Wagner Ridge P900
Hells Hollow Ridge
Peak 3,956ft
Dudley Hill
Greeley Hill P300
Monotti Hill
Shingle Hill
McCauley Hill
Jackass Mountain P300
Texas Hill
Black Mountain P300
Peak 2,925ft P300
Peak 3,277ft P300
Jenkins Hill
Soapstone Ridge P300
Little Grizzly Mountain

Tue, May 15, 2018
Black Mountain
Jenkins Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11


I had planned to make another 3-day foray into the Shasta-Trinity NF but the forecast there had a 70% chance of rain, not very encouraging. I decided to go with the 20% forecast in Stanislaus NF in the Sierra foothills west of Yosemite NP. The area is bounded by SR120 on the north and SR140 to the south. In between there are a few paved roads and many, many unpaved ones. Of interest were a P900 and P1K in that region with more than two dozen other summits I might be able to visit, depending on road conditions. Most were drive-ups, or nearly drive-ups, none of them involving more than half a mile to the summit (which is why I provided no elevation/distance profiles for them). I had no idea which roads were open and which ones might be closed, so there was a good deal of uncertainty on the whole exercise - just my sort of fun.

Wagner Ridge/Hells Hollow Ridge/Peak 3,956ft

All of these are located on the 7mi-long Wagner Ridge. I accessed the good dirt road that runs along the ridgeline from the east via paved Smith Station Rd heading south from SR120. There are several residences along the ridge and the road seems to be kept in decent shape. I could have more efficiently driven in from the west via Boneyard Rd, exiting to Smith Station Rd, but didn't realize this beforehand. All three summits are essentially drive-ups with few views due to the trees. Peak 3,958ft was the most open with a small clump of summit rocks amidst the grassy top, with a USFS benchmark from 1937.

Dudley Hill/Greely Hill/Monotti Hill

All three of these minor hills are located around the small town of Greely Hill a few miles south of Wagner Ridge. The first two were drive-ups. Dudley Hill is home to a large telecom installation (cell tower, I think) that was being installed during my visit. The gate was open so I drove to the top, only to have one of the workers stare me down until I had turned around and gone back down the hill. Greely Hill (the hill) is on the west side of town and may be private property though there were no gates or other impediments to simply driving to the top. It had the most open views, overlooking the Central Valley to the west and the Sierra foothills to the east. Monotti Hill is located on forest lands, the drive in going over a rough 4WD road, 2S47. Parking at the base of the hill on the north side, the route goes cross-country up modest slopes with some poison oak that wasn't hard to work around. The summit had open views looking south, those to the north blocked by trees. After doing these three, I stopped at the market in Greely Hill (the town) for refreshments and topping off the fuel tank before heading into the wild.

Shingle Hill

Heading east out of Greely Hill, this is the first stop along the way. The main road running southeast is Briceburg Rd, partially paved until becoming a well-maintained dirt/gravel road. I turned right on Dogtown Rd, a good road, and then the rougher 2SY04Y to get within about a quarter mile of Shingle Hill's summit on its southeast side. An easy walk through the woods gets one to the rounded summit with no views. There are mild amounts of poison oak to watch out for, all of the low ground-cover variety.

McCauley Hill

Back on Briceburg Rd, I drove about a mile to the junction with Old Yosemite Rd that climbs east out of the drainage and towards the higher elevations on its way to Yosemite. This was part of the first road constructed into Yosemite back in 1874, the same one John Muir used when he first visited around the same time. I drove this a few miles up to the 3,200-foot elevation where there is a junction with McCauley Cutoff Rd, a steeper route up from Briceburg Rd to the southwest. This secondary road sees less maintenance and it was necessary to stop at one point to cut off some pine branches that had partially fallen across the road. The initial part from Old Yosemite Rd up to McCauley is badly rutted and only suitable for 4WD. From McCauley Hill back down to Briceburg Rd, the cutoff road is in better condition but I had a few more branches to cut there. The summit is located about 100yds off the roadway and makes for some tough brushwhacking through dry, over-the-head brush to find no discernable summit, zero views and few places to stand up. The summit lacks any redeeming qualities as far as I can tell.

Jackass Mountain

Back down at Briceburg Rd after descending McCauley Cutoff Rd, I immediately continued southwest across Briceburg onto another forest road, 2S11 (Google Maps has it as "State Rte 2S01Y", a name that makes little sense). The topo map shows this as a drive-up, but the road no longer reaches to Jackass' summit. I parked in an open grassy area where the road currently ends, hiking about half a mile up to the summit over portions of the old roadbed which improves as one nears the summit. It may be possible to drive up from the northwest side. Nothing of interest at the summit, but at least the road goes right over the top so there's no need to delve into the heavy brush.

Texas Hill/Black Mtn/Peak 2,925ft

Back on Briceburg Rd and a few miles further southeast leads to the spur road, Ponderosa Way, heading west and up to a long ridgeline running north-south between Texas Hill and Black Mtn. This road is in decent shape and even better once one reaches the ridgeline where a very wide firebreak was created here a few years back. I drove to the north end of the ridge where Texas Hill is located, walking the last few hundred feet to the summit where it is blocked to vehicle traffic. The summit is flat and open with views in all directions thanks to the firebreak. I then drove south a few miles along the ridge, parking on the northeast side of the summit and walking about a quarter mile up the steep firebreak to the top of Black Mtn. Like Texas Hill, it is also open in all directions. Looking southwest, it seemed a road goes up to, or at least near to Peak 2,925ft another mile and a half in that direction. I hadn't planned on this one, but it seemed worth checking out while I was there. I was able to drive within about 0.4mi of the summit. The topo map shows a spur road going northwest over the summit, but this is no longer driveable and heavily overgrown with brush. Still, the old roadbed with a semblence of a use trail going along it made getting to the summit an easy proposition - it would have been very ugly bushwhacking indeed without it. It took barely 10min to reach the summit and a similar amount of time to return.

Peak 3,277ft

From Ponderosa Way, I took an alternative road (3S10) back to Briceburg Rd so that I could attempt Peak 3,277ft on the way down. The road passes about 0.6mi from the summit on the south side with about 300ft of gain. The satellite view makes it look like a difficult bushwhack but there are at least two different, old firebreaks running up the mountain, one of them from near where I started. Even though they are decades old (you can guess the age because all the trees growing on the firebreak are a maximum of about 15-20ft tall), they make a world of difference and it took less than 30min to find my way to the top. The firebreak I followed stops just short of the highpoint, necessitating some pretty rough travel through a tangle of heavy brush to find another indiscernable highpoint. Future adventurers should consider it suffice to reach the end of the firebreak and call it good, at least until the next fire burns it all down. This was the hardest summit of the day, coming in at just under an hour's time.

Jenkins Hill/Soapstone Ridge/Little Grizzly Mtn

Back on Briceburg Rd, I drove a few more miles south before turning left onto Soapstone Ridge Rd, the long, rough road that would lead me up to Big Grizzly, the P1K I planned to climb the next day. These three summits were all along the same ridgeline with varying degrees of difficulty. The hardest part, perhaps, was the driving as this road is not well-maintained and there was much brush to be pushed aside. Stopping to trim it back would have taken all day, so I simply put up with the pinstriping as part and parcel with the adventure. I stopped a few times to trim back more serious obstructing tree branches, but the rest of the ridge was passable with 4WD. My first stop was Jenkins Hill, a minor point at the south end of the ridge along a spur road (3S01). The road appears to go right over the summit, so no need to jump into the brush on either side. The toughest part was finding space to turn the Jeep around in. Heading back north, I drove a few miles up Soapstone Ridge until I was on the northwest side of the summit identified on LoJ as Soapstone Ridge. Though barely a tenth of a mile from the summit, it was a challenging climb thanks to rampant poison oak that had me watching every step. Though most of the slope had clear passages through the heavier brush, the summit area was a different matter which saw me half-crawling through heavy brush to find another indistinct summit with no views. The last summit of the day was Little Grizzly, a few more miles up the road and the only one of the day's peaks to rise above 4,000ft. The northeast ridge appears to offer the most open route to the summit, a distance of about a quarter mile from the road. The poison oak was less prevalent here and I enjoyed the easier effort this entailed and the better lighting in the very late afternoon - it was after 7p before I started. The roundtrip effort took but 15min and there was even a neat little pile of summit rocks and a view overlooking the foothills to the southwest near sunset.

After returning to the Jeep, I drove only a short distance further to a place called Little Grizzly Flat on the topo map which had a nice little clearing to park and spend the night. Though I didn't do all that much hiking, I'd been driving or hiking almost 13hrs since I had gotten up in the morning. I showered in the fading light and settled on guacamole and chips with beer in lieu of an actual dinner. I hadn't really earned the latter and it didn't feel like I was going to bed hungry...


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