Bishop Point
Peak 9,678ft P300
Peak 9,189ft P300

Tue, Aug 8, 2023

With: Iris Ma
Jonathan Mason

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX


Day 5 of the 2023 Sierra Challenge promised to be a grueling outing to Ithaca Peak, deep in the heart of Kings Canyon NP. I wanted no part of it and planned a more moderate outing to some 9,000-foot summits off the Coyote Valley 4WD road above Bishop. Iris and Mason chose to join me for similar reasons. We were looking for an easy day, but we would get punishment enough.

We headed up Coyote Valley Rd shortly after picking up Mason near the start, just before 6a. The road is signed at the start as "Difficult" and that's no exaggeration. We had about 8mi of driving that would take us close to two hours. I was particularly happy that the spur road into the Rawson Creek drainage was decently navigable, as this would be our starting point for the three summits.

Bishop Point

This was the longest and hardest of our three hikes. Bishop Point is clearly visible from town below, sitting near the end of the long North Ridge of the much higher Round Mtn. It is often climbed by hardy souls from the valley below, a grueling desert scrub climb of more than 5,000ft. The peak is not visible from our starting point to the west. Our route was about 2mi each way and perhaps 1,000ft of gain all told, on the undulating ridgeline we would follow. After an initial creek crossing that proved tricky (to keep from getting wet, no real danger), we worked our way upslope heading east to gain the ridgeline descending from Round Mtn. Once on the ridge, we noted the difficulty in following along the ridge directly, so we ended up traversing lower on the east and south sides of the ridge. There was some scrambling and much brush here and our progress was much slower than I had expected. It would take us nearly two hours to reach the summit at the east end of the ridge we followed. A register we found there dated to 2006 and had 14 pages of entries. Daria Malin looked to have the record with three ascents.

Our return was mostly via an alternate route. We noted the top of the ridge heading back from Bishop Point looked to have less brush and rock, so we followed that until the ridge began to turn back to the south. Here we favored the north side of the ridge, traversing across the slope where we could, dropping down when things got too brushy. The vegetation and trees grew thicker and our quicker travel we started with devolved into slow progress again. Eventually we reconnected with our ascent route where the brush was lighter and the going easier. In the end, the return route proved no better than the ascent - more than an hour and a half was spent getting back to the Jeep. We rested and got more drink before starting the second leg.

Peak 9,678ft

This is the highest of the three summits, found about a mile west of where the Jeep was parked, with 1000ft of gain. We could have driven the Jeep the remaining distance along the road to cut off a third of the mileage, but this was against the Challenge rules for counting peaks climbed, and we wanted to get the maximum of two that we could be allotted. So we walked the road to the dirt turnaround along Rawson Creek, then continued southwest up towards the summit, again with much brush, and this one much steeper. Mason chose a longer route to the north that wasn't as steep while I followed Iris up the direct route towards the summit, growing steeper and sandier the higher we got. Mason handily beat us to the top. This one took almost an hour from the Jeep. No register here, so we left one of ours before descending. The sand and gravity made things much easier, getting us back in about half an hour.

Peak 9,189ft

This last summit is less than half a mile to the top with maybe 400ft of gain. We moved the Jeep about a quarter mile back up the road to a saddle due south of the summit. Iris decided she'd had enough and hung out at the car while Mason and I went off to tag the peak. Tired and dragging, I let Mason lead the way on this one, following an ascending traverse to the north to reach the top in 25min. A register we found was placed in 2020 by Pinenut of Bishop, with a handful of additional entries until our arrival. This one, too, is visible from Bishop, and probably on the list of Bishop Skyline peaks that draws some of the visitors. For the return, we dropped to the southwest more directly to the road, a mostly sandy bootski that got us down relatively quickly. We then hiked the short distance up the road to return to the Jeep and Iris by 3p.

We changed into more comfortable shoes and picked out a selection of adult beverages for the drive back down. Near the bottom, we ran into a Sprinter Van having troubles at the beginning of the road's difficulties. After some wait, they eventually decided to back down to where they could turnaround, and allow us to go by. We had Mason back to his car by 4:15p and Iris to Bishop 15min later. Fun day.


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