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Due to snow on the road leading to Sherman Pass, I had been unable to reach a few summits in that area that I had planned for this three day outing in the Southern Sierra. Running out of peaks to fill the last day's agenda, I added an unscheduled summit to the plan. I had no map or beta on how to reach it, just the thin comment I had heard from Shane Smith a week earlier that Bales BM was on the Sierra crest not too far north of Ninemile Canyon Rd. Luckily this was enough to get me in the right area.
It began to grow light out as I left Newmans Knob, following the crest east to a lower saddle before starting up to the south summit of Bales. I arrived at the top just at sunrise, shortly before 7a, disappointed in not finding a register or any sign of the benchmark. Looking north along the crest, I realized I had two other competing bumps to check out. The middle one was clearly lower, so I would have to travel all the way across to the northernmost one. Though it seemed daunting when I discovered my error, it was not a difficult traverse. In 15 minutes I had reached the middle summit with another 15 minutes to reach the northern highpoint. A nearly full moon had just set to the west as I was crossing between these last two points. I found the benchmark as expected and the remains of wooden survey tower, and like Newmans Knob, an empty PVC register container. The best views to be had were to the northeast where one could see for many miles across the Coso and Argus Ranges of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and more than 50 miles to the 11,000-foot summit of Telescope Peak in Death Valley NP. Once I had dialed in the actual location of the summit, it was a simple matter to plot an easier return to the car. I dropped to the southwest off the summit, aiming for the saddle in the crest I had crossed earlier, only this time bypassing the south summit and Newmans Knob altogether. What had taken two hours for the ascent became a mostly downhill stroll of less than an hour on the return. It was just shy of 8:30a when I got back and time for the more adventurous outing for the day.
At the saddle there is a very large turnout with room enough to park a dozen cars. Of course mine was the only one there and the only one I'd seen during the hour-long drive. My plan was to basically follow the ridgeline between the drainages, going up and over a number of intermediate bumps along the way. Because the elevation was over 6,000ft the entire way I hoped that I would find mostly forested slopes with manageable cross-countryover them. It worked out even better than I had hoped, making for a very pleasant stroll along the ridge the entire way. There was an old, overgrown road going up to the first bump and a decent use trail for much of the way after that. Deer are the primary users of it, hunters probably the next largest group. Deer tracks were evident all along the ridge, the only prints I saw all day. If any hunters had been along this way in the fall, their tracks had long been wiped out by the far more numerous deer.
Peak 7,047ft can be seen in the distance after going over that first bump but of course it was still miles off. There are fine views along the way, east to the Sierra crest and Lamont Peak, west to the heart of Domeland Wilderness. Stegosaurus Fin is particularly prominent as a large granite outcrop to the northwest, and I fondly recalled enjoying the fine scramble it provided with Matthew more than seven years earlier. There were some easy granite slabs and sandy sections to cross in places, but mostly it was through forest or light scrub, never very dense. This opened the views for much of the way and made route-finding almost trivial. Though it took nearly 2hrs to make it to the summit, this was much better than I had expected for 5+ miles of cross-country travel. The summit itself was disappointing compared to the route to reach it. It was broad and rounded, giving little satisfaction of finding the highpoint. At over 7,000ft, it was the most forested section of the whole route and consequently had poor views. By walking a few minutes away from the highpoint to the west, better views could be had looking southwest to Isabella Valley, west and northwest into Domelands. Better views to the north and east were had further east as I headed back. I found no register or cairn and left only a short stack of rocks for future visitors to identify.
Peak 6,820ft, with about 440ft of prominence, lies about a quarter mile off the main ridgeline route that I had followed. My return was along the same line I had taken, with the additional side trip to visit the summit of this second unnamed peak. It proved to have a better summit, a blocky class 3 collection of large granite boulders whose highpoint provided unobstructed views in all directions (S - W - N - E). Even with the diversion, the return took the same two hours thanks to the known route-finding and some jogging on the downhills. It was but 1:30p when I returned to the van, but with a long drive ahead of me back to San Jose, I was done for the day. It had been a very enjoyable three days in the area and it had me itching to come back again the next week providing no new snow fell. Happily, it didn't.
This page last updated: Fri Feb 7 09:23:04 2014
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