Mon, Nov 14, 2016
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I was NE of Mono Lake, just over the NV border, having driven in the previous night almost 4mi on a good dirt powerline road to the middle of Alkali Valley. I was here to tag a few CA P1Ks very near the border. The temperature had dropped quickly after the sun had set, down to 23F by the time I went to bed around 9p. It got colder still through the night, down to 14F by the time I got up. It was about as cold as I've slept in the van, with ice on the inside of the windows and my water bottle partially frozen from the cold. I was saved by the down comforter I bring along in the winter to supplement the sleeping bag and slept quite cozily though I could see my breath inside the van in the morning. I started the van and the heater for a good 15min before it was comfortable enough to get up. The hardest part of the day was having to relieve myself outside soon after, baring my ass in the frigid air. It was the first time that I wondered if it was possible to get frostbite on buttcheeks.
Even with the sun up for more than 30min, the temperature hadn't changed when I finally got going around 7:45a. Both of today's summits were visible to the west when I headed off in that direction along a 4WD dirt road running perpendicular to the one I had driven in on. Cedar Hill, on the left, is probably most easily reached directly from paved SR167 to the south, but my starting location was chosen for minimizing the effort for both peaks combined. I followed the road for about a mile before peeling off to the left to start the climb up to Cedar Hill on the nearest ridge I could find. The terrain here is classic Great Basin high desert, low scrub in the valleys with pinyons, junipers and other drought-tolerant trees on the slopes. The peaks in this area are volcanic, which explains why several P1Ks can be found so close together. The slopes are steep, comprised of loose rock and dirt, the latter doing its best to hold the rocks in place and provide decent footing. There is also a good deal of sand, but I found more of that on the second peak than I did on Cedar Hill. I spent about an hour and a half climbing the north slopes of Cedar Hill, passing by an old survey station, what I later figured was done to mark the CA/NV border many, many decades ago.
It was nearly 9:30a when I reached the highpoint among the summit rocks, a register in a baby food jar tucked under a small cairn Gordon & Barbara had left in 1989. It has since garnered nine pages of entries that include a number of the usual suspects - Jonathan Bourne, Bob Sumner, Brian French, John Ide and John Vitz. The temperature had warmed nicely during the ascent, probably around 50F and quite pleasant at the summit now. Trees block the views somewhat, but you can move around to various points to get views in those directions. Peak 8,740ft is out of view from Cedar Hill's highpoint, blocked by another ridge to the northwest. The GPSr told me it was 2.8mi in that direction, so off I went. I dropped to a shallow valley between the summit ridge and the slightly lower one to the NW, then up and over the other ridge before dropping steeply down the northwest side to Larkin Lake in Alkali Valley. The footing was loose but not annoyingly so, and the descent went fairly quickly.
It was after 10:30a when I exited the gully I'd been descending, coming out on the flat valley and aiming for the dry lakebed for the easiest crossing. The brush around the lake offered only modest resistance, but the low grass of the lakebed was preferred. On the opposite side of the lake and valley rises the steep SE escarpment of Peak 8,740ft. This ascent was steep and slow thanks to loose sand, dirt and rock. Ugh, ugh. More than an hour I toiled uphill, looking for any modicum of shade I could find to get out of the warm sun that had brought the area a far cry from the 14F of the early morning. Upon reaching the South Ridge, the gradient eased some, though still with another 900ft of elevation to gain. I found the upper slopes in the process of recovering from a fire that swept across the west and northeast sides, going up and over the summit some time in the past. It was difficult to judge how long ago the fire had been since deserts take so much longer to recover than the Sierra and other ranges with more plentiful rainfall.
It nearly noon when I finally reached the second summit. Ron Moe had left a summit register here almost two years earlier. About a foot away I found an earlier register from 2006 that Ron had missed because it was nearly completely buried in sand that had blown across the summit and collected in the crevasses. The summit has seen only a small handful of visitors in the past decade. The best view afforded from the summit is to Mono Lake and the Sierra to the southwest. Brawley Peaks, which I climbed earlier in the year, rise higher to the northwest. Mt. Hicks, another P1K, is about 5mi to the northeast. Had I enough energy for another 10mi of cross-country rambling, I would have headed off for Hicks, but that would have to wait for another day. Getting back early sounded like a better idea.
I descended gentler slopes, also burned, in an ENE direction for about a mile before dropping down more steeply to Alkali Valley. I was aiming for another road that I could use to get back to the one I started on, and after about an hour of cruising through the valley I was able to return to the van by 1:45p. I had time for more hiking but decided to call it a day, showering in the sandy road before heading back to the highway. I found cell signal for a small stretch of SR167 driving back towards US395, so I pulled over to send a note to my wife and some other online homework before continuing on to Conway Summit. I drove to a USFS campground along Virginia Creek at around 9,000ft to spend the night - the hope is that the super-cold air settles down around Mono Lake and it won't be so cold here tonight. Time would tell...
This page last updated: Wed Nov 16 16:52:48 2016
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