Saturday Peak ESS
Peak 4,481ft P300
Brushy Hell BM P500 ESS
Peak 5,620ft P500
Rough and Ready Mountain
Quartz Mountain
Woodward Peak P300
Basket Ridge P300
Oak Ridge P500
Peak 2,900ft P300
White Rock

Fri, Apr 9, 2021
Rough and Ready Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX

April trips can be hard to plan - too much snow at higher elevations, many forest roads closed, getting warm out in the desert. It seemed the sweet spot might be elevations between 5,000ft and 8,000ft given the weather forecast, so I decided to head to the Southern Sierra and then the higher elevations in Death Valley. This worked out quite nicely. I'd been wanting to drive Rancheria Rd in the Greenhorn Mountains for some years now. This well-maintained dirt road runs from just below where the Kern River exits the Sierra, all the way up to Greenhorn Summit at SR155, some 30mi+. A sign at the lower end says the road is gated shut at 22mi. This isn't exactly true. I found sandwich boards at various locations past 22mi, but these are easy to drive around. I did eventually run into a locked gate near the very end, but I found a way around it to reach Greenhorn Summit. Any vehicle can drive the road, but high-clearance makes it painless. No need for 4WD unless driving some of the rougher side roads to get closer to the summits.

Peak 4,481ft - Saturday Peak

The first 10mi of Rancheria Rd pass through private ranch lands before entering the national forest around 4,400ft near the Oak Flat Lookout. The first two peaks were a few miles below this. Peak 4,481ft has a telecom installation near the summit and is all private property. Saturday Peak lies inside the forest, but has no legal access from Rancheria Rd. One might climb it from the Kern River thousands of feet below to the southeast, but that looks arduous and might have a dangerous river crossing. There is a gated road off Rancheria going up to the telecom installation, but no place to park. I parked just up the road at a small turnout, due north of Peak 4,481ft. I then headed cross-country to the southeast up a steep slope, mostly grass-covered under oak understory. I reached the NE Ridge where I picked up an old, abandoned road that climbs the remaining distance to the summit, taking about 10min. To my surprise, the telecom was not the highpoint as indicated on LoJ. There is a collection of granite blocks to the northwest of the tower, the highest of which looks to be hard class 5. I was not able to find any reasonable way up and will have to come back another time with a rope.

I started west down the telecom access road, leaving the road shortly when Saturday Peak came into view to the southwest. I descended grassy slopes for about half a mile, passing a few disinterested cattle grazing in the area. A little-used ranch road runs over the saddle with Saturday Peak on its NE side. Crossing this, I continued cross-country up the short distance to Saturday's summit. The slopes here are brushy and it takes some manuevering to avoid thrashing through the stuff. A small pile of granite blocks makes up the summit with decent views in most directions. Views overlooking the Central Valley to the west were disappointingly (but not unusually) hazy this morning. I returned back to the saddle and followed the ranch road back up to the telecom road. The cattle I had seen earlier had all moved on elsewhere. Where the telecom road descends back to Rancheria Rd, there is a good view to the east of Brushy Hell BM (my next stop) and the lookout tower that sits atop it. I was back to the main road and the Jeep by 10:30a, about an hour and a quarter for the two summits.

Brushy Hell BM

The name is interesting, suggesting a mighty struggle for the surveyors who first ventured to the top in the previous century. Fortunately, there is no such ordeal these days, the peak now a drive-up. The Oak Flat Lookout sits atop the summit, a forest road leading one there in about a mile. There are picnic sites, an outhouse, and the lookout which was open and surprisingly not in terrible shape (not exactly good shape, either, mind you). I wandered around the observation deck taking a few photos of the views before descending to tackle the summit blocks. The highest is a large block split in two to the southeast. It is easy class 3 and makes for a nice, roomy perch. The slightly lower NE block is harder class 3, but not nearly as inviting. In my scrambling frame of mind, I forgot to look for the benchmark somewhere around the lookout tower.

Peak 5,620ft

This one is normally a drive-up via Forest Road 31E51, but I found the road blocked by downfall about halfway up, leaving me about 2/3mi each way to hike. There are two bumps along the summit ridge, the southern one seeming to be highest. Under the oak forest cover there are several granite blocks, the highest of which is easy class 3. No views. I left a register here before returning the way I came.

Rough and Ready Mountain

Spur road 27S01 forks off Rancheria Rd, leading to a camping area and further to a private inholding with a locked gate. Downfall blocked the road before reaching the gate, but it mattered little since the road doesn't lead to the summit. A quarter mile cross-country jaunt through thick forest with much downfall leads to the flattish summit with no views. A very uninteresting summit despite the interesting name.

Quartz Mountain

This minor summit lies about a mile and a half southeast of Rough and Ready. Forest Route 26S06 (also signed as Black Gulch Rd) descends from Rancheria Rd to get within a half mile of Quartz Mtn on its northeast side. Black Gulch is a high-clearance road that can be followed all the way to Lake Isabella. I parked at the junction with an old road no longer open to vehicles that would take me easily to the summit on foot. A use trail, mostly used by hunters, follows along the old roadbed that goes up the NNE side of Quartz Mtn. The summit isn't very obvious. The LoJ point has the flattish, more open point to the northwest as the summit. There is little here but brush. To the southeast are some rock formations, where I left a register on the highest one, easy class 3. Views are marginal, but a good one looking east towards Lake Isabella. I returned the same way, about 40min for the roundtrip effort.

Woodward Peak

Further up Rancheria Rd, past the first of the sandwich boards declaring the road closed to the public, is found Woodward Peak. A selection of OHV Trails, 32E30 and 32E42, can get one close to the summit on its south side. I found the first of these blocked by downfall shortly after leaving Rancheria Rd, leaving me about a mile each way to the summit. I followed another old road, no longer open to vehicles, to get me to the summit from the west and north. There is a large granite block at the summit, class 3 and a little sketchy due to pine needles on the sloping east side. A set of nested cans was found carelessly lying on a bed of needles to one side. It contained a register left by Terry Flood in 2017. With nowhere obvious to leave it and no small rocks to build a cairn, I left it wedged tightly in a crack on the west side of the block. This was the only register I found on any of the day's summits. No views from the top.

Basket Ridge

Forest Rte 26S20 gets one within a quarter mile of Basket Ridge on the east side. Once again, the road was blocked by downfall, giving me about 3/4mi each way. It was actually nice to get out and walk portions of these roads, so I didn't mind the downfall. The cross-country for the last quarter mile is steep and marginally brushy. I found better traveling along the forested portion just to the south on the way back. The summit has more granite blocks, class 2, and a nice view looking north to Sunday Peak. I left a register here before heading back.

Oak Ridge

This was the highest of the day's summits at over 6,800ft and nearly 700ft of prominence. The topo map shows Forest Rte 16S25 going nearly to the summit, but this is no longer driveable except by motorcycles. I parked along 26S19 to the northeast and hiked much of the motorcycle track to the summit, veering off for the final bit. There are two closely spaced points with nearly equal contours. I judged the SE one to be highest and left a register there. Poor views from the summit.

I next attempted to reach Red Mountain via 26S19, but was stopped by yet more downfall. I still had almost four miles to go, so I gave this one up for another time. I returned to Rancheria Rd and continued up, past a few more sandwich boards before finally being stopped by a locked gate near Shirley Peak. I backtracked about a mile to find 25S21, a rougher road that goes around Cooks Peak, getting me back to Rancheria Rd above the locked gate in about three miles. There was some snow and mud on this route, but thankfully no downfall to block me.

Peak 2,900ft

Once at Greenhorn Summit, I descended SR155 to Lake Isabella and then out towards SR178. It was getting late in the day, but there were two low-elevation summits I still wanted to reach before calling it a day. Both are located on BLM lands southwest and downstream of the lake. Peak 2,900ft is located in the South Keysville area (on the south side of the Kern River, sandwiched between the river and SR178. A network of OHV roads accessed from SR155 run through the area, with one branch conveniently going all the way to the summit. High-clearance recommended. Lake Isabella is just visible to the east, the town to the southeast. It was 7p while I was at the summit, the sun just about to call it a day on the surrounding hills.

White Rock

I quickly drove back out to SR155, back to the north side of the Kern River, then west on Keysville Rd. This leads to more BLM lands with a great deal of primitive campsites along both sides of the road for several miles. The road then climbs up through Keyesville (a handful of homesteads) and becomes Black Gulch Rd as it crests a saddle. From this saddle, White Rock is less than half a mile to the southeast. A steep and rough 4WD road goes to the summit along the ridgeline for those suitably equipped. I drove the first steep hill in 4-Low with both lockers engaged, then along the ridgeline to the last saddle just before the summit. Here, an even steeper hill is encountered and I decided to park and walk the remaining few hundred yards. I believe the Jeep was capable of making it, but I didn't trust my driving skills. The views here are better than the previous peak, but it was already growing darker as the sun had set some 15min earlier. I snapped a few pics and beat a retreat back to Keysville Rd. I had planned to drive to the town of Lake Isabella for dinner, but ended up spending the night in one of the primitive campsites along the road, having had enough driving for one day. Soup from my meager collection of food would stand in for dinner tonight. A cold beer from the cooler would be its complement...


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