Peak 8,376ft P900
Peak 9,711ft P750
Peak 8,168ft P300
Peak 9,060ft P500
Peak 9,060ft P500
Peak 9,401ft P500

Sat, Jun 29, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3


I had spent the night camped in Mill Canyon in the northwest corner of Mono County, off the excellent gravel road that comes in from US395 near the town of Walker. My main objective today was Peak 8,376ft, the highest summit in the Sierra Nevada with more than 900ft of prominence that I'd yet to visit. I know that's a pretty obscure criteria, but that's mostly what I have left these days. The other summits were in the same area and the collection made for a full and interesting day.

Peak 8,376ft

I drove the main road south to the end of Mill Canyon, taking a lesser road that forks left and climbs up to the head of Terry Canyon at a saddle. From here it was less than a mile and about 1,000ft of gain to the summit. In hindsight this probably wasn't the easiest way to reach the top. The ridgeline is rocky and long-ish, class 2-3 scrambling that would take me a little over an hour to complete. The brush was minimal and the scrambling fairly enjoyable. After a couple of false summits, I reached the highpoint of the ridgeline separating Mill Canyon to the west from the West Walker River to the east. I knew that John Ide, who had passed recently, had been up here in 2017. I left a register with both of our names before starting down. I decided to drop more directly off the southwest side, down steep, sandy slopes that took but 20 minutes to descend. I ended up back on the road I had driven up, leaving me about 3/4mi of walking along it to get back to the car. I suspect the easiest ascent route is also up the SW side which would make for a shorter drive, too.

Peak 9,711ft

With 891ft of prominence, this summit very nearly qualifies as a P900. It lies 2.5mi southwest of Peak 8,376ft and I had a very short drive to get from one starting point to the next. I approached Peak 9,711ft from the northeast, another all cross-country route, this one climbing more than 2,500ft over two miles, mostly through forest understory. The lower 1/3 of the route has had the forest floor raked of deadfall which has been put into numerous slash piles. Pink ribbons marked the boundary between this area and the upper 2/3 that had not been disturbed. I followed an old motorcycle track in the lower part to make things even easier. Above this, I had to slow and watch my footing more carefully, the slope growing steeper until rolling off near the end. Considerably higher than the first summit, this one had much better views with a really good one of Lost Cannon Peak to the southwest. I left a register on this summit, too, thinking it well deserved one.

Peak 8,168ft

This minor summit is found between the first two. After returning to the jeep, I first attempted to continue driving south up the canyon, hoping to visit the three peaks I did later. I found the road ended soon after starting off, in a forest clearing where a trailhead is found. The old road is now trail and not the easiest way to reach those peaks. Instead, I parked at the trailhead and headed off cross-country up steep slopes to the northwest to Peak 8,168ft. There are some rocky cliffs to avoid on the west side of the summit and I skirted these on the right up through forest to reach the top in 40 minutes. There's a good view to the west of Peak 9,711ft, but otherwise nothing special to this one.

Peak 9,060ft #1

In perusing my maps, it occurred to me that I might be able to reach these other three peaks from the south, going through the Marines' Mountain Warfare Training Center on SR108. There is a public easement to allow use of the National Forest lands in the area when not being used for training purposes. I spent about an hour driving back out of Mill Canyon, south on US395, west on SR108, and then up the forest roads to the three peaks around Grouse Meadows. Two of the unnamed summits have the same elevation, making for some confusion. The first of these is located at the north end of the meadows with a rough road that can be driven nearly to the summit. There are two points about 1/5mi apart, the northeast point higher by about 10ft. I parked the jeep, walked up to the lower point a few feet away, then continued on to the other point when it became obvious it was higher. There was a small pile of rocks at the highpoint, but not much else. There is a nice view of the Sweetwaters looking over the West Walker River canyon to the east.

Peak 9,060ft #2

This summit is located at the south end of Grouse Meadows and was the most interesting peak of the day. The summit is a large dome of broken granite that proved a challenging scramble. An old road goes partway up the slope from the northwest, becoming a trail that works its way around the west side of the summit without getting very close. I eventually left this to find a challenging class 3 way up from the south, with several dead ends before finding a way that worked. There were shell casings scattered all over the peak, probably from some military exercises that utilized the summit. There was old wiring left in few places as well, probably from some portable telecom equipment back in the day before satellite radios. I found a class 3 descent gully off the NE side that I used to make a shorter return back to the jeep. I spent a little over an hour on this one.

Peak 9,401ft

This last summit is found a mile west of the previous one and I simply used the same starting point. It was the brushiest of the six peaks, a straightforward class 2 scamper from the east, with an open summit and a great view looking south towards Tower Peak atop the Sierra Crest and the headwaters of the West Walker River. I found a less brushy return route descending more directly to the east, but in the end it wasn't really any better than the ascent route.

It wasn't yet 5p by the time I returned to the jeep, and I had hours of daylight remaining. Though I had several other summits on my list to visit, I decided to call it a day and give myself more time to rest up for the main event tomorrow, a climb of Petit Griffon. I stopped at the Whoa Nellie for dinner, then drove up to Mosquito Flat at the end of Rock Creek Rd where I would spend the night and from where our group would be starting the next morning.


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