Black Dome
Peak 9,020ft P300

Sep 22, 2021
Black Dome
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profiles: 1 2

I was heading to Alpine County to do more peaks with Kristine. Seems she can't get enough of the obscure. I had planned to get up early Thur morning to meet her at Wolf Creek at 7:30a, but while lying in bed Wed morning, I had a sudden change of mood and decided to head out a day early. There were a few peaks west of Ebbetts Pass I wanted to do, and figured I could easily do them in half a day. I left San Jose around 7:30a, making it to my starting point for Black Dome on SR4 by 11a.

Black Dome

Hermit Valley lies between Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass, along the Mokelumne River. SR4 passes through the valley on its way east up to Ebbetts Pass. Black Dome lies south of the highway, and southeast of Hermit Valley. It lies on a ridgeline separating the Mokelumne River and Grouse Creek, with Peep Sight Peak anchoring the southern end. There are no trails anywhere near Black Dome, so it would be a cross-country route starting from the highway. I found a spot wide enough to park off the road, packed up my fanny pack and headed out at 11:15a. Right at the start, one must drop 100ft steeply down the embankment to reach the Mokelumne River, a somewhat brushy affair. The river is a trivial crossing this time of year, and I was soon scrambling up the south bank of the river and heading up the ridgeline. There is a mix of brush, rock and forest on the ridge, requiring a little bushwhacking, a little scrambling, but mostly an enjoyable ramble, about two miles to reach the volcanic plug that is Black Dome. I enjoyed the views from the summit, much clearer than I had on my last outing. One can see into the Highland Lakes area to the south, Silver and Highland Peaks to the east, The Sinister, Reynolds and Raymond to the north. Behind these, I could see smoke from the Caldor Fire billowing up and blowing to the east. The fire had been nearly extinguished only a few days ago, but it seems to have flared up again around the Kirkwood area. I could also see my second summit, Peak 9,020ft, in the foreground to the north above the Mokelumne drainage. My return route was similar, though I tried to straighten out the route a bit, only to find myself sidehilling more through downfall sections I wasn't troubled with on the ascent. Still, it was a nice alternative and I got to pass by the small lake depicted on the topo map just east of Pt. 8,698ft - in drought conditions it was reduced to little more than a puddle. It was just after 2p when I returned, my roundtrip effort taking shy of 3hrs to cover 4mi with 1,800ft of gain.

Peak 9,020ft

I drove 1.5mi east on the highway to a sharp turn in the road called The Elbow. Elbow Creek, completely dry now, descends to the road from the southwest side of Reynolds Peak. Peak 9,020ft lies about 1,100ft above and 1.4mi to the northwest from this point. There was a short spur road that ended at a small campsite back from the highway where I parked. I thought I was in luck when I noticed a trail starting up the west bank of the creek from here, but it was short-lived. No matter, the cross-country here is easier than Black Dome and I sort of just wandered up through low brush and forest, following game trails where helpful. The terrain opens more towards the top, eventually presenting the final 200ft+ of the summit, comprised of loose rock. It took me an hour to reach the summit where I found a register tucked under the side of a cairn. It was placed in 2008, but the glass jar looked much older. The lid was rusted through, but someone had thoughtfully added a plastic outer wrap to keep things dry. The pad of paper had poor binding, and all the pages sort of fell out in a mess. I sorted and photographed them, then put it all back neatly like I found it. Views stretch northwest to Mokelumne Peak and Round Top, north to Markleville Peak and dozens of others. Other views are similar to those found on Black Dome. I was back to the Jeep by 4p, done for the day. I showered, put on some fresh clothes and headed to Markleville for dinner at the Cutthroat Brewing Co. A fun, easy day...


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