Black Point
Sunset Point P300
Kerckhoff Dome

Sun, Jun 14, 2020

With: Karl Fieberling

Etymology
Black Point
Sunset Point
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

Continued...

We had nearly run out of summits in the Huntington Lake area of the Sierra National Forest, having only a few left to keep us busy for a few hours. The first two were simple affairs, but the last, Kerckhoff Dome, was a bit of a workout and a nice way to finish off the roadtrip before driving home.

Black Point

This summit is located west of Huntington Lake, on the edge of the Kaiser Wilderness. A short trail, less than half a mile in length, goes to the top from a trailhead at the end of a forest road. There are two ways to reach the trailhead. Well-graded Black Point Rd (8S32) is the usual, but longer route that forks off paved Huntington Lake Rd below the dam. If coming from Huntington Lake, there's a shorter route on Dowville W (8S04) that cuts through the community of Huntington Lake. This road is a little rougher, but nominal high-clearance suffices. The topo map shows the TH about 200ft lower down the slope than it currently is. If one continues on 8S32 to the saddle with Mushroom Rock, the right fork will lead to the current trailhead. It took about 25min to hike the trail to the summit. It is signed as a "National Recreation Trail", a designation I thought was reserved for more significant trails. I looked up the NRT database later and discovered that all sorts of silly urban trails have this designation (as an example, the Highway 237 Bikeway Trail in San Jose is one of the worst bike paths imaginable - a badly connected series of paths through sterile commercial tracts and along a noisy freeway. But I digress). The summit rocks provide a nice overlook of the Kaiser Wilderness to the northeast and Huntington Lake to the southeast. The Central Valley can be seen to the west, but it was mostly obscured by the usual haze.

Sunset Point

This summit lies southwest of Huntington Lake. There are communication towers near the top and a service road that makes it easy. The road is gated at Camp Keola, but signs do not restrict foot traffic. An informal sign on the road has it as "Art's Trail", perhaps something originating from nearby Keola Camp, currently closed. The summit has two bumps of similar height. The towers are on the eastern bump where the road ends. A good trail continues through the brush to the open western bump where a pair of wooden crosses are found on some open piles of rocks. It took less than 15min to hike out to this point with a nice view overlooking the Big Creek drainage below Huntington Lake. To the south, we could just see the top of Kerckhoff Dome, our last summit. One could probably hike down to it from Sunset Point, but there is an easier way so we returned to the jeep.

Kerckhoff Dome

Kerckhoff Dome is a somewhat obscure climbers' spot located between Huntington Lake and the small community of Big Creek 2,000ft lower. The town is home to a ConEd Powerstation. A trio of large pipes, or penstocks as they're called, bring water down from Huntingon Lake to run turbines at the power station. Climbers hike up the steep steps alongside the penstocks to reach the base of the dome 800ft above the roadway. Our route would be from above, not below, since we were interested in reaching the top, not the base of the dome. A service road runs along the penstock parallel to, and below the road to Sunset Point, ending where the pipes begin their plunge down the steep hillside. We drove a short distance on dirt roads before reaching a locked gate, leaving us about a mile each way to our destination. We found a use trail that shortcutted part of our route to the service road, then followed the road out to the gate house at the end. Now for the hard part - brushy cross-country travel taking us 500ft down to Kerckhoff Dome.

The going was terribly brushy to start, descending as we did from the gate house. There is a small flat area about 200ft down where the brush relented to give us a better view looking down on Kerckhoff Dome. This was very discouraging at first since it was quickly apparent that there was a significant cliff immediately below this flat, rocky area. After looking around, it seemed if we moved east we could find a route down, and we set off in that direction. Almost immediately we came across the first of a series of ducks that proved to be a very workable use trail down to Kerckhoff Dome. It was quite steep in places, but never more than easy class 3 and the ducks were sufficient to keep us on-route. How long this established route had been around was impossible to say, but we were very thankful for its existence which took much of the guesswork out of getting to our goal. At the saddle before the final 100ft of gain to the top of the dome, Karl and I took separate routes that worked out, but his seemed to follow the regular ducked route I'd missed and had less brush to boot. The summit provides a neat bird's-eye view of the Big Creek drainage with the town below. The only sign of humans we found at the summit was a single rusty fish tin that had been left on a boulder below the highpoint. We left a register atop the highest point before heading back.

On our return we followed the ducks in the reverse direction, finding them give out about where we'd originally found them, but the use trail continuing through the forest that bypassed the nasty brush we'd encountered earlier. We got back to the service road in about 30min, and another 20min to get us back to the jeep. It wasn't yet 10:30a when we finished with this last one, but we said goodbye and went our separate ways. I would find a place to shower before driving home while Karl went on to do four other easy summits in the area that I had done on Thursday before he'd arrived. Another successful trip in the bag...


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