Deer Mountain P1K
The Whaleback P2K
Peak 8,122ft P500
Peak 7,895ft P300
Ash Creek Butte P2K

Thu, Jun 7, 2018
The Whaleback
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


The last day of my NorCal trip was mostly tame, focused around a couple of P2Ks on the north and east sides of Mt. Shasta. Ash Creek Butte was easily the better of two with more rock and views, and combined with its lower sibling as a bonus peak, it made for an enjoyable outing.

Deer Mountain

This P1K is found just east of US97 and north of The Whaleback. It is wide and squat, forested, and altogether unimpressive. One can drive to within a mile of the summit on the east side utilizing various forest roads. The topo map shows the road continuing, but these have been abandoned for years, blocked to vehicle traffic. I had spent the night parked at the end of the road and was up in the morning to start hiking by 6a. I attempted to use what remained of the old road going around the northeast side of the summit, but it was too choked with manzanita to make it worthwhile. I simply headed steeply uphill through the forest understory where the cross-country wasn't hard at all. It took a little over half an hour to make my way to the summit where I found a register left by Bighorn Bill in 1993, the second of his registers I'd found in the past few days. Most of the entries were from hunters, not peakbaggers, but the most recent visitor was Daryn Dodge less than two weeks ago. There are no views from the summit, but one can get views through the trees of Whaleback and Shasta at several locations along the summit ridge. Roundtrip time was just under an hour.

The Whaleback

This is one of the lamer P2Ks in the state, but it does have a pretty fantastic view of Mt. Shasta only 12mi to the southwest. One can easily drive to within a mile of the summit on the north side utilizing Forest Road 42N24 and then spur road "A" that goes around the north side of The Whaleback and Pt. 7,981ft. Dean Gaudet on PB incorrectly states that this spur road is signed for "motorized vehicles prohibited". The road and Section 25 north of Whaleback are owned by Sierra Pacific, but the sign just says vehicles have to stay on established roads. Most of Section 25 on the topo has been logged, making an ascent from the north easier, albeit not so aesthetic. I took about 30min to make my way up through the logged area, into the forested section that includes the summit, and across to the highpoint at the southern end. There is a cairn, register and presumably a benchmark under the rocks somewhere. I found a reference mark but wasn't about to go digging for the benchmark. Another Bighorn Bill register had 40 pages of entries, a mix of surveyors, fire fighters, hunters and peakbaggers - quite the popular summit. In addition to the Mt. Shasta view (partially obscurred by clouds today), there was a hazy view of Ash Creek Butte which looked more promising than Whaleback.

Peak 8,122ft

This is a subsidiary summit on the east side of The Whaleback with more than 600ft of prominence. It has no outstanding features, an unassuming summit in a clump of trees and marginal views to Ash Creek Butte and The Whaleback. But it makes for a fairly easy bonus peak while you're in the area. I parked on the forest road between the two peaks, near its end where a locked gate is signed "Road Closed". It took about 25min to reach the summit and a bit less for the return. On the way up, I kept to the left to avoid brush found on the west side of the peak and this worked out quite nicely. On the return I boldly tried to take a more direct route and ended up wallowing in brush wet from the nighttime dew and got fairly soaked from the waist down. Plain dumb.

Peak 7,895ft/Ash Creek Butte

Military Pass Rd, also called Forest Rd 19, is an excellent route between Whaleback and Ash Creek Butte. The beginning part is paved but becomes a well-graded gravel road that eventually intersects paved Pilgrim Creek Rd far to the south on its way to connect with SR89. On the west side of Ash Creek Butte, spur Forest Rd 42N70 leads up into private Section 27 which has been heavily logged. I drove to the highest point at about 6,800ft, 700ft below the curving ridgeline that becomes Ash Creek Butte's West Ridge. Others have reported this a pleasant hike and indeed it is, along an open ridgeline with swell views. When I got out of the car and checked the GPSr, I noted there were two peaks shown within a mile. Ash Creek Butte, too, has a subsidiary summit, this one about a mile to the north and almost 500ft lower. As it wasn't yet 11a and this was my last planned outing of the day, I decided to make a loop of it and visit both summits. I hiked steeply up the logged slope to the forested ridgeline, then went down the easier east side for the pleasant hike across to the base of Peak 7,895ft. I could just see the peak through the trees as I started down, after which it was lost in the forest that I traveled through until I had reached its base about 10min later. The forest only extends partway up the slopes to Peak 7,895ft's summit, becoming rockier as one nears the top. There are very open views to be had from the summit, including a fine one of Ash Creek Butte to the south with its rugged North Ridge. I found no register, but there was a small, remote weather station situated just below the summit to the northwest. I felt the peak deserving of more love, so left a register before continuing on my way.

Ash Creek Butte's North Ridge seemed the logical route between the two peaks, and although I wouldn't rate it as a classic in any sense of the word, it was an enjoyable change from the more mundane routes I'd been following through trees so far in the day. Like most of the rock in the area, it is volcanic in nature and not terribly solid, but there was enough decent scrambling to get in a workout and enjoy a bit of exposure in places. There were some formidable spires and other features on the ridge that I bypassed on one side or the other, but for the most part I stayed close to the ridgeline, taking about an hour to travel from one summit to the other. At well over 8,000ft, the summit has a commanding view of the area - this was the highest summit I had visited in on this trip. Shasta was peeking out from the clouds, making for an imposing presence to the west. There is a USDA benchmark from 1931 and yet another of Bighorn Bill's registers. This one was completely full, far too many pages for me to bother to photograph.

My return went down the standard route on the curving West Ridge. It sees so much traffic that a use trail has developed. The brush on the southwest side of the ridge is pretty rough, but the unvegetated northeast side is gravel, sand and rock through which the use trail winds. It was even ducked regularly, though most of those were removed as I made my way down the obvious line along the ridge. At the 7,600-foot level, I left the ridge to begin the 1,000ft diagonal descent down through the forest and logged area to get me back to the Jeep by 1:20p. I still had almost 7hrs of driving to get home by evening, so it was time to call it quits. Even as I was driving home I was making plans to return again in a few days. I just can't seem to get enough of this stuff...

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This page last updated: Sun Jun 10 11:40:30 2018
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