Peak 4,067ft P300
Peak 8,191ft
Inspiration Point
Peak 7,695ft P300
Peak 7,262ft P500
Saint John Ridge P300 PD

Sat, Apr 10, 2021
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profile

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Day 2 of a five day roadtrip had me in the Piute Mtns south of Lake Isabella in the Southern Sierra. I had spent the night camped on BLM lands near the lake and was up early to start my day. I stopped at the Vons in town to get a few supplies before heading off for the first peak. I would keep at it most of the day, with as much time driving (about 70mi, all told) as hiking. It was a great day exploring forest roads and obscure peaks with delightful weather.

Peak 4,067ft

This low summit is found on the east side of Bodfish Canyon, overlooking the rural homes that occupy the canyon. Off paved Piute St is an OHV track that runs east between two homes to reach BLM lands. The area is riddled with such tracks created by the locals who use them. I parked at the highest point I could drive the Jeep, about 1/4mi and 700ft from the summit. The terrain here is characterized by desert scrub, not too brushy and the only difficulty is the steepness of the slope. It took just over 15min to find my way to the top, the sun now making its morning appearance and starting to warm things up. There is a makeshift cross of metal piping just north of the highpoint, a solar-powered lamp strapped to the upright post. This is God and Country country, to be sure. Lake Isabella town and reservoir can be seen to the north, the higher summits of the Piute Mtns to the south. I was down before 8a and ready to drive up to cooler elevations.

Peak 8,191ft

I spent most of the next two hours driving up Saddle Spring Rd (FR 27S02) to nearly 8,200ft, the highest driveable road in the Piute Mtns. I turned north on 28S17 which leads to Piute Lookout in a few miles. Peak 8,191ft then lies about half a mile to the north of Piute Lookout. Downfall blocked the road before reaching Piute Lookout, so I tried another road lower down on the west side, but that one was blocked by snow. So I ended up with a hike of almost 2mi each way. I didn't mind really, because the hiking was pleasant enough along road and trail with fine views. When I got to the end of the road, I didn't bother with the last quarter mile to Piute Lookout since I'd been there twice before, instead following a motorcycle trail that goes north to a saddle between the two summits and then along the east side of Peak 8,191ft. On the way up I climbed the peak from the east, finding it moderately brushy and a bit of work. The summit is rocky and open to views in all directions. I left a register here before descending the south side that had much less brush and made for an easier return to the trail.

Inspiration Point

A 2015 TR on PB describes a horrible-sounding ascent involving private property, thistles and "hell for the first hour." I found nothing of the sort. A careful reading of the maps will find that there are forest road bypassing the private property and get one within a quarter mile of the summit. There is some downfall along the remaining undriveable portion of road that goes to the overlook, but the last fire here was in 2008, so it was pretty much the same in 2021 as it was in 2015. There is a slightly higher point to the southeast with a class 3 summit block that I found more interesting. It has some exposure on climbing the block from the easiest west side, but the small ledges and steps are fairly solid and make for a good scramble. I left a register on the summit.

Peak 7,695ft

Found less than a mile east of Inspiration Point, this is another easy summit if one has a high-clearance vehicle. 28S24 forks off the main road (28S25) at Alaska Flat, heading northeast to its terminus at Woolstaff Meadow. Along the way, it passes within about half a mile of Peak 7,695ft to the east. A rougher road, not shown on the topo map, gets much closer, to a clearing at a saddle immediately east of the summit. This would make an excellent campsite. From there, it's a 20min roundtrip to the summit and back, through a combination of downed trees and granite block scrambling. Not unpleasant, but so quick I forgot to take any photos from the summit.

Peak 7,262ft

I next drove the rest of 28S24 to Woolstaff Meadow for the start to Peak 7,262ft. The road descending the last mile or so to the meadow is rough. The peak lies about 3mi NE of the previous summit, along the main crest of the range as it drops north towards Weldon and SR178. The HPS summits of Heald and Nicolls lie further north in the same direction. There is a motorcycle track originating at Woolstaff Meadow that travels north through the range, getting within about half a mile of Peak 7,262ft. I followed the trail for about two and quarter miles, finding it enjoyable on foot. The trail is rated as Most Difficult and sees little traffic. On a Saturday afternoon there were only two riders that came by in the hours I was using the trail. They were a friendly and courteous pair of young riders with obvious skills. They had to get off their bikes in the toughest section to repair the tread and push their bikes up a few tight spots. They were more surprised to see me than I was them. Where the trail goes over the SW Ridge of Peak 7,262ft, I left for a cross-country jaunt along the ridgeline. From a distance, this looked like it could be a rocky and brushy affair, but I found it otherwise with careful route choices. Most of the route I took was grassy with no brush to fight through. The summit ridge had burned over in 2006 and again in 2016, leaving few trees still standing. The summit block was large and impressive, difficult-looking from all angles. The only scrambling route I found went up the north side, a tough class 3 climb that I found excellent. This was undoubtedly the best summit I'd found in the Piute Mtns. The views stretch out across the northern half of the range, east to the Scodie Mtns, and far north to the higher areas of the Southern Sierra. I left a register here before reversing my route off the summit block and back to the start. I spent about three hours on the roundtrip effort.

St. John Ridge

This last summit is found along the eastern edge of the range. I spent an hour driving back south to the main road network, then east through Landers Meadow on Piute Mtn Rd. This road is in great shape and can be driven over 30mph in most places. I parked off the road at the saddle where the PCT crosses the roadway, less than half a mile northwest of the summit. The PCT travels low on the north side of the ridge and not helpful for reaching the highpoint. The area is very sandy, the result of crumbly granite that dominates the ridge. I worked my way high along the north side of the ridge, about 15min to reach the base of the summit rocks. The summit rocks are more solid granite and easy class 3, a fairly enjoyable scramble. Richard Carey had left a register here in 2016, the only register I would find on today's summits. There were a few other entries since then, oddly, several of them from Kyoto, Japan residents. I found an alternate route on the way down that involved a neat little tunnel, then mostly retraced my sandy tracks back out to the TH. It was after 6p by the time I got back to the Jeep. I would spent most of another hour driving back through Landers Meadow, south on Jawbone Canyon Rd, and then lesser roads up through Grouse Meadow to my campsite at 7,500ft. It was a lonely but very quite place to spend the night, and positioned me nicely for the first peak the next morning...

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