Peak 8,860ft P300
Peak 8,523ft P300
Peak 9,413ft P300
Ebbetts Peak 2x P300 PD

Sat, Jul 3, 2021
Ebbetts Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2
Ebbetts Peak previously climbed Sat, May 22, 1999

The wife and daughter had run off to Santa Barbara, leaving me with a few days to run off to the mountains. I decided to head back to Alpine County to pick up another handful of summits there. The high temps were continuing through the weekend, so I wanted to get an early start. I left San Jose around 3a, getting me to Bear Valley after 6a. My main goal today was a pair of summits in the Mokelumne Wilderness northeast of Mt. Reba and the Bear Valley Ski Area. There is an OHV road starting at Bear Valley Rd that goes up and over the Mt. Reba ridgeline, and down into Underwood Valley. The road is only suitable for high-clearance & 4WD. Marcus Sierra had hiked up the road on his ascent of Peak 8,523ft, while others had used the Woodchuck Basin TH originating further east off SR88. The Jeep would be able to drive the entire length of road, saving me considerable effort which I would use for a second hike to Peak 9,413ft in the afternoon. I enjoyed the drive on the OHV road, pausing at the highpoint to take some pictures and admire the views. It was 6:45a by the time I had driven down to the TH in Underwood Valley and was ready to head out on foot. On a 4th of July weekend, I was happy to have the TH to myself, though there was another vehicle parked back by the pavement.

Peak 8860ft - Peak 8,523ft

The Frog Lake Trail sees little traffic and apparently no more maintenance. Occasional ducks, old tree blazes, and a thin tread would have to suffice. To be sure, I had a GPSr with the trail depicted on it, so when I did manage to lose it from time to time, I would be able to find it again without much trouble. I ran into the owners of the other vehicle within the first half mile, a backpacking couple doing morning chores around camp while fighting off mosquitoes (I had already applied a good dose of DEET when I started). I followed the trail for a little over a mile to the other side of Underwood Valley before leaving it to head cross-country up to Peak 8,860ft. Unlike my last outing with Kristine, there was no bushwhacking anywhere on today's hikes. The slope was steep but easily managed with only low scrub or forest with clear understory. I had to climb almost 900ft in little more than half a mile. The summit is a volcanic conglomerate that had a bit of class 3 to reach the airy highpoint. The north side goes vertical down to a bowl that is almost entirely devoid of vegetation - almost like the outflow of ancient lava, partially ringed by volcanic rock of which the summit is the highest. There is a nice view of Underwood Valley to the southwest, and an even better view of the Mokelumne River Gorge and Mokelumne Peak to the northwest. I couldn't tell exactly where the second summit was to the north, some 2.5mi in that direction. I left a register before starting back down.

I continued northeast from the summit, finding some minor (and totally avoidable) class 3 scrambling as I made my way down. I had intended to intercept the Wheeler Lake Trail, but I was enjoying the cross-country so much that I bypassed it altogether, eventually connecting with the Frog Lake Trail where the trail begins to descend to the lake. The volcanic rock turns to granite on the way down to the lake, and there are ample ducks to help with the descent through granite boulders and small cliffs. I never did see the lake, leaving the trail to start up to the second summit, Peak 8,523ft. There was a bit over half a mile of cross-country on this one, again no bushwhacking. The upper half is very open and sandy, but the gradient relents to make this an easy walk. The granite summit rocks are easy class 3, though one can make them harder if one likes. I found two closely-spaced highpoints of near equal height, and a register left by Bob McLaughlin a year earlier. Kerry Breen had visited it only a few days after Bob. I went over to the east summit which I thought looked higher, but after determining with the GPSr that they were within a foot of each other, I called them equal - better to visit both just to be sure. There is a fantastic view of Mokelumne Peak from the summit with its 3,000-foot+ drop to the river below. On the left profile of Mokelumne, I could see the striking formations called the Mokelumne Tetons - not much prominence, but it looks to be worth a visit.

The return would take just over two hours, first retracing my cross-country route back to the Frog Lake Trail, then following the trail for four miles back to the trailhead. It was hard to follow in places and I would lose it when it crossed an open meadow, but it was all great fun and I enjoyed the exercise of trying to keep to the trail as much as possible. Halfway back I passed a lone hiker going in the other direction. We only exchanged quick greetings in passing. I would find his vehicle at the TH when I returned. I never did see the backpacking couple - they either made it to Frog Lake without me seeing them, or they had gone somewhere else - there vehicle was still at the 2WD TH back at Bear Valley Rd when I passed through.

Peak 9,413ft

It was pretty warm by the time I'd returned to the TH and just past noon. I wondered if it would be too warm for the second hike I'd planned, recalling my previous outing where I turned back after a mile because it was too hot. Luckily, I had over an hour of driving between the two trailheads, giving me time to rehydrate, eat some salty snacks and cool off with the aid of the AC. Peak 9,413ft is located a short distance east of Bull Run Peak at the head of Pacific Valley. From the normal TH, it's a little over three miles to the summit, further than I would have liked, but doable. Better, there is an OHV road that allows high-clearance, 4WD to drive another mile and a quarter further. The road has a rocky step at the halfway point that is the crux. I hesitated here, but the Jeep did just fine and I made it to the end of the driveable portion of road a little after 1p.

Heading out on foot, it was quite warm, around 77F. This sapped my energy, but the previous outing had been short enough that I figured I could make it without too much discomfort. I hiked the trail for about 3/4mi, leaving it where it crosses a drainage and a meadow. I followed the right side of the meadow aiming for the saddle between Peak 9,413ft and Bull Run Peak, about 1,000ft higher and another 3/4mi further. As I was making my way up through forest, meadow and rocky slopes, I was aware that clouds were building behind me over the Sierra Crest. Luckily, the sky above Peak 9,413ft stayed mostly blue. Soon after reaching the saddle, with about 1/3mi to go, the first peals of thunder could be heard behind me. The sky had grown quite dark in that direction and had started to rain. I made haste to the summit, along granite slabs and through thinning forest. When I got to the highpoint, I spent only a few quick minutes taking photos and leaving a register (neat view of Bull Run Peak to the east). It was not a place to linger with the thunder coming at regular intervals - all I needed was one of the thunderclouds to blow over my way and I could be in a world of hurt. I reversed my route without deviation back to Pacific Valley, relaxing once I was back in the forest cover. It was after 3p by the time I returned, the temperature having cooled some due to the clouds.

Ebbetts Peak

I drove back out to SR4 and headed up towards Ebbetts Pass. Sprinkles started, then rain, then hail, then more rain, some of it pretty hard. I felt bad for the cyclists climbing up to the pass in the downpour. The rain had let up by the time I reached Ebbetts Pass, but the storms were not yet over. I drove to the end of an OHV road near the pass that has several good campsites. The first was occupied by another Jeep, but the second was empty. I took a shower, ate dinner and did other chores until about 5:15p. Most of the rain showers had stopped by then. With almost 3hrs of daylight to kill, I decided to make the short climb up to Ebbetts Peak, not even a quarter mile from my campsite. I found a use trail that worked nicely all the way to the summit, taking all of 15min. Someone has installed an American flag on a flagpole, complete with guy wires and a solar-powered spot light. The flag looked new, as did the assembly, and I guessed it had been recently done for the 4th of July. I took some photos looking north to Reynolds/Sinister/Raymond, southeast to Silver/Highland, and south across Ebbetts Pass. I could see my Jeep down below and was surprised to see another Jeep parked next to it. As I was heading back down the trail, I was really hoping they had no intention of camping there and worked out what I might say to (politely) dissuade them. They weren't there when I got back, but returned some time later. It was an older couple with a couple of dogs. They didn't plan to camp there, but they sure took their sweet time in getting gone. They had first to give water and treats to the dogs ("Cheba, which treat would you like? Can't decide? Oh, that's a good boy!"). They hung around another 30min with the most innane conversation between themselves and the dogs that I would have been embarassed to have a stranger witness. Not them, apparently...


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