Peak 8,220ft P300
Peak 8,911ft P300
Masonic Mountain 2x P750 DS
Dome Hill P300
Peak 8,882ft P300
Peak 8,163ft P300

Fri, Aug 4, 2023

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma
Kristine Swigart

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX
Masonic Mountain previously climbed Wed, Apr 20, 2016


It was the first day of the 2023 Sierra Challenge, but none of my companions were much interested in a very long outing to Doghead Peak in Northern Yosemite. So instead, we planned a Jeeping day in the Bodie Hills that would include a handful of minor summits. After camping near Travertine Hot Springs (not a very good hot springs), we met up in Bridgeport at 6:30a, then headed off in the two Jeeps. We would end up with about 35mi of dirt road driving, collecting six summits for a pretty full day.

Peak 8,220ft

We drove up Aurora Canyon on a well-graded road, though there was some damage from the spring runoff. It is a pretty straightforward climb from the road on the east side of the peak, but we used a pretty rough 4WD road to get us even closer from a saddle on the peak's south side. It took less than 15min to climb the 400ft and 1/3mi to the summit, mostly through open forest with a cap of loose talus for the last 100ft. We found a relatively new register left by Barbara Lilley in 2020. Ours was the only other party to sign it. Views today were weak due to heavy haze. It had the look of smoke but did not have any smell and would dissipate by evening. Strange, that.

Peak 8,911ft

We drove another mile up Aurora Canyon, turning left at a junction before parking where this decent road tops out over a saddle on the east side of Peak 8,911ft. This was another 400-foot climb over half a mile, easy sagebrush terrain. The crux was getting over (or under) the barbed-wire fence where we started - lots of cattle can be found grazing in the area. The open summit has a large cairn that held another register from Barbara placed on the same day as the previous one. About 40min for the roundtrip effort.

Masonic Mountain

Heading further north into the range, Kristine spotted the steep road going up the SE side of Masonic Mountain and was instantly excited. "We HAVE to go up there!" I had been to Masonic Mtn on a previous visit and had planned to bypass it, but gave in to Kristine's enthusiasm. We took both Jeeps up in 4-Low, even using the rear lockers on the loosest part just before topping out. There is a microwave relay tower at the end of the road, the highpoint in the rocks to one side. We snapped a photo of the benchmark found there, a few view shots, and then headed back down. As it turns out, this would be the only summit we could use for credit on the Sierra Challenge today - ironic since it's a drive-up.

Dome Hill

Another four to five miles of driving would get us Dome Hill. Along the way, we passed by several old mine works that Kristine once again got excited enough to have us stop to let her check them out. The roads out to Dome Hill got progressively worse, requiring high-clearance but not 4WD. Parking at a high saddle on the west side of the peak, we had less than half a mile and minimal elevation to reach the summit. No views due to trees. No register either, so we left one of ours. Before heading back down, we continued the short distance over the east side of the summit to visit the Von Schmidt boundary marker Kristine had noted on the topo map. We found a crumpled pile of rocks and a fallen wooden survey marker, not one of the neat concrete markers we'd seen elsewhere. A little disappointing.

Peak 8,882ft

We next drove back south to Aurora Canyon, then up to a saddle and down into an unnamed valley, part of the Rough Creek drainage. We parked alongside a small creek, a mile southeast of Peak 8,882ft. We had hoped to use a rougher 4WD track that goes over the peak's north shoulder, higher and closer to the summit. We found the start of the old road, but it looked to see little or no traffic anymore and I was reluctant to risk getting stuck somewhere on it. Our southern route was easier to drive to, and the hike not really bad, climbing 1,000ft over the mile distance to the highpoint. Most of it was mild sagebrush slopes, some junipers higher on the slope, and some heavier brush found about halfway up - but no real bushwhacking - Iris might disagree after spending considerable time later removing numerous stickers and such from her boots and socks. There are two closely-spaced summits, on which we couldn't agree which was highest. I thought the further one to the northwest was slightly higher and we left a second register there before returning on a less-brushy alternate. h4>Peak 8,163ft This last summit was only a short drive east and south from the previous one, taking us on a pretty rough track for about half the mile distance. We had to pass through a wire gate (more cattle found around here) before parking in the sagebrush since we found no turnout on the narrow track. The 2/3mi hike to the summit climbs steeply at first, then easing for the second half. The summit is found at the north end of a very large, grassy summit plateau at the edge of cliffs on the north side. We left a last register on this summit while taking a short break, then returned the same way. It was 3p by the time we returned to the Jeeps, taking little time to get out of our hiking shoes and opening some cold beers for the hour-long drive back out of the hills. A good time was had by all...


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