Peak 6,810ft P300
Peak 6,539ft P300
Peak 6,457ft P500
Peak 8,180ft P300

Oct 18, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Day 2 was spent high on the Kern Plateau in the Southern Sierra. The main goal of the day was an ambitious cross-country ramble to visit three isolated peaks. After that I intended to hit up some other summits with shorter hikes, but I had only time for one of these. All four peaks I visited had challenging class 3 summits, a bit unexpected but it probably shouldn't have been - lots of summits in this part of the range are challenging as I've found over the years.

Peak 6,810ft/Peak 6,539ft/Peak 6,457ft

These three peaks are located on a ridge at the southern edge of the Kern Plateau, between Fay and Caldwell Creeks. One *could* take in two more peaks along the ridge on the way down to Kernville, but I found the upper three to be challenging enough. Perhaps with a car shuttle one could make an adventurous day of the whole ridge. Having camped down near the junction of the Sherman Pass Rd with the Kern River, I spent over an hour driving to my starting point at the end of a road near Little Cannell Meadow. It was after 8:15a before I was off hiking, but the timing wasn't too critical, I figured. There is an unmaintained trail heading south from Little Cannell Meadow that drops all the way off the plateau to the Fay Creek/Quarter Circle 5 Ranch thousands of feet below. I followed this with some trouble for almost two miles until I was about 1/3mi northeast of the first summit, Peak 6,810ft. It took about 30min to cover this short distance to the summit. The cross-country was fairly open for this first peak, and it was the class 3 scrambling to reach the top that took most of the time. I found some tunneling and challenging route-finding to get to the top from the northeast side, a fun little bit on huge granite blocks. Views stretch south across the Kern River Valley to the Scodie and Piute Mtns, Lake Isabella just visible to the southwest. Cannell Point dominates the view to the northwest while Bartolas Point sits to the east at the south end of Bartolas Country before dropping 4,500ft to the South Fork of the Kern River below.

I hadn't expected the scrambling to be so challenging - and fun, too. Had I remembered to grab a register from the jeep, I'd have left one. Looking southwest, I could see the ridgeline stretching for almost 2mi with both of the next peaks visible. They, too, looked to have challenging granite summit blocks. As the crow flies, Peak 6,539ft was another 2/3mi. After reversing the moves on the upper part of Peak 6,810ft, I dropped to the southeast into the upper reaches of Caldwell Creek. I followed animal trails down this drainage through moderately brushy terrain. Various trails then led out of the drainage towards Peak 6,539ft. I eventually abandoned these to make my way up to the second peak. The north side seemed to have less brush so I approached it from that side, scrambling up more large granite blocks to gain the top from that side, taking about an hour and a quarter to get from one summit to the other - not an easy trek, to be sure.

The third summit was even further than the last, about mile from the second peak. It has more than 500ft of prominence, which meant I'd have to drop some extra elevation before starting up to it. Looking at the connecting ridgeline, I saw lots of large blocks along it which looked to make for some difficult navigation. Instead, I dropped about 400ft off the northwest side of the ridge, weaving through brush and short scrambling sections. When I eventually reclimbed most of the lost elevation to land me on the north side of the summit rocks, I could see no obvious way up. The weakness turned out to be around on the east side where I found some stiff class 3 scrambling up the last 100ft to get me to the summit about an hour and half after leaving the second peak. By now it was 12:15p, just about 3hrs from the start - this had taken quite a bit more time than I had originally expected, but the route-finding challenges made it all worthwhile. The first summit had been good, the second better, and this one a real classic, easily the best scrambling I've found so far this year. The views here are even better than the last two peaks while looking south. There were two registers tucked under a couple of rocks. The first was in a PVC container, dry but terribly water damaged. It was left in 1993 in memory of Ardis Walker (a Kernville pioneer, engineer, poet and historian who died in 1991 at 90yrs of age), but the rest of the entry was unreadable. There were no other entries to be found in the notepad. A second register was left in 2011 by Steve Hylton, a prolific peakbagger in Kern County. Mine was only the third entry in the registers.

Before heading back, I surveyed the ridgeline again between the second and third peaks, finding it looked better from this vantage point. I decided to try and follow it rather than return the way I'd come. It worked out better than my outbound route despite the numerous rock towers and blocks. The southeast side of the ridge had some open grass sections that made for quick travel, though I still had to go over (or tunnel through) some of the rock outcrops and still had to meander quite a bit to avoid the heaviest brush. I ended up nearly reclimbing the second peak, but the first was easy to avoid by following the creek drainage all the way up to the saddle west of Peak 6,810ft. It was 2:30p by the time I returned to the trail where I took a short break to gulp down some Gatorade as a reward. It would take most of another hour to make my way back to jeep, finishing up at 3:20p, just over 7hrs all told. If you're looking for a good challenge that has a great mix of route-finding, scrambling and bushwhacking, this is a great one...

Peak 8,180ft

This summit is located northeast of Taylor Meadow, just east of Church Dome. A trail goes over the saddle between the two, starting from a 4WD TH about 3/4mi south of the saddle. I had some trouble finding the start of this trail, but once found it is fairly easy to follow. It doesn't get any maintenance anymore and sees little traffic, but ducks and a decent tread in most places help a lot. There are two main formations to Peak 8,180ft. The western one is lower and looks very difficult - class 5 by the easiest route and probably not easy class 5. It is vertical or overhanging on three sides, with only the north side offering something less than vertical. I didn't try it, but I did walk around it on all sides. The eastern formation is the highest and looks very difficult as well, both from a distance and up close. The southeast side has a weakness that allows it to be climbed at class 4. There are two crux moves where one must cross an airy gap at an awkward angle, especially if carrying a pack. The lower one starts on a ramping slab of granite that doesn't quite reach the rock above, necessitating the awkward stretch across the gap. Once above this, there appear to be two ways to the top. One might use exposed face climbing on the right side, but I didn't try that way, instead moving left across a second airy step to use a sheltered climb up a gap between the uppermost rocks. There was a benchmark at the summit but not the expected register. This one was such a good scramble that it easily deserves one, even if the hike to reach it is very short. There is a fine view looking into Domelands to the north, much like one gets from Church Dome. I was back to the jeep by 5:20p, having taken just over an hour for the roundtrip effort. Well worth the time if you're in the area.


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