Hungalelti Ridge
Melissa Coray Peak 2x
Peak 9,795ft 2x P500
Peak 9,607ft P300

Mon, Jun 21, 2021
Melissa Coray Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Melissa Coray Peak previously climbed Sun, Apr 4, 2004
Peak 9,795ft previously climbed Sun, Apr 4, 2004

Hungalelti Ridge, formally called Squaw Ridge, runs more than 10mi in length, separating the Bear River and Mokelumne River drainages in Alpine County, and forms the northwest boundary of the Mokelumne Wilderness. The Mormon Emigrant Trail runs along a portion of this ridge up to Melissa Coray Peak, which commemorates the youngest of four women that accompanied the 500+ strong Morman Battalion on its march from Iowa to San Diego and then to Salt Lake City, as part of the war with Mexico (though they never saw battle). They were the first group to carry wagons over Carson Pass on their return to Utah, a route that would see thousands more in the following decade with the California Gold Rush. A 4x4 road runs from Bear River Reservoir to near Melissa Coray Peak, whose highest portion follows the old Emigrant Trail. There is a second 4x4 road called Mud Lake Rd that reaches Hungalelti Ridge from near Tragedy Springs along SR88 that more closely follows the Emigrant Trail. It was this road that I used to access today's peaks. I was primarily interested in Peak 9,607ft, one of my few remaining summits in this area. Others have accessed the peak from Caples Lake or the Kirkwood ski area, and those may overall be easier if one includes the drive time, but I wanted to explore the area in the Jeep. Knowing it wasn't a long outing, I was in no hurry to leave San Jose this morning, waiting until after 9a before hitting the road.

I got to Tragedy Springs sometime after 12:30p, finding the unmarked turnoff on the right side of the road with no problem, thanks to the GPSr. I was happy to find the road in great shape and completely clear of downfall. The road initially passes by a few summer homes, then enters the Eldorado NF. Where the road forks at Porthole Gap, I turned right to follow it down to Mud Lake. The first of several roadside markers is found here, with a historical snippet about the emigrants who plied the route. The route then turns east to climb onto a ridgeline, the road becoming rougher here (high clearance needed). Bear River is crossed (more like a stream) near a private inholding, then climbs up to Hungalelti Ridge at the historical site of the Plasse Trading Post (one of numerous ones that sprung up along the route back in the day). Views open up as the road follows the ridgeline, alternately through forest and open sections. There is a campsite with a spectacular view at a spur road between Pt. 9,007ft and Pt. 9,055ft. Vehicles with moderate clearance should probably stop here as the road becomes increasingly more difficult. I was only able to drive another quarter mile or so before getting stopped by downfall near Martell Flat. I was kinda happy for that, because there were sections just beyond that I would have found terrifying to drive, even in the Jeep - big boulders and such that require more skilled driving and/or larger cajones. I was two miles short of the official end of the road, but this would do. I think the walking distance was close to that if I'd started from Caples Lake, but at least I was 1,300ft higher.

Having spent well over an hour on the OHV driving portion, it wasn't until after 2p before I was ready to head out on foot. I followed the road for its last two miles, going over the LoJ summit of Hungalelti Ridge (little prominence, really just the highest bump before Melissa Coray) enroute. The road passes by small meadows, mostly through forest until reaching the end. A saddle is reached with a foot trail going over it, north to south. A few motorcycle tracks continue higher up the ridge, a Wilderness boundary sign fallen to decay by the side. It is an easy walk all the way up to Melissa Coray, which I reached after a bit over an hour's work. There is a small telecom installation here, along with a stone marker placed by the Mormons to honor their history in the region. The views are not as great as might be expected due to the large, flat area the summit occupies. There is a good view of Caples and Emigrant Lakes to the north if one walks the short distance to the edge.

Peak 9,795ft lies to the northeast, a scant 32ft higher. It's only a little out of the way, so I paid it a visit with less than 15min of effort. It has a much better view of Round Top, the highest peak in the area, another two miles to the northeast. There is another fine view to the southeast, across Fourth of July Lake to Deadwood Peak. This was the summit Brad Dozier was climbing two and a half years earlier, when he died in a fall. It was my first time in this immediate area since then, which had me thinking about him and his wife Ruanne, who had contacted me to help with the search. I was feeling a bit melancholy as I headed off the summit to the south towards Peak 9,607ft.

Peak 9,607ft is connected to Peak 9,795ft by a ridgeline with a saddle 350ft below Peak 9,607ft's summit. Portions of the ridge descending from the higher summit is serrated volcanic rock, but is easily bypassed on the west side to keep the whole route straightforward class 2. It took just over half an hour to make my way between the two summits, finding an even better view of Deadwood across the Summit City Creek drainage. I was surprised to find a register left by Brad in 2018, less than two months before his accident. I'd have been less surprised had I checked PB where he had registered an ascent. There were a few other signatures on this obscure summit, most recently during an April ski tour by a few folks from Colorado.

It was nearly 4:30p and time for me to be heading back. After my short break, I descended back to the saddle, then turned northwest away from the ridgeline. My strategy was to avoid going back over Melissa Coray by traversing below it on the south side. The terrain was pleasant for the most part, this bit of short-cutting working quite well. Once back to Hungalelti Ridge, I followed my outbound route back to the Jeep where I arrived by 6p.

Mosquitoes that had mobbed me when I'd first arrived at the edge of the meadow were still present, so I quickly tossed my gear in the Jeep and drove off. I stopped on the drive out where the road comes out of the forest with a strong breeze blowing over the ridge - a good place to take a shower without the pesky mosquitoes. Driving back out to SR88 via the same would route occupy me for the next hour with a bit of daylight still remaining by the time I finished. I drove east to Hope Valley and then south on Burnside Rd when I reached the junction with SR89. I ended up near Burnside Lake where I planned to hike the next morning. It was nearly dark by the time I parked, and by the time I finished with dinner I was ready for bed...


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This page last updated: Sat Jun 26 10:34:10 2021
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