Peak 8,777ft P500
Peak 7,695ft P300
Brown Cone P300
Devils Table P300
Peak 8,155ft P300

Mon, Aug 24, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX

It'd been a week since my month-long road trip had ended. Two days before I returned, the Bay Area was hit with three lightning complex fires - one in the Napa area, another in the Santa Cruz Mtns and a third in the Diablo Range. The result was the worst air quality I've seen in San Jose in the 35yrs I've lived there. Visibility was less than a mile for most of the week and I didn't go outside to ride or run, doing little more than walking a few blocks to the local Starbucks. We now had a second reason to wear masks other than the pandemic. I decided to head to the Sierra for a few days and see if the smoke wasn't better there. It was thick enough in the early morning to set off the smoke alarms in our house. I left San Jose around 6:30a, the blood-red sun rising over a smokey Morgan Hill, behind which the Diablo fire was burning. The air quality continued to be terrible across the Central Valley and into the Sierra foothills. It wasn't until I was past Shaver Lake and above 6,000ft that the sky would have some blue color to it, not the gray-brown I'd gotten used to over the past week. The smoke would push up to the higher elevations as the day wore on, leaving me with poor views all day, but at least the smoke wasn't so bad as to make it harmful being outside. I spent the remainder of the day doing some easy peaks on my way to Lake Thomas Edison, none of them more than about a mile from the TH. I had a more ambitious day planned to the Silver Divide the next day, so I was fine with an easy one that had more driving than actual hiking.

Peak 8,777ft

An unimpressive summit 5mi northwest of Kaiser Pass, much of the approach is along a good Forest Road that I'd used in the past with the van to visit nearby Mt. Tom. A rougher road requiring high-clearance branches off from the better road, getting one within about 3/4mi of the peak on the northwest side. The summit rocks get one above the trees and there would normally be some good views, save for the smokey conditions. About 45min for the roundtrip effort.

Peak 7,695ft

This summit lies 4mi to the northwest of the first, on the other side of Mt. Tom. The short hike is about 1/3mi each way, the summit a modest collection of granite rocks covered in manzanita. While somewhat in the way, the manzanita proved helpful to aid the ascent.

Brown Cone

This was the most interesting of the summits, also a short, 1/3mi hike. The hike is brushier (the lowest of the day's summits, and more manzanita) than the other summits, but not terribly so. The summit rocks look like they could be class 3 from a distance, but proved no more than class 2. There are the remains of a wooden survey tower at the summit along with a benchmark. There is (normally) a superb view to the north of Balloon Dome, but it was hard to discern today. Other views to the Kaiser Wilderness, Shuteye Ridge, Southern Yosemite, and the Silver Divide were also poor.

Devils Table

This minor summit can be most easily reached from Mono Hot Springs, using the TH for Doris and Tule Lakes. The poorly maintained trail to the lakes can get you about 1/3 of the mile distance to the summit. There is a decently ducked cross-country route to Devils Table that branches off, useful to avoid the brushier parts in the area. The ducks led up to a sporty class 3 staircase on the SE side of the summit plateau. As the name suggests, there is a ring of cliffs around the top, making for an oval-shaped summit "table". The highpoint is found at the northwest end, just a few feet higher than the southeast end I first ascended, the two points separated by 1/5mi. There is a small cairn and a busy geocache/register found at the highpoint, dating to 2003. There were several spliffs on offer inside the jar, and more than one reference to running around the summit area in naked abandon, leading me to guess this might be a popular place with the younger crowd who come to Mono Hot Springs. I also found an easier class 2 route off the NE side, around the middle of the table, also ducked, for those looking for an easier route to the top.

Peak 8,155ft

This last summit rises gently above Lake Thomas Edison on its southwest side. Depending on where you start, it is anywhere from 2/3mi to a mile each way to the summit. No serious brush on this one, but the summit is covered in trees and devoid of views (not that I would have enjoyed any today). Chris Kerth had visited the summit in 2015, so I added his name to a register I left under a few rocks on the highest boulder. It was after 4p by the time I returned to the jeep and time to call it a day...


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