The Sinister P500 PD
Peak 8,445ft P300 PD
Peak 8,062ft
Carson Spur
Castle Point
Peak 8,190ft
Alder Hill P300
Peddler Hill
Beaver Ridge
Armstrong Hill P300
Cooks Station Ridge

Tue, Jun 30, 2020

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology
Castle Point
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 GPX Profile

Video by Jackie

The Sinister

I had been making regular, short trips to the Sierra these past few months, exploring areas of the various National Forests on either side of Yosemite and in the Southern Sierra. While perusing the maps of the Mokolumne Wilderness between SR88 and SR4, I was reminded that I had not revisited Peak 9,860ft, a summit I had bypassed when in the area 18yrs earlier while visiting Reynolds and Raymond Peaks. At the time, I had thought it looked too difficult for a scramble, but a few folks had left feedback on my TR that it had indeed been climbed. Still fresh on my mind, it was a surprise to see AJ Kaufmann post on the same TR of a recent scramble he did with Rafee Memon to the peak. This helped confirm that a rope wasn't needed, and the beta with pictures they provided made it sound very appealing. My daughter was scheduled to head back to Santa Barbara on Wednesday, so as a last-minute idea, I asked if she'd like to join me for a one-day trip to climb the Sinister (as it was dubbed by one of those leaving feedback). It would be her first class 3-4 scramble, and she readily agreed. I woke her up the next morning at 4:30a, and we were soon on our way. Jackie slept most of the way there - she hadn't gone to bed as early as I had the previous evening, but she was caught up with her sleep before we arrived shortly after 9a.

Having driven in on SR88 and Blue Lakes Rd, we found ourselves less than a mile and a half from the peak to the west, near Wet Meadows Reservoir. We could see the peak from our start, but would lose sight of it as we headed off through the forest understory. We avoided the West Ridge which becomes fraught with difficult terrain higher up, instead following the drainage on the north side of the ridge, aiming for a notch on the north side of The Sinister. Our route took us through a small section of badlands - bare slopes with poor footing - that give way to easier ground once the Wilderness boundary is reached at the 8,400-foot level. We had about 1,800ft to climb from where we parked, the upper 2/3 mostly composed of loose class 2 talus. New to such terrain, Jackie tried to stay upbeat about it, but I could tell she wasn't enjoying it much. She would tire from the elevation, too, as there was no chance to acclimatize after our 4hr drive from sea level. Still, she was a good sport and the views that we were treated to during the ascent offered consolation. There were numerous pinnacles in the upper reaches on either side of us, some of which might make for interesting climbs on their own. After an hour and three quarters we finally reached the notch on the north side. We moved onto the east side of the notch and down a short distance to get out of the wind, take a break, and study the remaining route to the summit.

AJ had provided me with a photo from this notch that depicted the start of the route. That, combined with other details he'd provided, gave us all the info we needed to find our way up without having to guess. There are four pinnacles forming the summit that AJ had numbered south to north, the 3rd one being the highest. The route starts on the NE side, going up a shallow ramp above a small snowfield. AJ had described the scramble as class 3-4, so I'd brought a short rope, and some gear in case Jackie wanted it, but most of it ended up staying in my pack. We did use the helmets and Jackie changed into rock shoes before starting up. We left her pack at the notch and took what we needed in mine. The initial ramp was wet with the slow trickle of melting snow, but it really wasn't a problem. The ramp leads to a steep gully between the 3rd and 4th pinnacles. The gully leads to an alcove ringed by cliffs and is a dead-end. The trick is to traverse left soon after leaving the ramp, leading to another gully between the 2nd and 3rd pinnacles. This gully has a cliff at the bottom and the traverse gets one nicely into the gully just above this cliff. The short traverse is the only really exposed part of the whole scramble. The holds are large and fairly solid. I'd give it a class 3 rating, but not for the faint of heart. The 2nd/3rd gully is as fun as it is improbable. It is very narrow, somewhat loose footing, but not overly dangerous. One has to scramble through a short tunnel to get past a lower chockstone. Jackie thought this was the best part of the whole scramble. I had to pass the pack to her to get through the tiny opening at the back. Beyond this, the gully (really more of a sloping chimney) continues up in a steady fashion, reaching a notch 15ft below the summit. From there it was a simple matter to climb out to the right and onto the highpoint of the 3rd pinnacle. It was clearly higher than the other points, so props to AJ and Rafee for getting all those details correct. I had wanted to leave a register here but had forgotten all of them back at home. The views were quite nice looking in all directions, with Raymond Peak to the east and Reynolds Peak to the south. Silver and Highland Peaks could be seen to the southeast beyond Ebbetts Pass. Views north stretched as far as Mt. Rose. It was windy and quite chilly, so we stayed only a few minutes.

Reversing the route went fairly smoothly. Like on the ascent, I let Jackie lead most of the way which she did in fine style. Once back at the northside notch, she changed back into her hiking boots and we set off down the loose slopes we had ascended. There were a few minor falls in negotiating unfamiliar terrain but no real injury, just some frustration that can be overcome with time and practice. It was almost 1:30p by the time we returned to the jeep. I think Jackie would have liked to nap on the drive home at this point, but Dad had other ideas. I told her there were some additional summits I'd like to visit on the way back, all of them fairly short. Jackie would sleep through most of these, but would join me for a few of the drive-ups.

Peak 8,445ft

Located about 3/4mi SE of Tamarack Lake, it can be climbed from the lake easily enough, or with high-clearance, a rough spur road (somewhat brushy) can get you within 1/3mi on the north side where a small, unnamed lake is found. Wander through the woods and some uphill to the broad summit with no discernable highpoint and poor views.

Peak 8,062ft

This is a surprisingly cool little peak, found just off the pavement on the east side, a few miles north of Markleeville Peak. It is a granite dome with some decent scrambling on the steeper north side. I went up the NE side and down the NW side, both fun. The summit is wide open to views. Roundtrip time was half an hour.

Carson Spur

The rest of these summits are found along SR88. Carson Spur is located just above the highpoint of the highway west of Kirkwood, also signed as Carson Spur. One can use the Thunder Mtn Trail half a mile to the west, or an older shortcut trail right at the road's highpoint. The modest summit overlooks the impressive cliffs on the south side of the highway. Fencing along the summit ridge is designed to minimize cornices from building during windy winter storms. It's only a 10-15min hike to the summit and makes for a short outing when you have a little extra time. The same can be said for the rest of the summits listed here.

Castle Point

Found less than a mile west of Carson Spur on the north side of the highway, this easy summit stands 1,400ft above Caples Creek with fine views. One can park either west or south of the summit and follow bike trails to the easy summit. Some summit rocks off to one side *might* be higher and offer some modest class 3 scrambling if the trail is too tame.

Peak 8,190ft

This unnamed summit rises above Silver Lake to the southeast. A minor Forest Service road can be used to drive close to the summit. The highpoint is not where the spot elevation is shown on the topo map, but to the southwest at a rock outcrop ten feet higher. The highpoint has a nice view of Silver Lake and Thunder Mtn to the northeast.

Alder Hill

This one's found north of SR88, off paved Mormon Emigrant Trail and west of Iron Mtn Sno-Park. A very dusty logging road not shown on the topo map goes nearly to the top. The broad summit area is open, very green and has no views, surprisingly.

Peddler Hill

A short drive off SR88 on another Forest Service road gets you within 50ft of the summit. No views.

Beaver Ridge

Found on the south side of SR88, a rough dirt road gets you within 1/10mi of the summit. A barbed-wire fence prevents one from driving the rest of the way to the top. No views.

Armstrong Hill

We were surprised to find a decommissioned fire lookout tower at the summit, a drive-up on the north side of the highway. We started up the stairs, but the first three floors had the steps removed, making it pretty dicey. We decided to play it safe and not climb to the cab. No views.

Cooks Station Ridge

This one lies on private property, just north of Cooks Station and SR88. Signs at Cooks Station are signed for No Trespassing, so I parked to the west and climbed up through forest understory about 1/10mi to the highpoint. There are no views and just a bunch of cut logs lying about with some equipment.

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This page last updated: Mon Jul 13 17:56:01 2020
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