Cherry Hill ESS
Spirit Rock ESS

Oct 16, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


With a weather system moving in over the state, I did not exactly miss it by escaping to the Southern Sierra this weekend. During the night it had rained some, not a lot, but enough to make everything wet. My boots would be good for a few hours, but hardly a day's worth of tromping around in the woods. So I set my sights on two easy targets before heading home at the end of a four day roadtrip.

Cherry Hill

I had spent the night parked at the base of Cherry Hill, at a small turnout just off the road. In the morning, traffic on the road began to pick up. Even in my sleeping bag I could tell the guys who were hunting from their vehicles by the slow speed by which they went by my van. How Cherry Hill got named is a bit of a mystery - it has little prominence and is really just a bump off a ridge almost a thousand feet higher to the east. From the road it is less than half a mile to the summit, but a steep, 1,000-foot climb. The area burned over some years back and a lot of brush has grown up on the west slopes facing the road. Some care in route-finding is needed to keep the whacking to a minimum. I went up one route and down another, neither being particularly advantageous. The summit was surprisingly clear of both trees and brush, providing nice but overcast views. There was a register dating back to 1989 with many pages filled - I didn't bother to photograph them all as it was too windy and cold at the summit to allow me the patience to do so. I spent about 45min on the roundtrip effort.

Spirit Rock

The name of this feature is not found on the topo maps or USGS database, but appears to be in use by Southern Sierra rock climbers. This small granite dome is found in the Brush Creek drainage below Sherman Pass, about half a mile from the Sherman Pass Rd. Along with Cherry Hill, Spirit Rock and the entire area was devastated in the 2002 McNally Fire, many of the snags still standing as a stark reminder. While the trees are taking there time in recovering, the brush has come back with a vengeance, particularly the buckthorn. There are two ways to reach Spirit Rock. I used the route from the east which starts at the large turnout where a snowplow is parked, about 600ft above Spirit Rock. This route proved to be horrendously brushy and I was about to give up when I ran into thick buckthorn at shoulder level. Some downed snags helped me get through the worst of it and the route eventually improved. A better route, which I would have used had I turned back on the eastern approach, is from the north where the road is about level with Spirit Rock and only 0.4mi distance. The reason I rejected this route initially was because there is a 400-foot drop to Brush Creek before climbing back up to Spirit Rock. It turns out this northern approach is far less brushy and would have been much easier. I actually dropped to the creek on my return before climbing up the drainage where I found less brush than my original route. The rock itself makes for a nice little class 3 scramble. The easiest route starts from the notch on the SE side, works up to the right before crossing over to the south side where I found the only easy class 3 way up. No register was found, but there was a small cairn which I dismantled before leaving the top. The views are decent but not great, owing to the small stature of the summit, surrounded on three sides by higher summits and ridges. My boots and pants were pretty wet before I was done sometime after 10a. A fresh change of clothes did wonders before starting the long drive back home...

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