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
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.
Found just off the north side of the highway between Long Barn and Cold Springs, Bald
Mtn is the site of a not open to the public. The summit is
found well east of the base and can be legally accessed in
less than ten minutes. As the name suggests, the summit has little vegetation and is
in all directions. A 1956 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.
Found a few miles further between Cold Springs and Pinecrest,
this summit is also just a short distance off the north side of the road.
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.
A minor summit lying above the community of Strawberry, just downstream from
Pinecrest. There is
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 where
Beardsley Lake can be seen 2,000ft below on the Stanislaus River.
This is a small peak above Pinecrest Lake. 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 at the Ranger Station, also closed,
and walked the road to the summit, about a mile each way. 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 to the base of , then
some to , one of the more
interesting of the day's summits. Back at the jeep, I drove a bit further on the
. 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 . 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, (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
. From the east, it is rather more mundane-looking, though there
is some minor at the very top. The summit provides a fine
perch from which to take in the immense Stanislause River drainage to the
and . 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 mostly buried in the
forest without views. While sitting there, I pondered the GPSr which told me a third
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 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 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 to the summit from the road was
a steep climb through forest to the open with some easy class
3 scrambling. The views looking and south stretch out over much of the
Emigrant Wilderness area. To 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
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..