Peak 7,780ft
Peak 8,789ft P300
Peak 8,651ft P300
Wild Horse Mountain P300
Peak 8,260ft
Round Mountain P300
Peak 6,420ft
Peak 7,231ft
Peak 7,330ft P300

Sun, Jul 3, 2022

With: Kristine Swigart

Round Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Today was a romp around the northernmost portion of Mono County in the Toiyabe National Forest. The peaks are found east of the Sierra Nevada and Antelope Valley, north of the Sweetwaters. They range from around 6,000ft to 8,800ft, a dry landscape that struggles to support forest cover. Much of it was decimated in the 2020 Mountain View Fire, leaving a mostly open landscape across rolling hills and valleys. There is a network of Forest Roads well-suited to the Jeep that we used to make most of these short hikes of less than half a mile. We spent nearly as much time driving as we did hiking which suited both of us just fine.

Peak 7,780ft

We left Kristine's car at Upper Risue Canyon Spring along Risue Rd, and took the Jeep south, up Forest Road 195. Signs reminded us of the recent fire that left potential hazards until the flora could reestablish itself. After crossing from Nevada into California, we parked east of Peak 7,780ft at the north end of Taylor Valley, less than half a mile from the summit. 12min saw us to the modest top among a collection of granite boulders and the skeletons of dwarf trees consumed by fire. We left a register here before heading back down.

Peak 8,789ft - Peak 8,651ft

This was the only real hike of the day, about 5mi roundtrip with 1,400ft of gain. From Taylor Valley, we drove in and out of Nevada on our way south past Jackass Spring and Jackass Flat. We stopped at one of the border crossings so Kristine could examine one of the survey cairns that were erected. We parked the Jeep atop Pt. 8,771ft south of Peak 8,789ft. Our point was connected to the two summits by a rounded ridgeline with mostly easy cross-country. The second summit, Peak 8,651ft, was located in Nevada, the only peak of the day that was so. Both of these peaks were outside the burn zone, and Peak 8,651ft has a healthy covering of pinyon pines that would provide some challenge. The open portions of ridgeline provided fine views of the Sweetwaters to the south, Desert Creek Peak to the north, and the Sierra Nevada to the west. It took less than half an hour to reach Peak 8,789ft, where we left another register. Continuing north and northeast, we crossed once again into Nevada, finding a survey cairn marking the point. Further east, we began to note that all the pines had been cut from the open slopes, purpose unknown. The small trees were left in place to decompose or burn, as future happenstance would warrant. Were they cut to reduce fuel loads or to open slopes for grazing? There didn't seem to be enough of them to make either explanation plausible. The cuts ended abruptly when we reached the edge of the forested slopes on Peak 8,651ft. Our easy travel ended, too. We now had to weave through the trees, dense in places, sometimes causing us to backtrack at an impasse. There were some open sections, too, so not all bad. It would take us 50min to make the second leg of the ridge traverse, though the distance was the same as that to Peak 8,789ft. Kristine went over to get a view looking south into the Desert Creek drainage. There was another unnamed peak less than two miles to the southeast in the Sweetwaters that we were interested in. There are easier ways to reach it, so we would save it for another time. Before heading back, we left a register at the small rock outcrop. Our return went more smoothly, avoiding some of the denser forests we'd encountered earlier, and we were back by 10:10a, about two and a half hours after starting out.

Wild Horse Mountain

We drove back across Jackass Flat to the west, to the northeast side of Wild Horse Mtn. This is another easy hike of less than half a mile, taking about 15min. The summit is a small rock outcrop with the charred remains of a survey pole and the attendant guywires. A Ron Moe party had left a register here in 2021. A little more than a year later, ours made for the second entry.

Peak 8,260ft

This unnamed summit is about 2mi NNW of Wild Horse. The road to reach it gets very thin past Wild Horse Spring. It is mostly used by motorcycles these days and it was a small challenge to pick the correct line to follow the little-used road up towards the peak. We stopped on the east side of the peak and walked the short distance from there. The peak has two summits, the western one being about 4-5ft higher than the eastern one. We visited both, leaving a register on the west summit.

Round Mountain

These last four summits are all found closer to the east side of Antelope Valley. We retraced our route back to Upper Risue Canyon Spring and Krisine's car, then drove both vehicles out to East Side Lane. We left her car at a staging area at the base of the hill and headed out a second time in the Jeep together. Though not depicted as such on the topo map, Round Mountain is a drive-up with a 4WD vehicle. It was the lowest and thus warmest of the day's peaks, so we were happy not to have to hike up it. We got out for a minute or so to take in the views to Antelope Valley, then got back in and drove on down.

Peak 6,420ft

Another 4WD road from the staging area goes up the NW side of Peak 6,420ft. It goes over the summit, within a few hundred feet of the highpoint on its south side. We took a couple of minutes to walk up to the rock outcrop and take in the views it offered.

Peak 7,231ft

This summit lies about 3mi south of Peak 6,420ft. We continued over the summit of the previous peak and began a longish 5.5mi drive on some rough roads to reach it. Our route took us south across Blackwell Canyon, then higher through Indian Flat to Indian Valley. The summit of Peak 7,231t was not visible from our starting point at the north end of Indian Valley, but the distance was only about half a mile. With only about 300ft of elevation gain, it made for an easy hike, taking only 15min. We left a register atop this one before returning the same way.

Peak 7,330ft

This was our last stop, about a mile and a half south of Peak 7,231ft. We drove about 3/4mi south across Indian Valley, then up to a small ridge on the shoulder of Peak 7,330ft's North Ridge. We had hope of driving back down Spring Canyon for a much shorter return to Antelope Valley afterwards, and were happy to run across a couple of guys on an ATV just before we parked. They gave us the impression that there is a connecting road down the steep canyon, but it was a miscommunication. Like the topo map shows, that is not a through connection for vehicles (though perhaps motorcycles?). The 3/4mi hike along the North Ridge to reach the summit of Peak 7,330ft is fairly easy thanks to the fire that cleared all the forest save for the snags still standing. There are nice views of Walker and Coleville in Antelope Valley to the southwest and west. After leaving a register and returning the same way, we would be back to the Jeep by 3:40p.

I had expected to have more trouble with the roads than we found, and after planning for two days to reach these nine summits, we found that we'd easily done it in a single day. We drove back to pick up Kristine's car, then continued to Walker where we got burgers at Walker Burger. Afterwards we parted ways, Kristine driving 30min to her home near Topaz Lake, myself almost five hours to get back to San Jose...

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