It hadn't been on my itinerary when I left home, but I'd found myself in the area, further north than I expected, and suddenly I remembered Castle Rock was a class 3+ summit I'd been wanting to climb for some years. So I spent the night at the Lewis Camp TH, eager to give it a shot in the morning. I'd botched McIntyre Rock the day before, only discovering I'd climbed the wrong summit hours later. Armed with better beta I gleaned from my guidebooks and maps, I went back for a grudge match. And finally, I was supposed to meet Patrick the next day at Big Meadow, just outside the western boundary of Domeland Wilderness. The wilderness HP happens to be easily accessible from the nearby Sirretta Trail, so I hoped to have enough time to do that one in the afternoon.

Castle Rock / Peak 7,540ft

Jenkins describes a route to Castle Rocks, the second half of which I found useful. For some reason, it describes starting from Lloyd Meadows and climbing up through Jerky Meadows, perhaps because the road to the TH is paved. A shorter and easier route can be had by starting from Lewis Camp. The last three miles of road are good dirt that any vehicle can manage. The 2mi of trail I plied were either very sandy or incredibly dusty. There are cattle grazed down by the Little Kern and the Golden Trout pack station is located just down the road from the TH. As a result, there are lots of cattle and stock using this trail and the abuse shows. I left the trail shortly after Jerky Meadow as suggested, initially following the additional suggestion to contour below 7,100ft around the north side of the ridgeline. This is to avoid unnecessary drops along the way, but one of these, with more than 300ft of prominence, made for an easy bonus. Peak 7,540ft had a small surprise in the way of a neat little class 3 summit block. To the east, located between the summit and Castle Rock was another point that looked to have an interesting summit block, though insufficient prominence to claim a bonus. This one turned out to be the toughest of the three summits I visited along the ridgeline. I circled around to the east, climbing and continuing around the south side to climb the summit block from the west. I went up a 15-foot face with grainy, not altogether solid granite with poor holds, what I would rate as class 4. Not really wanting to reverse that effort if it could be avoided, I found a narrow chimney on the north side that I half climbed, half slid down. Not sure if I could have gone up that way.

Continuing on along the ridge to Castle Rock, I moved around to the east side where I knew the scrambling would be easiest. All the way up to the summit block (near the south end of the summit rocks) was class 3, the final move to the top maybe class 3-4, though no real exposure to worry about. I knew that both Gordon MacLeod and Andy Smatko had visited this summit, so I was expecting to find a register from one of them. I was not disappointed. Visiting in 1981, Gordon had beaten Andy to the summit by six years. There have been few visitors since then, though Phil Hipe made six visits between 1988 and 1991. He was subsequently reprimanded by later visitors and hasn't been seen at the summit since. Phil left a business card which I found somewhat amusing - a look right out of the late 1970's disco age. The last entry before mine was in 2008, an eight year dry spell. I returned back around the ridge following Jenkins' contouring suggestion and finished around 11:10a, taking under 4hrs for the outing.

McIntyre Rock

A very easy effort. I drove FS road 20S81 northwest to an open gate about 1.7mi in, where I parked. High clearance vehicles can continue another half mile. Where I parked, there are signs indicating a maintained trail heading west. I tried to follow it, but gave up after 50yds when I determined the trail is no longer maintained, faint, and overgrown. So I followed the road instead, soon finding a much better trail that heads to McIntyre Rock in less than a mile. The trail sign has deteriorated, so look carefully on the right side of the road near the ground, lest you bypass it. The trail contours west without losing or gaining much elevation, through thick forest, without views, but pleasant. Eventually a trail junction is reached (a north fork heads to Jordan Peak lookout) where a fallen wooden gate is found. On the left is a sign for McIntyre Rock with a use trail leading the short distance to its summit, climbing only 50ft, class 1. It has a spectacular view overlooking Slate Mtn and the Tule River drainage.

Domeland Wilderness HP

Pretty much any way you climb this, it is a short outing, about on par with Sirretta Peak. In fact, this would be a good one to combine with the SPS Sirretta. The trail starts as a motorcycle track, part of the Cannell OHV route that continues north to Sherman Pass. After half a mile a junction is reached, the right fork (no longer open to motorcycles) heading to Sirretta Pass. One can follow the trail for two miles to the pass and then follow the ridgeline south and southeast to the HP, the route I had originally intended. But after hiking the trail for less than a mile from the junction, I noted the straight-line distance shown on the GPSr was only 0.7mi and the route up was fairly clear, albeit steep and sandy. I opted for the shorter, more arduous route up the sand. Though there was some weaving to avoid manzanita and other brush, I reached the summit by 4p, having taken just over an hour. I found a brand-new register that Richard Carey had left on Oct 14. I had to check my watch to see that it was Oct 14. Ah! The two folks I passed back at the trail junction with only a brief hello were Richard and Shelley. I was sorry that I hadn't recognized him - he is a very prolific peakbagger out of San Diego and I've been wanting to meet him for years. The views I found were stunning. An incoming storm to the north had brought strong winds, clearing out the haze from the previous day. The summit overlooks almost all of the Domeland Wilderness in three directions, north - east - south. The descent went very quickly now that I was plunging down steep, sandy slopes. Getting back before 5p, it was now time for ... beer!


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