Carpenter Ridge P750
Peak 8,548ft
Sagehen Hills P500

Tue, Sep 29, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

I was supposed to be taking my daughter back to school in Santa Barbara today, but my wife volunteered at the last minute when her schedule freed up. I used the opportunity to make a quick trip to Tahoe National Forest, one of the few NFs in California not completely closed. There was no dispersed camping allowed which would limit my usual options, but I could work around that. Warm temps meant I needed to get as much elevation as I could and a late start would leave me with less than a full afternoon. Smoke from the continuing incineration of the state would permiate the area and mar views, but not so thick as to be (that) unhealthy. I decided to visit Carpenter Ridge which should be pleasant enough at almost 9,000ft. It is located about 10mi NW of Truckee, separating Independence Lake to the north and Carpenter Valley to the south. Access is via Forest Rd 11, also called Sagehen Rd. The last 3.5mi past the end of FR11 are not suitable for passenger cars and require high-clearance. There were a few bonus peaks that I figured I could do in conjunction before it got dark.

My starting point was at the end of the road on a spur ridge north of Carpenter Ridge, only about half a mile from the highpoint. Heading out just before 2p, I quickly found a use trail, likely formed by hunters, that would take me up the spur ridge. To avoid going over nearby Pt. 8,794ft, I traversed lower on its north side, connecting with Carpenter Ridge at a saddle on the HP's east side with about 300ft of sandy use trail to reach the summit. It took less than half an hour to reach the summit where I found the expected smoky views and a register left by Sean King (recent Sierra Challenge participant) and family in 2018. There were lots of entries, a little to my surprise for such an obscurity.

It was pretty warm, probably 75F, and I was a bit hesitant to continue west along the ridge to Peak 8,548ft about 1.5mi as the crow flies. I had plenty of daylight and had only hiked a short distance, so I would have felt pretty weak if I'd turned back. I was glad I continued because it turned out to be more enjoyable than it had first looked. Several intermediate points could be bypassed by more traversing on the north side of the ridge and the use trail continuing over the summit helped some, even though it had mostly disappeared by the time I reached the low saddle after a drop of 1,000ft. It took an hour to get between the two summits, landing me on Peak 8,548ft around 3:30p. The peak is only about half a mile east of the Sierra Crest where it joins Carpenter Ridge about 2mi south of Mt. Lola. I had been to the area earlier in the summer to visit a number of summits, including Peak 8,812ft less than a mile to the northwest. After taking in the hazy views, I left a register and returned back via the same route. I made a quick detour just west of Peak 8,548ft to climb an interesting class 3 pinnacle, formed from some solid volcanic rock typical of the area. After descending the pinnacle and finding what seemed a use trail, I followed it to a collection of vehicle parts (motorcycle or ATV, couldn't tell) with a few crushed beer cans, all probably at least a decade old. I imagined someone tried to ride up here and cracked up their ride, consoling themselves with a few beers.

I was back to the jeep by 5:15p, with another bonus, Sagehen Hills, 3.5mi to the east. I was able to drive the jeep on various roads to get within a quarter mile of the summit. The area has a number of roads not shown on the maps as logging operations have been going on in the not-too-distant past, some of it to removed diseased trees. The cross-country hike to the summit is short and easy, no bushwhacking required anywhere today. I left another register at the unassuming summit with poor views due to trees. I found a well-maintained, new-ish trail going over the summit, not shown on any of my maps. Where it starts and ends I had no clue, but it didn't help me get back to the jeep. I finished up shortly after 6p, not long before an orange sun would set down through the smoke to end the day. I showered where I'd parked, then enjoyed a most refreshing beverage on the longish drive back out to the highway. Good times...


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