical topos). I found a selection of ducks along the route as I followed the ridge, though I found little evidence of the old trail. I found some rocks that had been formed into the letters (initials?) "BOR", and wondered how old they might be - this is certainly a lightly traveled area. The going was pretty good once on the ridge, taking me about 45min to reach the summit blocks. I believe the western summit block, the easier of the two, to be the highest, though it was hard to tell. Views from the top are nice, including a good one of Cherry Lake to the south. I left a register before tackling the eastern block. That one was overhanging on three sides, but I found a sketchy class 4 way up the west side. I was not comfortable until I was back down again. I had thought I would turn back at this point, but I was feeling like I had enough energy for the second summit about 3/4mi further along the ridge.

The first half of the traverse between the two went smoothly with little brush, but I found things brushier on the second half, slowing me down, sending me looking for better ways to one side of the ridge or the other. The brush relented at the end, leaving me an open ridgeline with nice views after 40min's work. The best view of the day was had from the summit, looking northeast into the West Fork of Cherry Creek. The cascading waters could be seen running down the center of the glacier-carved valley, snows of the higher peaks in the background. It was really a beatiful setting, even better than Hells Mtn. I left a second register here before finding my way back along the ridge. It took an hour and a quarter to get back to the Jeep, figuring I was probably done for the day now that it was after 5p. A beer on the drive back down lifted my spirits.

Peark 5,540ft

But not quite. I spent the next hour driving back down to the paved Cherry Lake Rd, then up us FR2N14. I parked about 1/3mi NE of the summit at a road junction. There used to be a motorcycle trail going to the summit from this point, but it has been abandoned, downfall destroying the beginning portion. I was able to use much of the old trail to reach the summit in 15min. No views from the top. I was back to the Jeep by 6:40p, about 20min before sunset.

After showering, I spent the next hour and a half with more driving, eventually landing myself at the summit of Lewis Peak where I would spend the night. It had been a long day, and both the Jeep and myself could use some rest...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Sat May 15 15:42:32 2021
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: