Red Mountain P300 CS
Bodfish Peak CS

Tue, Oct 5, 2021
Red Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2

In looking for places to visit, I was perusing the Piute Mtns in the Southern Sierra and found some leftover summits that I had skipped previously for various reasons. This seemed like a good time to visit while the smoke from several fires in the western Sierra was blowing north and east. I left San Jose around 7:30a, not getting to the start for the first of these until 12:30p.

Red Mtn

This summit is located in the western part of the Piute Mtns, on BLM land southeast of Havilah. There are various homesteads in the area on both sides of the Caliente-Bodfish Rd that I drove, but my starting point was where the BLM land comes closest to the pavement. A fire in 2020 burned over Red Mtn, so I figured the brush visible in the satellite view had probably been torched, and 2021 seemed like the best time to visit before it has a chance to grow back. There is a locked gate at the road near where I started, but it is unsigned and there is no fence on either side of the gate. It seems completely legal, but I wouldn't bet money on it. There were no signs of recent traffic anywhere on the ridge I traveled. I followed an old road to the site of the Tungsten Chief Mine, long defunct. From the end of the road, I simply followed the ridgeline up and northeast, about 2.5mi to the summit. Most of the trees and brush had been burned as expected, but I also found old ranch roads following along most of the ridge - it probably would have been easy even if the ridge had not burned.

I reached the summit after an hour and a half, finding the highest reaches had not burned, leaving some moderate brush around the top. I was surprised to find an imposing granite summit block 20-25ft in height. I walked all around it, finding no easy way up, then surmounted an adjacent block to see if that would help, but alas, it would not. All was not lost, however. The summit block had a steep ramp on the west side that would facilitate an ascent, though it went at class 4 and was pretty sketchy. I had to climb through a small oak tree, getting about 8ft up before I could step onto the ramp. I wondered if the small branches were going to snap and send me cratering, but they held my weight, thankfully. At the top of the ramp was a last 6ft of near-vertical scrambling helped with some small, but key footholds. I took a few photos from my little perch, then reversed the route back down the ramp and then the oak tree. I left a register on the adjacent block where I figured it ought to survive a future fire. Happy with my success, I returned back along the same route, save for near the end where I took a shorter route down a steep gully to bypass the old mine. It was 3:30p when I finished up, taking just under 3hrs for the outing.

Bodfish Peak

This named summit with little prominence is more of a bump along a ridgeline descending from the Piute Mtn Road. It overlooks the town of Bodfish and is found in the Sequoia National Forest. I drove the Caliente-Bodfish Rd back up to the pass before it drops into Bodfish, then drove the dirt Piute Mtn Rd (also called Saddle Springs Rd) up for a number of miles until I was above the peak where it's ridgeline joins the main crest. I had been up this very road early in the year and had dismissed Bodfish Peak due to the heavy brush and low prominence. Richard Carey had climbed it in 1996, leaving a TR on PB where he describes following an overgrown firebreak. If only it were that simple. There has been no fire in the 25yrs since Richard visited it and the firebreak is buried under all the growth since then. The route is about a mile each way, so I figured I could handle some brush. I didn't get started until nearly 4:30p, so I tossed a headlamp in my kit "just in case." I struggled mightily for the first quarter mile and was close to giving up several times. I was taking a thrashing and thinking this was a crazy enterprise, but I'm glad I didn't quit. The second half went much easier (the old firebreak helped here, even 25yrs+ later). And it wasn't without its fun moments - there were various granite blocks at intermediate points that offered some scrambling and tunneling to lift my sagging spirits. It took an hour and ten minutes to cover the mile distance to the summit where I found the summit block described by Carey. It looked impossible from the east and south, but the west side has some blocks stacked up to reach within 6ft of the top, leaving me a bit of class 4 at the end, much like on Red Mtn. If Carey left a register (as he usually does), I didn't find it, at least atop the summit block. I took a few pics and left my own register at the very top under the only loose rock I found there. My return went smoother now that I knew the route (I even came across a few ducks I had missed on the way in), though the light was fading quickly before I finished up at 6:30p. Another 20min and I would have had to break out the headlamp. I was happy with my second success, even more than Red Mtn, and I admit I mostly liked the bushwhacking, even if it beat me up.

I ended up camping along the forest road only a short distance down from where I'd parked. I found a nice flat spot on the crest with cell service, views, and quiet, too. One of the better places I've camped this summer...


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