Peak 8,450ft P300 PD
Peak 8,740ft P500 PD
Peak 8,812ft P500 PD
Peak 7,788ft P300
Peak 7,670ft P300
Peak 7,704ft
Hartley Butte
Meadow Lake Hill P300
Peak 8,166ft P500 PD
Lacey BM P500 PD
Peak 7,770ft P300
Peak 7,944ft P300

Jul 6, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3

For a short, 2-day trip to the Sierra, I targeted the Tahoe National Forest around the Webber Lake area. I was interested in a group of ten summits that lie on the Sierra Crest, part of a long-term effort to climb the peaks on California's Pacific Divide. I left San Jose the previous evening at 5:30p so that I could have a full day of hiking today. I only got out of the driveway before my TPMS went off, telling me I had only 8lbs of pressure in one tire. I had just placed my Starbucks mobile order, too. Seems my flat was related to my previous trip when I ran over some branches (a common enough occurrence) and got a sharp piece of wood to pierce the rubber and steel belts. I cleaned out the wound and used my patch kit to plug the hole and to some little surprise, it worked. 30min later I was on my way, picking up my drink before heading off.

My coffee addiction had me camping at Donner Summit that night. I could easily have driven the remaining 45min to Webber Lake, but I figured this way I could stop at Starbucks in Truckee in the early morning for another fix. Knowing they open at 5a, I was up by 5:15a and soon enjoying another venti iced coffee to power me through the morning. I had figured if I got seven or eight summits today I would be doing good, but things went quite well and I ended up with twelve. Mostly this was due to my plugging away all day - I was surprised to find that I had energy to last me all day, perhaps due in no small part to the five shots of espresso in my morning drink.

Peak 8,450ft - Peak 8,740ft - Peak 8,812ft

Google maps does not do non-paved roads very well, as it does not distinguish between well-graded dirt roads and poorer ones. So when it showed me a route to White Rock Lake that was not what I was expecting, I was suspicious but curious at the same time. I decided to follow the new route which was shorter but by no means quicker. It was a fun route which I enjoyed, complete with a few mud bogs that were deeper than they looked. It would have been far less than fun without the jeep, to be sure. I ended up at a saddle north of Peak 8,450ft, one of the peaks on my itinerary around White Rock Lake. The PCT runs across this saddle on its way north from the vicinity of White Rock Lake. The summit of Peak 8,450ft was only 1/3mi from the saddle, so I parked and headed up to tag it, figuring it would make the planned White Rock Loop a bit easier. I carried my pack with me but had neglected to add any water or Gatorade, not really important since it was such a short hike. It was an easy cross-country climb through forest to the open summit with a small cairn and wide-open views. It occurred to me that I could hike the other two summits from there, saving me the extra driving to get to White Rock Lake. If only I'd brought something to drink. I decided to go without, figuring I could drink out of a creek or the lake, if needed.

I set off on the pleasant ridgeline connecting Peak 8,450ft to its higher neighbor to the east, Peak 8,740ft, taking about 45min to get between the two. At the saddle I crossed over the PCT where it begins to descend off the ridge. Peak 8,740ft is also wide open to views, with White Rock Lake in the valley below to the south and Mt. Lola rising higher to the east. I left a register at the pleasant summit, figuring it probably doesn't see many visitors. The third and last summit was Peak 8,812ft to the southeast, on the other side of White Rock Lake. One could follow the Sierra Crest around White Rock Lake (and even climb Mt. Lola enroute), but the easiest way is to drop down to White Rock Lake and take advantage of the road on the north side of the lake. Besides, the low-point on the crest route is only 200ft higher than White Rock Lake, so one doesn't save much in elevation. It was a 900-foot drop to the road at the lake, then a pleasant stroll along the road through various lakeside campsites, none currently being used. At the east end of the lake I left the trail, crossed the lake's inlet (where I quickly drank some water while franticly fighting off mosquitoes), and picked up the Mt. Lola Trail heading east. I might have been better to simply skip the trail and head directly up to Peak 8,812ft, but I was hoping to use the Warren Lake Trail shown on the topo as going to a high saddle west of the summit. This trail turns out to be mostly mythical. I should have been suspicious because it is shown as a smoothly curving trail on the map, just the style the map-makers use when they denote something like "Location approximate." I did find a small cairn marking what looked like a junction near the saddle with Mt. Lola, but the trail forking south was indistinct and didn't seem to want to head up towards the peak. The cross-country turned out to be pretty easy, and it took only 20min to reach the summit from the junction. With few trees, the views are open all around - northeast to Independence Lake, south to Castle and Basin Peaks, northwest to the first two summits of the day.

I headed west off the summit, hoping to follow the ridge down for about a mile to pick up the PCT going over the west shoulder. There is an intermediate point to the west that requires a 200-foot climb to stay on the ridge and in hindsight I should have just done that. Instead, I got lazy and tried to circumvent this by traversing around the north side. This turned into a lot of sidehilling that was more work than it would have been otherwise, and because of steep snow clinging to the northern aspect of the ridgeline, I couldn't return to the ridge until half a mile later. Oh well. When I finally met up with the PCT, it happened to be as two parties were going over the shoulder, one from each direction. With me coming downhill from the northeast, it made it seem like a very busy location. I followed the PCT down to White Rock Creek where I got another opportunity for hydration, then up 700ft to the crest and the saddle between the first two peaks. The topo map has a generalized drawing of the PCT in this location, much like the Warren Lake Trail, but at least this one actually exists. It wasn't yet 11a when I got back to the jeep. Almost nine miles altogether and a very enjoyable loop.

Peak 7,788ft

Back in the driver's seat, I piloted the jeep down the west side of the saddle, enjoying the remainder of my iced coffee which I'd kept nicely chilled in the cooler. I drove through the very lush Bear Valley on my way to the Meadow Lake area, about 40min further west. The road conditions improved when I got to Meadow Lake Rd (FR86), suitable for any vehicle (there were numerous RVs parked at campsites on the west side of the lake). Meadow Lake was the site of Summit City, a mining boom and bust town home to thousands for a few short years following the Civil War. Hardly a trace of the town remains today. Peak 7,788ft lies north of Summit City, a rough forest road running over a high saddle on the west side of the summit. The summit lies within a parcel owned by a private timber interest (a checkerboard of parcels are owned by the Sierra Pacific Corp throughout the area), and the forest has been thinned and culled over the years, with little left in a natural condition. Trees block views from the top, but the hike is a short one, taking less than ten minutes.

Peak 7,670ft - Peak 7,704ft

I drove back down to Summit City, then southwest on the Baltimore Trail, a rough 4WD road. The road goes to the old Baltimore Town site south of Baltimore Lake, but you can't drive it past the saddle northeast of Pt. 7,594ft. Even getting to this point is pretty rough and I stopped off the road just south of Peak 7,704ft where it get's serious. It was a pleasant enough hike of about 2.5mi out to Peak 7,670ft, following first along the road, then becoming a motorcycle/hiking trail for the second half. The trail descends to picturesque Baltimore Lake, becoming the Beyers Lake Trail as it climbs back up towards Peak 7,670ft, passing over a high saddle on the southeast side of the peak. The summit is a granite knob with superb views to the west and north, overlooking Beyers Lakes and the high ridge forming Black Buttes. I left a second register here before returning the way I came. Shortly before getting back to the jeep, I turned off the road to follow the ridgeline northeast to Peak 7,704ft, between French and Meadow Lakes. The summit is comprised of open granite outcrops overlooking the two lakes. The spot elevation shown on the topo map is at the northwest summit, but I think the point to the southeast may be several feet higher. After taking in the views, I dropped south off the higher summit to return more directly to the jeep, finishing by 3p.

Hartley Butte

This small rock outcrop southwest of Meadow Lake is named for Henry Hartley, a trapper who had built a cabin here and had found the gold flakes that began all the wild speculation about the area. In the end, it was estimated that some $2M was invested in the area for a return of perhaps $100,000 in gold. The butte is a short five minute climb to an open, rocky summit from where one can take in both Meadow Lake to the northeast and Fordyce Lake to the southeast.

Meadow Lake Hill

This short ridgeline rises above the east side of Meadow Lake. A forest road climbs up from the north and east sides, going over the shoulder on the ridge south of the summit. Like Peak 7,788ft, the hill lies on a private timber parcel that has been reconfigured over the years with bulldozers and heavy equipment, reworking much of the summit ridge. Only partial views are available from the bland summit.

Peak 8,166ft - Lacey BM

It was 4p before I finished up with the previous summit but I still had more than four hours of daylight. I also had seemed to have plenty of energy to keep going, helped by the driving and snack breaks during the day that helped me pace myself better. These two summits are found northeast of Meadow Lake, both on the Sierra Crest. The PCT follows close to the crest in this area, providing relatively easy access to both summits. To make things easier, a spur forest road climbs up from the main FR86 on the east side of the crest, reaching to the saddle between the two summits. Only modest high-clearance is needed to reach it. I parked here and headed north on the PCT, aiming first for Peak 8,166ft. The PCT climbs about half the 600ft distance to the summit before veering left to bypass the summit on the southwest side. The cross-country is not difficult, the ground covered in shin-high scrub that is easy to pick a path through. About 20min was needed to reach the pile of rocks marking the highpoint with open views. After returning to the jeep for a swig of Gatorade, I set off on the PCT again, this time heading south for Lacey BM. This is a longer hike than Peak 8,166ft, but more pleasant with an easy gradient that takes one nearly to the summit in about 35min. A short cross-country jaunt for a few hundred feet brings you to the summit rock, all of about 3ft in height. A reference mark is embedded in this rock but the benchmark is found about a dozen yards to the west in a scattering of rocks where a survey tower once stood.

Peak 7,770ft

After returning to the jeep, I spent the better part of an hour driving north to Webber Lake and beyond. I had tried to use some forest roads on the north side of Webber Peak to access that summit, but the road was gated at the pavement at Henness Pass. I would find a way up that one the next day. I continued north up a rough forest road from Henness Pass that connected with the much better FR12. This I followed up for several miles and off on a spur road until I could drive no more on the southwest side of Peak 7,770ft. The hike to the unimpressive summit takes less than 10min. No view, and no obvious highpoint.

Peak 7,944

A little more than a mile to the southwest of Peak 7,770ft, Peak 7,944ft is another ten minute effort through timber harvested forest. The summit is a little more obvious, but still no views. The spur road (4580) I drove on to get closer was brushy and hardly worth the extra effort. Small pines are starting to grow up in the middle of the road and will eventually relegate the road back to nature. At least until the next harvest. It was after 8p by the time I returned and a good time to call it a day. I drove the short distance down to Bonta Saddle where I camped for the night. The last two summits had been pretty lame, but the day overall was a good one...


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