Sat, Jun 13, 2020
Our third day in the Sierra National Forest had us starting with an outing to Red Mtn, an almost-10,000-foot summit with more than 800ft of prominence. We had discovered the day before that the Red Mtn OHV route was still two days from opening, keeping us from driving that route. Not that we would have been able to, mind you, as we came to find it's a pretty serious trail that my jeep would not have been equipped to handle. With some quick research, I found an alternate route that worked quite nicely. We did several other hikes afterwards, including a 10mi, 3,000-foot gain effort in the Kaiser Wilderness in the afternoon. Overall, a pretty full day.
We descended the southeast side of Red Mtn and made our way to Red Lake and around its inlet which we found quite marshy - probably would have been better to give it a wider berth, but the lake looked lovely in the morning light. There were nice campsites along the north side of the lake, probably a welcome respite for anyone who managed to drive up the rough OHV Trail. On the other side of the lake, we took about 20min to ascend the unnamed Peak 9,377ft. It had a short, squat summit boulder that could have been a tough problem if it was 5ft higher. The summit is forested and devoid of any real views. We then descended northwest down to Red Lake again, this time crossing below the outlet, low enough to avoid the dense willows growing closer to the lake. We got back to the OHV road and retraced our steps for about half a mile, then went cross-country on a descending traverse to more directly return to the jeep. We kept looking for the old road/trail shown on the GPSr, but never found a trace of it. We were back to the jeep by 10:15a, much sooner than expected as we finished the main program planned for the day. We would find more to do soon enough.
With the campground still closed due to COVID-19 concerns, we didn't realize one could drive another half mile up from the lake to the trailhead, and instead parked at the day use lot at the lake below the campground. Seems others did the same thing - we saw a number of parties on the way up and down, but not a single car at the dirt trailhead lot. The trail is easy to follow though downfall from the past season has yet to be cleared. Though old, the trail signs are still intact and serviceable, marking the Wilderness boundary and trail junctions. about a mile from Nellie Lake we came across a father with four kids in tow, ages about 7-13, heading uphill. Several were struggling with the elevation gain and dad was already burdened with carrying several of their daypacks. A brave man, I thought. A cruel father, some of the kids seemed to feel. We turned off the trail where it goes over a saddle before the last quarter mile drop to the lake. Here we headed up northwest towards the summit, about half mile distance. The going is sandy with some modest brush, but overall good footing. Views open up significantly as the forest gives way to grass, flowers and open slopes. The final 100ft is a pile of broken rock, partially guarded by a band of low brush at the base. The views were being partially obscurred by clouds that had developed over the area in the afternoon, but extended north into Yosemite, across the deep valley formed by the San Joaquin River.
The light winds were cold now, driving us off the summit sooner than we might have liked. We left a register before starting down. Karl led us east off the summit, an alternate route choice with none of the brush we'd had on the ascent and a pleasant walk for half a mile along the open stretch of Kaiser Ridge. We intersected one of the spur trails after 3/4mi and used that to return to the Nellie Lake Trail. We turned off the trail again for the short climb to Peak 8,403ft, finding a surprisingly difficult summit block at the top. The 10-foot block was vertical or overhanging on all sides. It sat upon a larger block with a shoulder on the west side that could be climbed to get one close to the top. With an abundance of wood products scattered about the surrounding area, I declared that this was a good opportunity for some natural aid climbing. Karl expressed no small amount of concern when I suggested I could pile up some wood to gain access to the top of the higher boulder. I gathered half a dozen dead branches of varying lengths and leaned them against the west side of the summit boulder, arranging them to give me two steps by which to climb up to the top. It was a rickety sort of arrangement and Karl had to look away so as not to see the thing collapse under my weight and plunge me to certain hurt. I stepped very cautiously up, moving slowly to avoid shifting the logs under me, and then clambered onto the rock. I took a picture of Karl below (on the other side of the rock so as not to watch), then asked him to toss me up some small rocks that I could use to leave a register under. I was a little nervous reversing the moves on the way down, but again, slow, deliberate movements were called for and eventually got me down safe. I thought it was the most interesting summit of the trip, but Karl wanted little to do with it. We returned to the trail and continued our descent back to the cars at Huntington Lake, finishing up by 5:15p.
We met back up a the junction between Mushroom Rock and Black Point. I suggested Karl should go visit Mushroom Rock since the views were nice just before sunset. He came back reporting a successful ascent with similar disdain for the youthful party camped there. We ended up driving the short distance to the trailhead for Black Point and spent the night there, quite peacefully...
This page last updated: Tue Jun 16 09:39:05 2020
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