North Chalone Peak P1K CC
South Chalone Peak P500 CC

Tue, Jun 15, 2021

With: Jackie Burd

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A heat wave was coming to the Western US, expected to bring 109F temps to the Central Valley, 105F to Owens Valley, and a whopping 127F in Death Valley. Higher elevations would fair better, but still unseasonably warm. I had hoped to take Jackie to Yosemite Valley to climb Royal Arches this week, but temps there would be 90F+. She had just finished up at UCSB and driven home with me the previous evening, and with only a day of reasonable temps before the hot weather was to arrive, we hastily arranged a day of hiking in Pinnacles NP. We were up early for the 2hr drive to the east side entrance, ready to go by 8a. Our destination was North and South Chalone Peaks, the two highest summits in the park. I had been to them more than 30yrs earlier, before I was keeping records, so the exact date is unknown. It is a popular hike with dozens of entries on PB and LoJ. There is some uncertainty in where the Hain Wilderness HP is located. LOJ currently has it located at South Chalone, while PB has it as a point just northeast of North Chalone. The latest boundary shows North Chalone as the HP, though it is crowned by a lookout and access road. Presumably the actual boundary is just outside the access road that encircles the lookout, probably 50ft from the centerline (which seems to be the criteria used on PB).

We took just over two hours to make our way to the top of North Chalone. Views today were exceptional with unusually clear air for a warm summer day. The single-track trail ends at the park boundary where a stile allows a short climb onto the other side of the fence. The fenceline is followed to the service road and a second gate/stile for the final stretch to North Chalone. Once past the Bear Gulch Reservoir, there is little shade. With warm temps and little wind to cool us, we were sweating pretty good before getting to the top. Jackie wasn't feeling up to the extra 3mi effort to and from South Chalone, so I left her in the shade at the side of the lookout and went off on my own. I walked back down the road to the junction found at the higher of two stiles, then followed that south. I turned off the trail for a quick visit to the PB-only Middle Chalone, following the park boundary fenceline. The highpoint is found just south of the fence, but no real bushwhacking is required to reach the rocky outcrop. Neat views of the Salinas Valley as well as North and South Chalone. I went back to the fenceline and followed it downhill to the east to reach the saddle between the two main summits. One has the option of taking the trail from here, or the more direct fenceline up South Chalone's NW Ridge. I chose the fenceline based on someone's recommendation on PB, reaching the highpoint a little less than an hour after leaving North Chalone. I ended up on a rocky outcrop a bit south of the highpoint, so had to backtrack and go through some brush to get to the spot elevation where some gear, water and a register are found. The register jar was broken and the contents cramped and uninviting, so I didn't bother opening it further. No views from this spot though, thanks to the brush. I returned to North Chalone to pick up Jackie, pausing for a quick visit in the brush for the Wilderness HP (if there was a register I didn't find it, but I wasn't really looking, either), to get a pic of the benchmark, and to visit the scenic outhouse that still sees some traffic (there is a bear box and trashbins at the summit, so I suspect folks must camp up here). Together we made our way back down the main trail to our starting point at Bear Gulch. We saw no one from the start of our morning until we had returned to Bear Gulch Reservoir on the way back. Sadly, the Bear Gulch caves were closed, so we had to take the bypass trail and save that for another time. Altogether I logged about 11mi in five and a quarter hours with perhaps 3,500ft of gain. Back in Hollister, we stopped at McDonald's for one of Jackie's favorite's, McNuggets. She was a very happy camper the rest of the ride home...

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For more information see these SummitPost pages: North Chalone Peak - South Chalone Peak

This page last updated: Tue Jun 15 18:59:36 2021
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