Big Grizzly Mountain P1K
Montgomery Ridge
Pilot Peak P750

Wed, May 16, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2


I was camped at Little Grizzly Flat along Soapstone Ridge Rd in the Stanislaus NF west of Yosemite. After tagging 16 summits the previous day, I had plans for another 9-10 today, centered around Big Grizzly Mtn, the P1K that had brought me to the area. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned. Yesterday's overcast weather that I had enjoyed was transforming into a foggy, drizzly mess that isn't all that much fun for peakbagging. I didn't even make it until noon before calling it quits and heading for home.

Big Grizzly Mountain

This is the most prominent summit between SR120 and SR140 in the Sierra foothills west of Yosemite. I had only a few more miles to drive along the somewhat brushy Soapstone Ridge Rd, most of which I had driven up the evening before. I parked at a turn in the dirt road on the southeast side of the summit, in a spot just large enough to get me off the road in the unlikely event that someone else might come driving down this little-used forest byway. I had only about half a mile and 500ft to climb from the roadway, but it was not the open, grass-covered slopes one might hope for. While there were some grassy sections, most of it was steep and draped in manzanita and other tough brush. It made for a fun and interesting climb, half in fog that was rising up from the valleys below. One needs not rush this one, instead carefully looking at the various options to avoid more serious bushwhacking. I found some pink flagging in a number of places, not all that helpful, except where it goes through a thick section of manzanita just before the summit, a tunnel nicely clipped through the middle of it. I somehow missed this on the way up (which shows the clipping wasn't really needed), but it was nice on the way down to save a minute or two. A summit register had been left by John Vitz in 2011, Richard Carey visiting a few months later. The only other entry was from a Tim Trail (real name?) in 2017, likely the person that left the flagging and clipped the passage through the manzanita. The summit might offer better views on nicer days, but today it was in and out of the cloud layers and what views I had reminded me more of the Pacific Northwest. The whole outing took just under an hour, getting me back soon after 7a.

Montgomery Ridge

My next effort was to reach Trumbull Peak, about 3 air miles to the southeast but more than an hour's driving time. There is a lookout located on Trumbull's lower south shoulder with a road reaching to the lookout. I expected (hoped) that the various roads to get me between the two would be open, but this was not the case. Things started off well - I had only to drive another mile or so to Big Grizzly's SE Ridge where the Grizzly Quarry is located, to find the road improved considerably. I drove this better road north to Domingo Flat where I found the first of several roads closed due to washouts. After much driving around the various roads in this area and around Anderson Flat, I found that the only open route was to follow the Bull Creek Rd west, back out to Briceburg Rd where I'd been the previous day. I re-drove the cutoff road up to McCauley Hill and the old Yosemite Rd. Who knew that the next person to benefit from the clipping I'd done on the cutoff road would be me? Montgomery Ridge can be reached from Old Yosemite Rd via a spur road which I used to drive myself to the highpoint. There wasn't much to it and I eventually found my way back to Old Yosemite Rd, having added this one merely as shameless stat-padding.

Pilot Peak

I was still trying to get to Trumbull Peak, but my very roundabout way of getting me there was taking me by other summits I figured I ought to consider while I was in the neighborhood. With almost 800ft of prominence and a lookout tower of its own, Pilot Peak seemed like one such summit I should drop in on. Forest Road 2S04 branches off from Old Yosemite Rd on the east side of the summit, winding its way to the top in a couple of miles. I drove up this road, finding myself engulfed in the clouds hovering around the 6,000-foot level - it was not going to have the scenic vistas others had reported on PB. More disheartening was the sign about a quarter mile from the top that said the remaining road was closed to all traffic, motorized and non-motorized. The gate was open so I figured I'd drive up to see what reason might be given for the closure. The road is steep and narrow, but the Jeep was able to manage it easily enough. As I neared the top and spied the lookout through the fog, I also spied a white USFS truck parked outside. Dang. What to do? As I sat there idling, I noticed a set of legs climbing down the stairway. Seems I was busted. I made a feeble attempt to back down the road, but the rear window was covered in dust and the fog made the rear camera unusable. The only way down was to drive up to the top and turn around (and take my lumps, too, I suppose), so I went forward instead. Upon driving to the top where I could turn around, I saw no sign of the ranger I'd seen descending. Had he seen me after all? Perhaps not. Maybe he'd just come down to use the outhouse. I figured I better not press my luck, so after snapping a photo I descended back down. Pretty much a bust of a visit.

I wasn't yet through, spending another hour and a half wandering the backroads of the forest. After leaving Pilot Peak I returned to Old Yosemite Rd and made my way to a 5-way junction. A sign here indicated Trumbull Peak 9mi down one of the forks. I headed off that way, happy to find the road in good condition. In a few miles I found out why - my way was blocked by a large vehicle with a crew tasked with clearing the road. Two sheriff's officers came over and explained what was going on. They kindly offered to move their truck and gear aside to let me pass, but that wasn't going to do much good - I'd simply have to wait for the guys with chainsaws to catch up and unblock the next section of road with my vehicle simply getting in the way. The officer that had suggested this looked sheepishly embarassed for having done so. I went back to the 5-way intersection and tried another road option that runs closer to the Yosemite border and SR120. When I concluded the road was too brushy to reach Trumbull, I tried exiting to SR120 but found a gate at the park boundary closed. Drats. I went back to the 5-way for a third time, found one of the exits to SR120 blocked due to a washout, but another one, longer perhaps, that would do the trick. By this time the low-level drizzle had made the roads more muddy and, combined with the persistent fog, I decided I wasn't having fun anymore and decided to head home. There would be other opportunities to come back at a later date. Drier, I hope, and perhaps with better views, too...

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