The 2022 Sierra Challenge was going to be starting with monsoonal weather.
I had already delayed by one day because of expected heavy rains, but
could delay no longer. I would end up with an abbreviated version of what
I had planned for a warm-up due to threatening thunderstorms in the
afternoon. I would get two unnamed summits over the course of about 9mi
and 2,500ft of gain in two outings. I had gotten up at 3:30a so that I
could be assured of getting at least one hike in. Lots of highway work
held up traffic and I didn't get started until 8a. Still, that would be
enough to do the first hike under mostly blue skies.
This summit is located in the northeast corner of Tuolumne County, in
the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
I used the Wheats Meadow TH off Forest
Route 6N06. I had used this TH for Whittakers Dardanelles back in 2013,
but most of the route would be on new trail or cross-country. Others have
reached this peak more easily from Spicer Meadow Reservoir to the west,
but that is terribly inconvenient when one is planning to drive over
Sonora Pass. The outing is about 6.5mi roundtrip, taking me a little over
3hrs. The first mile and a third is on the maintained
Wheats Meadow Trail heading northwest. At a trail junction,
I turned north onto the Sword Lake Trail, but this is only lightly used and
sometimes hard to follow. There are some ducks and
some flagging in places, but mostly it follows up
Darndanelles Creek. After another mile, the weak trail turns northeast and
it was here I left to continued cross-country more directly to Peak 7,225ft,
another mile to the NNW. There are some swampy areas to avoid,
but mostly the cross-country is fairly tame, the last climb up more
open slabs with modest brush and few trees.
The summit offers views overlooking Spicer Meadow Reservoir to the
west and northwest. The Dardanelles rise to the east. A Levi
Cover left a register
less than two weeks earlier, so it was no surprise that mine was
only the second entry. I returned via much the same route, though with
variations where I found different trail threads or wandered off on more
cross-country. The weather had held out nicely all morning. Only a few
harmless clouds until about 10:30a when the expected thunderstorms began to
develop. Finishing back at the Jeep after 11a, it would be noon before
the clouds looked threatening. I had hoped to do an 11,000-foot peak near
Leavitt Peak, but decided that was too exposed and would not be wise.
Instead, I did an easier, lower summit east of US395 only a few miles
from Bridgeport. A little-used Forest Rd spur off US395 gets one across
Swauger Creek on a narrow bridge. I parked just on the other side where
the road disappears. From there, it is about a mile and 1,000ft NE to the
summit of Peak 7,842ft. Sandwiched between the higher Sierra Nevada and
Sweetwater Ranges, the peak is mostly covered in pinyon and junipers and
appears to offer decent protection from lightning compared to the higher
summits on either side. The brush is moderate, but it appears cows
have made paths through much of it, obviating the need for any real
bushwhacking. Some of the slopes are steep, but the footing was decent.
I spent about 45min on the ascent where I was treated to ominous clouds to
the south and west. Mt. Jackson can be seen to good effect to
the northeast, the higher peaks of the Sweetwaters further north.
By the time I had gotten back down,
only a few scattered drops had fallen, and the
single peal of thunder to be heard was far to the west over the Sierra.
Seemed like a good time to call it a day and head to Bridgeport...