Peak 6,700ft P750
Long BM P300
Peak 7,434ft P500
Peak 7,266ft P300
Peak 7,220ft
Peak 7,660ft P300
Peak 8,140ft

Mon, Apr 27, 2020
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3

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.

Peak 6,700ft

Due to COVID-19, the Long Valley CG 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 rolls off 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 easy scrambling. I took a little over an hour to reach the summit that lies at the edge of the Sequoia NF, with an open view in most directions. Despite the early start before 7a, it was starting to get warm by the time I returned 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 connecting ridgeline, 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 old road 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 benchmark. I spent no time here, continuing on to the higher summit 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 the west. White Dome was seen 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 Olancha, 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 a register 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 the north side of Peak 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 more open terrain that would continued for the rest of the outing. I crossed a small trickling creek and then the old road heading west to the Kern River. Peak 7,266ft 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 ticks 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 Stegasaurus Fin in the northern part of Domelands, probably the most impressive formation in the area when viewed from a distance.

Turning east and southeast, the last two summits are connected to Peak 7,266ft via a ridgeline, 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 last summit 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 the south side to reach the old access road to the Kern River, following this out to the locked gate at Chimney Basin Rd, then the short hike along the latter road to my parking spot.

Peak 8,140ft

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 parked on an old, unused spur road southeast of Peak 8,140ft and hoofed it up to the highpoint 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...

Continued...


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