Tom had gone home and Laura back to work, leaving Karl and I to fend for
ourselves on the East Side.
After spending a last night at Laura's Moose Lodge in Bishop, we got
up early to head north to SR120 on the south side of Mono Lake. I was after
another non-Sierra 10K summit west of Glass Mtn before I, too, had to head home,
and anything else we did would be gravy. Karl, ever the accomodating partner in
crime, was up for anything which was good, because these were not your classic
East Side summits.
That part of the Inyo National Forest east of US395 and south of SR120 is
criss-crossed with roads, some of them suitable for low-clearance. I'd driven
them on previous occasions, but they are much faster in Karl's Element, so we
left my van on SR120 at Sagehen Summit and carpooled from there.
Sentinel Meadows Peak
With more than 750ft of prominence, this flattish summit lies at the edge of
the escarpment overlooking Benton Crossing and Lake Crowley.
Getting there is a longish drive of more than 10mi from Sagehen Summit, made
much faster with a high-clearance vehicle. Some of the roads in this network
can be sandy, but today's selection were firm and we never needed to invoke 4WD.
We followed driving directions posted by Greg Gerlach on PB and downloaded his
route track, but after arriving at the starting point, we more less
ignored the GPS track, choosing instead to head in a more direct line up
slopes to the south. The hike is only about 2mi each way and gains
almost 1,500ft, most of that in the first mile. There was some snow
present on the north facing slopes, but it was all easily avoided. Once we had
finished the steep climb we were inside the Sentinel Meadow Research Natural
Area that comprises the upper plateau which is being considered for federal
Wilderness status. As far as we could tell, there were no actual meadows in this
volcanic area whose soils appear to be far too porous to support any sort of
standing water. The flat areas we crossed on our way to the highpoint
looked more like coarse sand beaches than meadows.
The highpoint was not hard to locate. Someone had left a circle of rocks
a center chunk of obsidian. The dark, glassy obsidian is common throughout the
area though not around the summit plateau. The summit is quite wide, blocking
much of what would otherwise be good views. Glass Mtn can be seen poking up
to the east and the Sierra south and west. We walked a short distance south,
closer to the edge of the escarpment, for a better view looking in that
direction to Lake Crowley and west towards Deadman Summit,
Mammoth Mtn and the eastern boundary of Yosemite NP. On our return we
veered west to explore a portion of the side canyon that Greg had used for his
route. Though the footing was less secure and it took a bit more work, it was
worth the effort to find slopes of obsidian rock and talus
that covered acres of the forest floor with the shiny black material.
On our way back out to Sagehen Summit we stopped to tag a couple of bonus peaks.
I was somewhat embarrassed to mention this unnamed one, but Karl was cheerfully
game. Forest Road 1N02 (Wild Horse Meadow) that branched off the main road
towards it was washed out
shortly before where we planned to stop. We simply
parked off the road at the washout and started from there. It wasn't a
long hike, barely half a mile to the summit, so a few extra yards wasn't going
to discourage us. There's a moderate amount of sagebrush to pick your
way through, but nothing serious, and in less than 20min we'd made our
way to the rocky outcrop at the top. Not expecting to find a register,
I gave it only a cursory purview, but a few minutes later Karl found a small
film cannister tucked under a flat rock. I assumed it was an Andy Smatko easter
egg, but it was left in 2008, three years after his death. Among the
five members of that party, three I
recognized as regular partners of his - Ray Nelson, Tom Ross, and Frank Yates.
This made it the next best thing to finding an obscure Smatko register. They
even used Smatko's common byline - "First recorded ascent."
Continuing back towards Sagehen Summit, we stopped near a saddle that runs
between Crooked BM and Sagehen Peak, two summits I'd visited a few years
earlier. Crooked BM has some ugly bushwhacking but Sagehen is a virtual
drive up which we could hardly pass up, especially since Karl hadn't tagged it.
We drove the Element to the end of the spur road below the summit rocks
and scrambled the class 3 rocks in under a minute. We took a few photos
overlooking the high desert landscape before beating a retreat and
returning to the highway.
A mile and half northwest of Sagehen Summit is unnamed Peak 8,375ft which I
have dubbed Lakeview Peak for its position overlooking Mono Lake on the south
side. There's little special about it, but it does have the requisite 300ft of
prominence. When I mentioned it to Karl upon our return to the van I was kinda
wishy-washy about it, williing to leave it for another time. Karl was more
enthusiastic than I about it which quickly won me around to giving it a go.
The first half is characterized by some moderate brush, the thickest
we'd seen yet. Burros living in the area have made paths through it which meant
we could too, it just slowed us some as we weaved back and forth. The last part
features a steep sand headwall that was surprisingly tough. It took
about 40min to reach the top which we found at the northernmost of
three closed contours. It was also the only one of the three with a view to
Mono Lake, which seemed to make the name fitting. We took different return
paths, Karl to the east and myself more to the west. Karl's proved more
efficient, getting him back to Sagehen Summit a few minutes earlier. I
showered on the side of the road while Karl took to his map book to start
making a plan for the next few days. He was still there studying after
we'd said our goodbyes, looking like a peakbagger without a care in the world.
Off I went on the long drive back over Sonora Pass and across the state towards
home in San Jose...