Bald Mountain
Peak 5,878ft
Strawberry Peak
Peak 5,926ft P300
Peak 6,860ft P300
Peak 6,798ft
Double Dome Rock P300
Peak 7,945ft P300
Peak 8,165ft P300

Mon, Jun 1, 2020
Etymology
Bald Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profile

Sonora Pass had opened a few weeks earlier. With Tioga Pass (and all of Yosemite, due to COVID-19) still closed, I decided to head over the Sonora Pass to do some peakbagging in the northern reaches of Mono County. I made plans for a number of hikes but sort of got distracted from them as I was driving SR108 up through Sonora and the Stanislaus National Forest. I had gotten a late start from home, so it was already afternoon and I was still several hours from going over the pass. I started looking at my GPSr and noticed there were a number of peaks on either side of the highway that could be reached with little effort. This seemed like a fun exercise and I immersed myself in the project, never reaching the pass until two days later. I noticed that Chris Kerth had done most of these a few years back. I looked his records up later and was surprised to find that he has over 900 ascents in the Sierra Nevada, within about a dozen peaks of Barbara Lilley's Sierra ascents. I'm also a little surprised I haven't run into him anywhere - seems he would fit in nicely with the Sierra Challenge folks.

Bald Mountain

Found just off the north side of the highway between Long Barn and Cold Springs, Bald Mtn is the site of a USFS Helitack Base not open to the public. The summit is found well east of the base and can be legally accessed from the highway in less than ten minutes. As the name suggests, the summit has little vegetation and is open to views in all directions. A 1956 benchmark is labeled "SKI". I found no register on this or any of the others I visited today. They seemed all a bit too easy to access to bother leaving any of my own.

Peak 5,878ft

Found a few miles further up the highway between Cold Springs and Pinecrest, this summit is also just a short distance off the north side of the road. The highpoint is not where the spot elevation of 5,878ft is shown on the topo map, but a few hundred feet further west in a sea of low brushy heather and manzanita. No views at all. The Forest Service has collected forest duff into piles for burning, covering them with tarps to let them dry out. A most uninteresting summit, this one.

Strawberry Peak

A minor summit lying above the community of Strawberry, just downstream from Pinecrest. There is a telecom installation that includes cell towers at the summit. Two technicians were working there when I drove up. The highpoint is a small pile of rocks unmolested by the towers. There is a good view looking northwest where Beardsley Lake can be seen 2,000ft below on the Stanislaus River.

Peak 5,926ft

This is a small peak above Pinecrest Lake. A road goes to the summit, but you can't drive there and you're not allowed to park anywhere on the road. I first attempted to drive to the end of another road between the summit and the lake, but there is no parking anywhere on the road that services a number of the summer cabins. COVID restrictions had all the day use areas closed and a highway patrolman sat in his vehicle in one of the parking lots to emphasize the point. I drove back to the highway and parked at the Ranger Station, also closed, and walked the road to the summit, about a mile each way. The highpoint is at a large lichen-covered boulder set among the trees. A tree on the west side provides a class 2-3 route to the top of the boulder. No views on this one.

Peak 6,860ft - Peak 6,798ft

These two summits are located south of Donnell Lake, on the north side of SR108. Peak 6,860ft can be seen as a prominent rocky summit right off the road when traveling westbound. I parked off Forest Rte 5N06 on the north side of the peak and hiked the quarter mile distance to the summit in less than 15min. The first part is through heavy forest cover to the base of the summit rocks, then some class 2-3 scrambling to the open summit, one of the more interesting of the day's summits. Back at the jeep, I drove a bit further on the forest road. A 10min hike gets one to the summit of Peak 6,798ft, open to views west and north. The highpoint is located northeast of the spot elevation shown on the topo map, about 10ft higher on a small bluff. A backpacking tent was set up on an adjacent bluff to the west. I went over to check it out, wondering if was abandoned, but the contents appear recent and I left without other than a cursory look through the bug screen.

Double Dome Rock - Peak 7,945ft - Peak 8,165ft

This trio of summits is located on the south side of SR108, high above Donnell Lake. Double Dome Rock can be seen prominently from SR108, the most impressive-looking summit in the immediate area. The area is open in summer to OHV recreation, making all three short hikes from established roads. Unfortunately, paved FR5N01 was closed, possibly due to COVID-19 concerns, or perhaps because the roads were not yet dry enough to allow OHV activity. I decided to try an alternate route, FR6N34Y on the north side of Double Dome Rock. This rough road is suitable for high-clearance only. I was happy to find it both open and recently traveled, and it seems someone had gone to the trouble of clearing a number of downfalls from the recent winter. Though overgrown in places, I was able to drive the entire length of the road to an open, grassy clearing in the forest about 600ft below, and half a mile from Double Dome's summit. A white pick-up truck with street tires was parked when I drove up but no one could be seen in the vicinity. As on the previous hikes, I didn't take a pack with me as I intended to only visit the two closest summits, Double Dome Rock and Peak 7,945ft. This was a minor regret when I changed my mind later and added the third peak.

I hiked uphill through mostly open, burned forest (from the 2018 Donnell Fire) to the summit area, turning west to visit Double Dome Rock first. From below and the sides, the summit is an impressive rocky dome with a near-vertical North Face. From the east, it is rather more mundane-looking, though there is some minor class 3 scrambling at the very top. The summit provides a fine perch from which to take in the immense Stanislause River drainage to the west and north. Less than a mile to the east, the slightly higher Peak 7,945ft rises more modestly. It took less than 30min to make my way between the two over easy, forested terrain. Enroute, I came across a trio of folks that included a teenage son and preteen daughter led by their gregarious father on a walk through the woods. He looked like your classic redneck, complete with a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder. We talked briefly, surprised to see each other in this out-of-the-way spot. He was particularly proud that he'd gotten his "street truck" to the end of the road. He asked if I'd seen any wildlife, commenting that he was out scouting before deer season. Of course deer season was still three months away, and why one would carry a rifle if "scouting" is a line of questioning I left unexplored. The summit of Peak 7,945ft is a short class 3 rock mostly buried in the forest without views. While sitting there, I pondered the GPSr which told me a third summit could be found about 2mi to the south. This is where my pack with something to drink would have made this an easier decision. It was about 5:45p and I still had more than two hours of daylight, so time didn't seem a concern. I decided I could be a little thirsty and headed off for the last summit. It was not lost on me that I had no food, water, headlamp or emergency communication device. The Boy Scouts would not approve.

I probably wouldn't have added the extra mileage if I hadn't known there were OHV roads about. These helped make it between the last two peaks in a little over an hour. I didn't always stick to the roads as they weren't terribly direct and some cross-country travel made for quicker shortcuts in places. There were some patches of snow around the 8,000-foot level, but never enough to be in the way or more than a minor inconvenience. I came across an empty OHV camp and more impressively, a rock obstacle playground suitable for only the most highly modified vehicles. Some pictures by the sponsoring OHV club at a trailside kiosk showed much mayhem and fun in season. The final distance to the summit from the road was a steep climb through forest to the open summit rocks with some easy class 3 scrambling. The views looking east and south stretch out over much of the Emigrant Wilderness area. To the north one looks over the Stanislaus River drainage into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Overcast conditions subdued most of the days views, however, making for poor photos.

By the time I got back to the jeep it was close to 8p, still plenty light out though the sun was about to set. The other vehicle was gone and I was eager to drive the rough Forest Road back to the highway before it got dark. I would end up spending the night along Clarks Fork Rd at the Disaster Creek TH where I planned to hike the next morning. Because of the late finish, it wasn't until well after 10p by the time I'd showered, eaten and was ready for rest..

Continued...


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