Peak 7,139ft P300
Peak 7,434ft P300
Peak 7,125ft P500
Peak 6,936ft P300 PD

Tue, Apr 28, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


I had planned to spend three days in the Southern Sierra but ended up going home halfway through the second one. It was simply too warm for me to spend all day hiking in the hills and I found myself mostly spent before noon. I had camped the night along Chimney Basin Rd, a long, 15mi spur road that used to circle around Chimney Peak in a large loop but was blocked by a landslide some years ago. The first two peaks were located within the Chimney Peak Wilderness, the others in the adjacent Owens Peak Wilderness.

Peak 7,139ft - Peak 7,434ft

I had gotten up early at 5a while it was still dark in order to take maximum advantage of the cool, early morning temps. I drove a few miles from my campsite to a suitable parking location along Chimney Basin Rd near the two peaks. When I started out at 5:40a, it was just light enough to not need a headlamp. The counter-clockwise route went across brushy flats to the base of Peak 7,139ft on its northwest side. The gradient is steep and steady, gaining more than 1,000ft in half a mile. The footing is decent but somewhat sandy, the forest understory moderately brushy. It took about 50min to find my way to the summit with an open view into the Domelands area to the west, nicely lighted by the early morning sun. I spent the next hour making my way northwest in a fairly direct line to the higher Peak 7,434ft. This involved a desending traverse on the east side of Peak 7,139ft's North Ridge, then crossing the drainage between the two peaks where a small creek trickled back out towards Chimney Peak Rd. This was followed by a second 1,000-foot climb up Peak 7,434ft's SW Slopes, the lower portion steeper than the earlier climb, but rolling off in the upper half. One could see snows around Olancha and Langley on the Sierra Crest far to the north, and more of the Domelands visible to the west. Views east take in Chimney Peak and environs, but these were washed out by the sun not far above the horizon. I found no registers on either peak but left one on the higher one as marginally more deserving. As I started off the summit to descend the west side, I found some obsidian chips scattered about a small area. Perhaps a sign of arrowhead making in past centuries by the natives hunting in the area? It was 8:15a by the time I had returned to the jeep, a good three mile effort in cool temps.

Peak 7,125ft - Peak 6,936ft

I spent the next 40min driving back out to Chimney Peak Rd and then to the Chimney Peak CG. Like the Long Valley CG the day before, it was closed by the BLM due to COVID-19, but again I drove in to use it for parking at the far east end. This would get me to within a mile of Peak 7,125ft, and combined with Peak 6,936ft would make for another 3mi outing. Peak 7,139ft lies just west of the Sierra Crest while the lower Peak 6,936ft lies directly on it. It was this that had drawn me to visit the peak, part of a years-long quest to visit all the summits on CA's Pacific Divide. There is a use trail of sorts that starts from the campground, climbing the divide between two drainages of Chimney Creek. The route start off with a gentle gradient that grows progressively steeper the higher one goes. Some obstacles along the ridge are easily avoided on one side or the other, the ridge eventually disappearing in a muddle of broken aretes and rocky features on the west side of Peak 7,125ft where the route grows steepest. I aimed for a class 2 break between cliff sections that got me to the north side of the summit rocks, so far all class 2. The final 50ft or so to the top requires some easy class 3, circling around to either the east or south side of the summit. I found the PVC register described by James Morehouse from his 2018 visit, water and fire damaged and mostly unreadable. I pried apart a few pages to see that it dated back to at least the early 1990s and probably quite a bit older. It was too bad that the contents were unsalvageable. There is a nice view to the north to Chimney Meadow, bordered on the north side by paved Kennedy Meadows Rd. Chimney Creek once flowed out to the east through Ninemile Canyon, carving an impressive drainage on the eastern escarpment. In more recent geologic times, a second channel was carved to the south through Chimney Meadow, around the east side of Peak 7,125ft and out through the Chimney Peak CG and then into the South Fork of the Kern River. This change meant that Chimney Peak and other points which were once on the Sierra Crest, were now left well to the west of the "new" section of Sierra Crest.

After a short rest, I continued east along the connecting ridgeline to Peak 6,936ft, about 2/3mi distance. Due to brush and rocky obstacles, I couldn't follow the ridge directly, staying on the sunnier and slightly less brushy south side of the ridge. It would take about 45min to cover the distance between the two thanks to the difficulties. I found no sign of a register on this peak so left one I had carried in my pack. A lower sub-summit to the east blocks much of the view of Ninemile Canyon and the eastern escarpment. The point probably would have had better views, but it seemed too far to bother. It was nearly 11a and getting quite warm despite the elevation, and I was finding my energies flagging. In order to avoid the extra work in going back over Peak 7,125ft, I descended Peak 6,936ft to the WSW to traverse low on the south side of the first peak. This worked out pretty nicely with more open slopes than I'd been treated to earlier, and I managed to get back to the jeep in about 45min's time. I was really surprised at just how tired I was though it wasn't even noon yet. I had a group of five summits to the north of Chimney Meadow that I had planned to do in the afternoon, but was now feeling too tired to manage. I could wait out the afternoon and then do them the next morning before going home, but that seemed like a long, tedious half day of waiting out the afternoon sun. Relaxing is not one of my strong suites. And so I decided to pack it in and drive back to San Jose with the remaining daylight instead. Those other five summits would wait for another time...

Anthony comments on 07/19/20:
Great report. I hit 7,125 earlier this year taking a route in between your ascent and descent. I'm curious though: why didn't you summit Chimney Peak (7,994) during your stay?
anonymous comments on 07/21/20:
Bob seems to have disappeared for a while, but if you look you can see he climbed Chimney Peak on Jan 16th 2014.
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