Mt. Ina Coolbrith P1K PD
Haskell Peak P900
Peak 7,654ft P1K
Peak 7,580ft P500 PD

Nov 8, 2018

With: Kristine Swigart

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4

Ina Coolbrith was a celeberated American poet, writer and librarian who came to California in 1851 at the age of 10 in a wagon train with her family. The train was led by scout Jim Beckwourth for whom Beckwourth Pass in the Northern Sierra was named. The Coolbrith family settled in the Bay Area where she grew up and lived out her life. Mt. Ina Coolbrith, south of Beckwourth Pass and east of Sierra Valley, was named for her sometime after her death in 1928. When I asked Kristine if she wanted to join me for some peakbagging in the area, I sent her a list of likely targets and it was Ina Coolbrith that grabbed her attention. The peak is only about 20mi NW of Reno, just inside the CA border. The area is a patchwork of Plumas NF, private, and BLM wildlife lands. A few years ago I had tried to access the area from Loyalton in Sierra Valley, but found the road gated and closed to traffic. I told Kristine to meet me at the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area off US395 to the east at 7a, not really knowing if we would be able to drive in that way. Online info showed the wildlife area closed Feb-Jun, but there was no mention on whether one could drive outside those months. Worst case, we'd have an eight mile walk from US395. I was hoping for the driving option because there were two other summits in the area that I was interested in as well and hoped to be able to do all three in the same day. It worked out almost as well as we might have hoped. Kristine had arrived early and already ascertained that the gates were unlocked. We would have time for all three plus a bonus one we found at the end of the day. Temperatures were decidedly cold - 20F when I arrived at our meeting spot. Though it would warm some as the sun came out, it was windy much of the day, keeping us bundled up from the chill and driving us from the summits almost as soon as we'd arrive. It was the coldest day of the year for either of us, hands down.

Mt. Ina Coolbrith

We left Kristine's vehicle off US395 and used the jeep for driving the sometimes rough roads around the area. An advantage for me was that I got to stay snug and warm in the jeep while Kristine got out to unlock one gate at a time, closing it behind me, a total of three gates in all before we had gotten through the wildlife area. Our route took us west across Long Valley into Evans Canyon where we crossed a creek on a little-used track to head up to the saddle between Ina Coolbrith and Haskell. Not sure if 4WD is needed, but high-clearance is a must and sections of the roadways are brushy. We drove higher from the saddle but didn't get as far as the topo map would leave you to believe possible. The road pretty much ended without fanfare, leaving me just enough room to turnaround. We were about 2mi from our summit and would start from there.

The going is steep right out of the gate, up forested slopes with no warm-up for the legs. After climbing about 1,200ft, the forest relented as we reached the ridgeline that can be followed to the summit, still more than a mile away. The north slopes of the ridge were more forested and less brushy than the ridge itself, and we often preferred that side to allow easier progress. We spent almost an hour and a half making our way to the summit where we arrived shortly after 10a. A register we found there had been left in 2015 by a Sierra Club party from the Great Basin chapter based in Reno. A few other parties with names I recognized had visited in the same year. Despite fires burning in the state, the air quality was quite good and we could see for many miles across Sierra Valley, the northern Sierra and well into Nevada. There was also a benchmark from 1931 left by the US Coast & Geodetic Survey. Our return was pretty much along the same route with some minor variations in the lower half that we though would be more direct. It ended up being pretty brushy and offered no advantage at all over the ascent route.

Haskell Peak

Back at the jeep, we drove the short distance back down to the saddle with Haskell Peak and started from there, a distance of only a mile to the summit. There was almost 1,000ft of gain over that distance, but it was more open terrain than Ina Coolbrith and it would take us less than half an hour to follow the SW Ridge to the summit. We found a cairn but no register there, leaving one of our own before heading back down the same route.

Peak 7,654ft

This P1K lies to the southeast of Ina Coolbrith, across Evans Canyon. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to start from the north in Evans Canyon, a distance of about 1.5mi each way. Instead, we spent time driving up Evans and Dark Canyons, following hardly-used tracks to get us higher on the west side of the unnamed peak. The topo map shows roads getting within half a mile from, and 1,000ft below the summit, but we hit a dead-end where the roads are no longer maintained, even by hunters who occasionally visit the area. Our hiking route started with a crossing of the trickle of a creek in Dark Canyon. It's pretty steep going down and back out and would be quite a difficulty in Spring. We then made our way east across open, sparsely forested ground to a wonderful meadow found on the southwest side of the peak. There was a large, stately pine growing in the middle of the meadow and we wondered what kept early loggers from cutting it down. Perhaps left to provide shade for the cattle that have grazed here? Kristine's face lit up as she made a beeline for the tree, stating it was just begging to be climbed. And so she did. Well, to be fair we both did, but my ascent was only partial and soley for the purpose of documenting Kristine's shenannigans. Five minutes later we had played out the tree and continued towards our peak.

Somewhere in the forest near the base of the peak I paused to take off my fleece and quickly lost track of Kristine. I thought she might have stopped for a potty break but couldn't tell if she was ahead or behind me as I continued upslope. The route from the SW side grows quite steep, a bit loose and sometimes brushy, overall not a very pleasant way to go. I found Kristine peering over from the summit area, wondering what had become of me. Evidently there was no potty break and she made quick time getting to the top. A register here had been placed by a 10-person party in 2014, with many recognizeable names from the Reno area, including Rich Wilson, Ron Moe, John Ide, Sharon Marie Wilcox and Sue & Vic Henney, another contingent of the Great Basin Peaks Section. We found a better descent route to the north of our ascent, mostly forested with decent footing and little brush. Back down in the meadow we were surprised to see a group of four motorcyclists cruising the trails. One of them stopped to talk with us briefly, but we never did figure out how they got to the road they were traveling, the very one we were trying to use ourselves. They were even more surprised to see the pair of us on foot, not knowing that we had a jeep stashed away on one of the roads they had yet to explore.

Peak 7,580ft

It was after 3:30p by the time we got back to the jeep and we probably should have called it a day. I mentioned another bonus peak not far away and Kristine more or less shrugged and offered, "Well, we might as well.." We reparked the jeep a short distance to the north and started out heading west, about a mile to the summit with 1,400ft of gain. It began well enough with forest cover, but soon became more open, grassy slopes where we noticed the wind had picked up markedly from earlier in the day. By the time we had climbed up to the summit ridgeline, we were battered by a fierce, bitterly cold wind that sent us scurrying off the leeward side of the summit to get out of the full brunt of it. We took a few photos, left a new register, then beat a hasty retreat off the summit by dropping to the south into what we hoped would be the protective shelter of the canyon. It was indeed less windy there, but we found the brush as heavy as we'd found all day. We briefly lost track of each other as we jostled our different ways through the stuff. Just when we thought we were treading a previously untrodden route, we came across a USFS boundary sign in the midst of the brush. When we got back to the jeep just before 5:30p, the sun had already set and it was quickly growing colder, now below freezing. We both agreed that we could have done without that last summit, but it was still a pretty good day. I drove us back out to US395 where we parted ways, Kristine heading home while I found a Starbucks to warm up in on the outskirts of Reno. More fun in store for tomorrow...

comments on 11/13/18:
Cool! -- No, Coolbrith!!
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