Tehachapi Mountain P750 HPS / PD
Double Mountain P2K ex-HPS / PD
Black Mountain P500 ex-HPS

Sun, Jan 16, 2005

With: Matthew Holliman

Tehachapi Mountain
Double Mountain
Black Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Still in pursuit of HPS peaks, Matthew and I were up early, around 6a at the Mojave Motel 6. Mike had gone back home, so it was just the two of us out for a few peaks in the Tehachapi range of Southern California. It hardly seems like its own range, really just an extension of the Southern Sierra, but it would seem that the powers that be have decreed that the Sierra should end at SR58. Much of the Tehachapis and its highest peaks are on private property, and over the years the HPS list of peaks for this region has dwindled from seven down to two. In summer these are both pretty easy, so it was good that we had the challenge of Tehachapi Mtn in winter (Black Mtn #3, our other peak, would prove as easy in winter as it is at other times of the year). Tehachapi Mtn was first on our list, so after packing up and getting some breakfast we were on our way up SR58 heading to the town of Tehachapi. The town is located at around the 4,000ft level, where the highway peaks between the Central Valley to the west and the Mojavi Desert to the east.

We drove through town and headed south to Tehachapi Mtn County Park. Snow was continuously on the ground as we drove up past the 4,500ft level, most of the area facing north and well shaded from the sun's winter rays. We drove to the end of the road, which in winter is among a group of cabins and a large commons-use building. From the bus parked in the small lot, we guessed a church group had rented out the cabins for a weekend of winter snow fun. There were only a few folks out this early in the morning, but the lot was practically full. We took a spot at the very end closest to our TH, and at 7:30a we were ready to head out, donning snowshoes from the start.

There's no real TH with a kiosk and map as at other places, so we wandered through the cabins heading generally southeast, all the while looking for a snowed-over road that would lead us up the mountain's north side. Past the cabins we came across the county park area, complete with BBQs and picnic benches, all covered in snow. Not finding the road indicated on our map (and not really trying very hard to find it), we headed straight up the steep, forested slope. This got our blood moving in a hurry, and we were soon stopping to remove our jackets. Though we got little sun on this hike, we were never cold once we'd started uphill. Our direct line of attack eventually intersected the road that switchbacks up the north ridge to about 7,000ft. We were happy to use the road even if it meant taking longer. It was more enjoyable to hike along a gentle incline without having to exert ourselves, and for the next half hour our so we were just sort of cruising along. There were some tracks in the snow, most of them old, but a few fairly recent from the last couple of days. The last of these had disappeared as the hikers had turned around not long before the end of the road. When we reached the end of the road ourselves, we simply continued following up the ridgeline. There were no cliffs or excessively steep sections, and we were easily able to negotiate the route in snowshoes all the way to the summit where we arrived at 9a.

The summit area is both rounded and wooded, making it hard to find the summit register and compromising the views. I scratched around some suspicious-looking rocks, but found nothing around the base given some five minutes of digging. The only open view was to the south where Double Mtn rose up a couple miles distance with a 700-foot drop to an intervening saddle. Matthew had had enough by this time and had no interest in continuing on. He wasn't tired, just bored. Snowshoes and poor views do nothing to excite him. Double Mtn and the intervening land are all on private property (and so is the summit of Tehachapi for that matter), and the peak was delisted from the HPS roster some years ago. That didn't quell my interest at all, especially since I was enjoying the consolidated consistency of the snow, quite ideal for snowshoeing. Matthew graciously offered to go back and wait in the car while I had my way with the other mountain, and so we parted at Tehachapi's summit.

The south side of Tehachapi was a bit more consolidated as one might expect from the southern exposure, and though moderately steep I had little trouble on the descent. I came across several roads unmarked on the map, and it was only after these encounters that I realized the private owners of the land were logging interests. I came across areas that had been thinned of trees but no clearcuts, and generally I thought the place looked particularly well-managed. I thought about forestry interests and wondered if our usual model of public ownership under the stewardship of the Forest Service was basically flawed. This latter model encourages logging interests to reap as much timber from a section of land as allowed, with little incentive to maintain sustainability. Cut and move on to the next piece of land. Private ownership, on the other hand, means that the land will have some value when there are trees on it, less so once the trees are cut, and the private owner assumes all liability. Thus, if they decide to rape the land for all it's worth, the remaining land will have less value and come out of the corporate bottom line. This seems like it would encourage more responsible harvesting in order to maintain the land value. Anyway, I'm not a trained accountant nor economist to know if this makes sense, but it seemed like a reasonable conclusion as I wandered down through the forest enjoying the trees, the blanket of snow, and the feeling of solitude like I was in the middle of nowhere.

Modifying the HPS route as drawn on my map, I took a more direct line to the West Ridge of Double Mtn making use of logging roads where I could, and shallow drainages elsewhere. At the ridge I chose to take the direct line up rather than follow the meandering road that makes its way up the slopes of the mountain to the summit. This proved quicker and a stiffer workout, and less than an hour after leaving Tehachapi I was at the west summit of Double Mtn. As the name implies, there are two summits. The west summit is marked as the highpoint, but from its apex I could not tell which of the two were higher. The east summit is covered in a fairly new communications complex which I visited in turn to make sure I had covered all my bases. The views from Double were better since there were fewer trees to obstruct the views, and to the south and west I could see other similarly high peaks (Covington and Cummings) of the Tehachapis (also delisted). Beyond these to the south was the Antelope Valley, the Liebre Mtns and the San Gabriels. To the west stretched the southern end of the Central Valley, walled in by the Tehachapis, the San Rafael Mtns, and the Los Padre National Forest rising up to the 8,831-foot Mt. Pinos near Frazier Park. Some twenty feet higher than Tehachapi Mtn, at 7,981 feet Double Mtn is the highpoint of the Tehachapis. From this vantage point it felt like the southern end of the Sierra range rather than a separate range on its own - but I will leave that to the geologists to debate.

It took almost another hour to retrace my steps back to the summit of Tehachapi, then I set off down the north side of that one. It was 10:40a when I left Tehachapi's summit for the second time and I wasted little time making a speedy descent. Leaving the switchbacking road to its own devices, I took the more direct line down the steep slopes under the trees. I managed to slough off most of the loose 3-4 inches of snow atop the harder underlying layer as I stepped and slid my way down. Each time I came across the road I would bring down a large load of snow as I dropped in from the high side of where the road cut into the mountain. I would climb off my pile of debris and then start again down the next section. In this fashion I was able to complete in 25min what had taken an hour and half on the ascent, and I was back at the cabins just after 11a. I lost Matthew's tracks as I wandered through the campground towards the cabins, and it seemed as if he must have found a different way back. Indeed, I found later that he had missed the turnoff to the cabins and continued down the slope another mile before realizing his mistake - more adventure than he had planned.

There was considerably more activity at the cabins now that the occupants were awake and busy packing things up after a weekend in the snow. A line of about ten kids was sitting along a fallen log noisily talking and mirthmaking as I walked by. They were curious about my snowshoes and one of them asked where I came from. As I paused to answer, the others all began to chime in as well, and soon it was chaos and confusion as a few mothers watched from the side, smiling. The kids were more interested in telling me about how much fun they were having in the snow than hearing what I had to answer. Having kids of my own, this didn't really surprise me, and after more noisy banter I left the talkative kids to the care of their mothers.

I found Matthew back at the car reading, though he didn't get as much of it done as he had expected due to his unplanned detour. I packed up my stuff and we headed back to town - next stop, Black Mtn #3.

Following our trusty HPS directions, we headed west through suburban Tehachapi towards one of the easiest peaks on the HPS list. Though not a drive up, it involved only 1,500ft of gain over the little more than a mile it takes to reach the summit. The trailhead is given relative to a home address, and sure enough we found ourselves parked alongside an undeveloped lot next door to one of the homes. It struck us as very funny, this hill-in-your-backyard kind of peak, and we took lots of useless pictures with plans to create a joke mountain page on SummitPost. The climb was as different from the morning's peaks as could be. No snow, few trees, more like a walk up a sloped cow pasture. In fact there was the usual evidence of cows all the way to the 5,686-foot summit. It took us all of 40 minutes to reach the top where we were rewarded with surprisingly good views. Clouds from the fog-shrouded Central Valley were working their way up the canyons to our west, and the town of Tehachapi was laid out in all its glory to the east. Bear Mtn (another delisted HPS peak) rose to the west, connected to Black Mtn by a long ridge starting to the south of us, that looked like it would make for an interesting hike as well. We found the HPS register to which we attached our names, and after taking more pictures we made our descent via the same route we'd taken up.

It was just after 1p when we got back to the car, still plenty of daylight, but we were out of HPS peaks in the vicinity - we would have to settle for an early return to the Bay Area. We stopped in town long enough to have lunch at the local Subway (a very popular place in Tehachapi, it seems). We ate our lunch outside on a strip of grass in the mall - the closest thing we could find to a natural setting. At the time it seemed humorous, but in restrospect "pathetic" is probably a better description. Oh well, another end to a successful long weekend chasing peaks...

No pictures from Tehachapi or Double since I forgot my camera. Doh!

Subalpine Sam comments on 01/31/08:
Bob, if it makes you feel any better, I learned in my Geography of California and my Geology of California classes that the Tehachapi range is just a subrange of the Sierra Nevada. My guess is that it gets excluded from the greater range for "political" reasons, e.g., most of the Tehachapis are in private ownership, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to include them in a guidebook about the Sierra.
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