With a heatwave forecast over much of Southern California, I opted to head to
the Southern Sierra, hoping to find cooler temps below snowline between
6-9,000ft. I headed to the Chimney Peak area where 4 Wilderness areas converge -
Domelands, Chimney Peak, Owens and Sacatar Trail, all of them managed by the
BLM. The well-graded Chimney Peak Rd runs through the area from SR178 at
Canebrake Flat in the south, to Kennedy Meadows at Ninemile Rd in the north.
I'd driven out the night before and camped on Chimney Basin Rd, a long, 15mi
spur road off Chimney Peak Rd. Much of it is well-graded, too, though it gets
a little rough in places above the Long Valley CG. A breeze in the afternoon
helped greatly to counterbalance the effects of the warm temperatures which
were in the mid-70s at 7,000ft. Still, I ended up dehydrated, annoyed with a
few dozen ticks I had to periodically flick off my clothing and otherwise not
enjoying the day as well as I might normally.
Due to COVID-19, the
was closed though there was no gate, just
a sign at the start of the spur road off Chimney Basin Rd. I'm guessing they
don't want folks sharing the toilet facilities and such, and since I was just
there to hike off into the hills, I didn't think I was breaking the spirit of
what was intended for the closure. There was another party camped there when
I arrived, complete with tent and all the usual accoutrements including a couple
of dogs that were wandering freely through the area. They would be packed up
and ready to leave by the time I got back, probably relieved I wasn't the BLM
ranger come to give them a citation.
Peak 6,700ft lies south of Long Valley, a modest summit with a surprising 760ft
of prominence. It's about 3mi roundtrip to the summit from the campground with
1,400ft of gain. The initial slope out of the campground is quite steep, but
after about 600ft. The terrain is modestly brushy, mixed with pine
and oak forest, no real bushwhacking necessary. The sandy soils come from the
decomposing granite characteristic of the area, with some larger rocks and
formations offering some . I took a little over an hour
to reach that lies at the edge of the Sequoia NF, with an
in most directions. Despite the early start before 7a, it was starting to get
warm by the time I around 9a.
Domelands Wilderness Loop
This started off as an out and back to the first two peaks, Long BM and Peak
7,434ft, beginning from Chimney Basin Rd at the north end of Long Valley. There
is an old spur road that one used to be able to drive west to the South Fork
of the Kern River, the closest access point for the eastern portions of
Domelands Wilderness. When the Wilderness was expanded in 1994, the road was
permanently closed adding three additional miles of hiking to reach the
river. My route headed cross-country to the
southwest along the , a somewhat
brushy route that took some meandering to avoid pushing through brush. Fire
throughout the area some years ago had killed most of the trees leaving
downfall to step over or around and plenty of brush growing up in their place.
It was 1.6mi to reach the first stop, Long BM. I had dropped off the ridge I
was following to make a more direct path across a drainage on the north side
of the ridge. I came across an shortly below the summit that
is depicted on my GPSr and the topo map. Decades out of use, the road and its
various branches are no longer useful even for foot travel. It took a bit over
an hour to reach the summit where I found the expected . I
spent no time here, to the higher of
Peak 7,434ft, another mile
further WSW. Getting between these was easier as they were separated by a high
meadow that showed signs of grazing in days past in the form of petrified
cow poop. The old spur roads were likely built to get cattle in and out of the
area. The highpoint of the second summit is found at the northeast end of
the summit. To the southwest is a plateau that the topo map shows to be higher
but this is in error. I walked out across this area, finding it 15' lower than
the NE point I'd first reached. Later I would get LoJ to correct the location.
The summit area overlooks the Domelands area to . White Dome
immediately west of the Kern River drainage, Church Dome behind it in the
distance. Rockhouse Peak, Taylor Dome, Stegasaurus Fin and other formations
could be seen as well. Far to the north were the snowy summits along the Sierra
crest that included , Langley and Whitney.
I went back to the highpoint found in some rocks and half-dead trees - a most
inconvenient location with poor views. I left
here and took a short break before continuing on.
I had originally planned to return to my starting point but had noticed there
were other summits to the north I might include in a much larger loop. I was
carrying inadequate supplies of Gatorade for the loop, but figured I could
manage with the quart I had remaining. I dropped off
7,434ft, down what turned out to be the brushiest segment of the day. Lots of
weaving around and through stuff, some modest bushwhacking that mostly served
to slow me down. After about 1/3mi, the going got easier with
that would continued for the rest of the outing. I crossed a small
trickling creek and then heading west to the Kern River.
lies above this road to the north and though it was a somewhat tiring
ascent up the south slopes, there were no real difficulties other than the
warm temperatures. I had to occasionally flick
from my pants or shirt,
about a dozen in all during the hike. Luckily none of them found their way to
my skin. It was 2p by the time I reached the top of Peak 7,266ft. Here I had
my closest view of
in the northern part of Domelands, probably
the most impressive formation in the area when viewed from a distance.
Turning and southeast, the last two summits are connected to
about half a mile to Peak 7,220ft and another mile to Peak 7,660ft.
The PCT traverses the NE side of the ridge on its way down to Rockhouse Basin,
though I could not see it during my travels.
Chris Kerth had visited all three of these summits a year earlier. I found ducks
on all three summits, likely left by Chris, but no registers. I had none left
with me to leave, either. The ridgeline was much more congenial to ridgewalking
with little brush and I enjoyed this a good deal more than the initial ridge
to Long BM, even though I was getting quite tired by the time I reached the
at 4p. I was a fairly dehydrated too, but luckily only had
about 2/3mi to get back to the jeep. I descended an indistinct ridge off
to reach the old access road to the Kern River, following this out to the
at Chimney Basin Rd, then the short hike along the latter
road to my .
It was now 4:30p and I expected to be done for the day, tired as I was.
I got out my camp chair and set it up in the shade of the jeep and had a cold
soda from the ice chest. The sun was still high in the sky with nearly 3hrs of
sunlight remaining. Could I really sit out the rest of the afternoon? The soda
did wonders to revive my spirits and I got a bit restless. I had
two other summits in the area that I planned to do in a 3mi loop, too much
effort for today. Poking around on the GPSr, I found one to the northeast,
further up Chimney Basin Rd, that was less than a mile from the road and not
more than about 300ft of gain. It would do nicely. I drove two miles up
Chimney Peak Rd, the conditions worsening some after passing the old Kern River
access road, though any reasonable high-clearance vehicle could manage it. I
passed by the PCT, the northbound direction heading to Rockhouse Basin, the
southbound to Chimney Peak CG. I on an old, unused spur road
southeast of Peak 8,140ft and up to
in a bit over 20min. Nothing
terribly interesting about this summit with less than 300ft of prominence. I
did make further notes about more unnamed summits to the west and northwest,
but these would have to wait for a future visit.
I returned to the jeep and drove back down to my previous parking spot near
the river access road and spent the night here. I enjoyed the rest of the
afternoon's sunlight sitting in my camp chair. The breeze that kept the bugs
at bay would grow chilly as soon as the sun went down, driving me into the
jeep where I would cook dinner and stay pretty comfortable. I slept well that
night, though I woke up a number of times to drink water - I was still
dehydrated even though I had had quite a bit more to drink before and during
dinner. It was clear that temperatures were starting to get too warm even for
the Southern Sierra. I may have to start setting my sights on Northern
California for upcoming roadtrips...