Fri, Oct 18, 2019
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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.
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...
This page last updated: Tue Oct 22 09:18:11 2019
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