Sat, Sep 4, 2021
We were in the Southern Sierra with plans to reach a trio of summits on the Sierra Crest, roughly halfway between Olancha Peak and Sawtooth Peak. They are located in the southernmost part of the Inyo National Forest with tricky access due to private property in Long Canyon, the most convenient access point. Luckily, we had contact information with one of the landowners who had left a welcoming note on a previous trip report in the area back in 2016. He gave us the gate combinations and permission to park on his property, even though he wouldn't be up there this weekend. This would allow us to get four summits in total, over almost 11mi and more than 4,000ft of gain. Iris was still working to rehabilitate her knee after surgery, so she would have to settle for just the first two summits, still a tough workout.
We had spent the night camped off Kennedy Meadows Rd. In the morning we left three cars at the site, taking my Jeep for the drive into Long Canyon. We got through the two locked gates without issue, parking at the far north end of our friend's property. There is another parcel of private property immediately to the north, and it was recommended to give this one a wide berth. We set out just before 8a, starting cross-country around the east side of the other property. The forest understory is generally dry and makes for easy travel, but there was a lot of sidehilling and steep slopes initially. It didn't take long for our party of four to break up. TomB and I were ahead, leaving TomG to hang back with Iris, who was having some trouble with the awkward footing. They chose a line with less sidehilling while TomB and I moved north into a gully where we found easier going. We followed this up for about 400 vertical feet before turning north to climb more directly towards our first stop. We went around a false summit on the west side, then up to the Sierra Crest and on to Peak 9,100ft, reaching it by 9:45a. We hung around the summit for half an hour, waiting for the others to show, but we saw no sign of them. We didn't know if they were nearing the summit, would be another half hour, or had possibly turned back if Iris's knee wasn't cooperating. We sent a text off that we would continue to the next summit. It turns out, Iris had seen us about 10min from the summit, but we had already gone by the time she and TomG arrived.
We got a reply from Iris while we were enroute to Peak 9,220ft, less than a mile to the north. We would meet up again on the second peak. It took us about 40min to get between the two peaks, finding large granite blocks forming the class 2-3 highpoint. We hung about the second summit for 40min so that we could all reconvene. We left a register on this summit while discussing options for the remainder of the day. The third summit was about 2mi further north with a drop of 700ft between them. This was possibly going to be too far for Iris, because even if her knee held out, it might take the remainder of the day and then some to get to there and back. Better would be to descend to Long Canyon and then climb up to Peak 9,140ft (where we could meet them in a few hours) or return back to the Jeep down Long Canyon, depending on how Iris felt when they got down to the bottom. When this was settled on, TomB and I continued north while the others stayed at the second summit for a rest before descending. It would take us an hour and a half to reach Peak 9,180ft, found off the east side of the crest. The 2008 Clover fire had burned over the east side of the crest and all of Peak 9,180ft. Few trees in the burn area had started to sprout in this dry part of the Sierra, but plenty of brush had popped up in their place, particularly buckthorn. Still, the cross-country travel wasn't bad, and it got easier once we left the crest towards the summit. At the top by 1:15p, we found a register left by Gordon MacLeod (and Bill Sanders, not Barbara Lilley) in 1981. Kyle Atkins had visited in 2007 and then Jonathan Mason in 2018 - a sparsely visited summit.
The trees on Peak 9,180ft that had burned in 2008 were mostly still standing as snags, but they were beginning to fall down with time and weathering. This gave the landscape a ghostly appearance over much acreage. We returned through this ghost forest to the Sierra Crest, then south and southeast as we followed the ridgelines around Long Canyon on our way to Peak 9,140ft, our last stop. This would be the longest leg of the day, taking us almost 2.5hrs to negotiate, a distance of some 3.5mi. Some sections were tougher than others, but overall it was pleasant enough that we were enjoying the outing even as we were getting tired. Seeing no sign of the others on the last peak, we left a last register there before continuing south along the ridge for another 3/4mi. After getting around some rock outcrops, we began the 1,600-foot descent into Long Canyon to the southwest. With the help of the GPSr, I steered us on a descending traverse to avoid the property at the bottom of the canyon. This worked nicely, getting us down to the southern edge of the property and directly across from our Jeep on the other side of the canyon. We were back by 5:30p, finding the others resting in the shade by the Jeep. They had been back more than hour, having decided to not go to the last summit once they had gotten down to the canyon. They had to work their way back around the east side of the same property, not too bad. As a party of four once again, we drove in the Jeep back out to our other vehicles along Kennedy Meadows Rd. We then found a more secluded spot to spend the night about a mile to the east, with more on tap for the next day...
This page last updated: Mon Oct 18 17:18:14 2021
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