Fay BM P300
Peak 4,274ft P300
Peak 4,523ft P300
Peak 4,380ft P300
Peak 2,900ft 3x P300

Wed, Apr 21, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2


Day 2 of a 3-day road trip to the Lake Isabella area had me doing a few longish hikes on the northeast side of the lake. The two kept me busy for most of the day, starting at 6:40a and finishing up around 4p. There was still more than three hours of daylight remaining, but I was pretty knackered and suffering minor injuries. Better to rest up and start again the next morning.

Peak 2,900ft

I'd spent the night camped atop this summit, allowing me to claim another ascent in the morning for some gratuitous stat padding. It's an excellent location on BLM land to spend the night, overlooking the lake and town. Room for several vehicles.

Peak 4,274ft - Fay BM

This was the main event for the day. There is an 8mi-long ridge rising from the NE end of the lake to the higher elevations around Bartolas Country. There are five summits along this ridge. I had visited the three higher summits in 2019 on an adventurous outing starting from above. Today's outing to the lower two would start at the bottom. The nine mile outing would climb about 3,400ft and take 6.5hrs. Unlike the brushy affair I had on the 2019 visit, there would be minimal brush to deal with on the drier, lower slopes. Though the two summits are on BLM and USFS lands, public access isn't obvious. There are fences around the base of the ridge on all sides, and you pretty much have to go under or over a fence somewhere at the start. I didn't see No Trespassing signs on the fences, so hopefully they're just to keep the cattle coralled inside. Because of the dirth of rainfall in the Southern Sierra this year, the hills here never turned green. Consequently, there are no cattle grazing on the brown slopes this year, though plenty can be found in the greener pastures of South Fork Valley along the South Fork Kern River.

I parked just outside the disposal site's locked gate in Cyrus Flat. I walked the road a short distance before going under a fence and starting up a gully heading north. The disposal site doesn't open until 8a, so it made for a very quiet start with little chance of being seen by anyone. Once on the ridge, the going is really quite enjoyable, with views off both sides and then some. The HPS summits of Black and Split can be seen around Greenhorn Summit to the northwest. The Kern River Valley and Kernville can be seen to the north. The 8,000-foot Piute Mountains can be seen across the South Fork Valley to the south. There were animal trails at various places along the ridge to make things easier, but really the cross-country is not hard, mostly grass with modest brush and a few trees, and some boulders now and then to keep things interesting. I picked up about a dozen ticks on the outing, not nearly as many as yesterday, and more of an annoyance than a real problem. I would flick them off my pants when I noticed them, and hope I didn't bring any sneaky ones back to the Jeep.

It took me an hour and a half to reach the first summit, Peak 4,274ft. A large, imposing summit block stands at the highpoint, but it has easy access from the north side. I stayed a few minutes to take in the fine views and catch my breath. I left a register before starting off for Fay BM. It would take an hour and three quarters to reach the second summit, with several minor drops along the way. I found another fence running across the ridge that I slid under, then found that it follow the ridge for about a quarter mile or so. I would move from one side of the fence to the other, depending on which had the most open terrain. There were a few brushy spots encountered, but they caused little bother. I found a benchmark at the summit but no register, so left the last one I had with me. To the northeast I could see Peak 6,457ft (the middle of the five summits on the ridge) not that far away, but another 1,000ft higher. Time to head back.

Rather than return along the ridge with its ups and downs, I decided to make a loop of it by dropping to Cyrus Canyon off the south side of the ridge. I made a descending traverse to the southwest which worked out nicely, keeping me out of the upper part of the creekbed that looked rather brushy. There were flats on the north side of the dry creekbed which I took advantage of, not dropping into the creekbed until near the end where I could see easier travel. It was a longish walk back along the north side of Cyrus Flat along the base of the ridge. A few dilapidated fences were encountered before more serious fencing lower in Cyrus Flat. I kept to the north side of these maintained fences, following cow trails that took me nicely back to the disposal site where I picked up the paved road that I could follow back to the Jeep.

Peak 4,523ft - Peak 4,380ft

These two summits are located on the west side of the Fay Creek Drainage found northeast of Lake Isabella. Paved Fay Ranch Rd climbs from South Fork Valley to the edge of the Sequoia National Forest around the 4,000-foot level. I've often wondered if this couldn't be used to access Bartolas Country and other points in that part of the forest. The topo map shows several USFS trails, but I have no idea if these are still maintained or even accessible. These two peaks lie on land with a complicated history and ownership. It appears much of this land was recently "protected" by the Trust for Public Lands and Audubon California in June of 2020. This isn't the same as "acquired", often just buying the development rights (and setting them aside) from ranchers. And while one of the reasons cited was to create "opportunities for outdoor recreation", this is hardly guaranteed and may never come to fruition. Additionally, there are parcels that are part of an ecological reserve managed by the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife. These seem to be earlier efforts to preserve open space and restrict development. No Trespassing signs, probably at the behest of the residents, have been erected to discourage visitors. All of this conspires to make this a possibly-illegal outing though I came across none of the No Trespassing signs until I was exiting through one of the neighborhoods.

I parked at a small turnout along Fay Ranch Rd around the 3,500-foot elevation. This was away from the residents to the south and others to the north. From the roadway, I dropped into a steep drainage holding Fay Creek (little water at this time) before climbing out the other side to the west towards Peak 4,523ft. It took about 40min to make my way up the dry, grassy slopes to the summit. Partway up I went under a fence marking the boundary of the Ecological Reserve (I had actually started on state property, and was now on the adjacent ranch land, part of the recently protected lands). At the top I found several large summit blocks, the highest two of which I had no chance of climbing. The highest was about 25ft tall and vertical or overhanging on all sides. I could see this one being a challenge even with a rope, the principal difficulty in figuring how to get a rope thrown over the top. I gave it little further thought - this would be a future project when I can talk some better-skilled friends to join me for it.

I next turned my attention to Peak 4,380ft, about 1.4mi to the southwest. This made for a very pleasant cross-country ramble, dropping steeply at first off the west side of Peak 4,523ft, then more gentle rambling in and out of numerous small drainages. The dry conditions this year kept fresh grass from sprouting and the hills are as parched in Apr as they would normally be in summer. It took about an hour to get from one summit to the other. Peak 4,380ft was a much gentler summit, no summit blocks or other obstacles, just an open, rounded top. I descended a short distance to the southeast to allow me to follow the mile-long NE Ridge back down to Fay Ranch Rd. This had some brushy moments, but mostly was just a continuation of the pleasant rambling. I crossed back into the Ecological Reserve property at an unsigned fence near the end of the ridge, eventually dropping into the drainage to the north where I picked up a dirt road. This led back to the residential area on the west side of Fay Ranch Rd. There more than a few No Trespassing signs along Weber Lane that I followed out. I was worried that a dog or two would light up the neighborhood with their barking, but all stayed eeriely quiet as I wisked my way past the half dozen homes. I breathed easier when I reached Fay Ranch Rd, which I had simply to walk about half a mile back up to the Jeep. No cars came by, no person was seen - just as I like it. It was 3:45p when I finished up.

After returning to SR178, I headed into the northern part of the Piute Mtns to the south where I planned to hike the next day. I ended up around the 3,400-foot level, near the boundary between BLM and USFS lands. It was a nice, quiet spot, almost a mile from the last homes that were encountered on the drive. I showered, dined, and whiled away the remaining three hours of daylight. With excellent cell coverage here, it wasn't hard to do...


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