Tomhead Mountain P1K
Black Rock Mountain P500 CC / WSC
North Yolla Bolly P2K CC / WSC
Star Mountain P1K
Brushy Mountain
Dubakella Mountain P900

Mar 31, 2015
Black Rock Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 Profiles: 1 2 3


Day 2 in the Yolla Bollys had me going to North Yolla Bolly, the other P2K found in the region. The previous day had been a long one exploring the area around South Yolla Bolly on a long 26mi hike. This one would be series of shorter hikes that would be punctuated with driving between THs. Easier, but still a long day.

Tomhead Mountain

Tomhead is a P1K that lies about 10mi southeast of North Yolla Bolly, really just a high bump on the latter's East Ridge. A trail extends between the two, but I would not be hiking it today - it might be a nice hike but I wanted to get to some other summits besides just these two. Tomhead is home to a USFS lookout tower and consequently has a road going to its summit. I drove most of it in the van the previous night, finding the gate below the summit closed. I had to back down in a harrowing manuever to turn around and find a place to sleep for the night. A weak storm had moved in during the night bringing winds and some precipitation. With the snow level around 7,000ft, Tomhead got rain while North Yolla Bolly would get some snow and freezing rain. It was very overcast in the morning with Tomhead buried in clouds. There would be no views for the day's first summit. I hiked less than a mile to the summit (downfall along the way would have prevented me driving to the top even if the gate had been open), finding the lookout locked and shuttered. Some fresh lumber at the base told of renovations either under way or planned. The highpoint is found in a clump of rocks off to the side of the lookout. I climbed atop these before heading back down. In all I spent 30min on the hike, not so much considering it was nearly 40mi of dirt road driving to get here.

Black Rock Mtn/North Yolla Bolly

These two summits are found on several peak lists in addition to the NYB's P2K status. They are most commonly reached from SR36 via a long narrow, winding paved road to Stuart Gap. From Stuart Gap, a dirt road leads to the TH higher up from the saddle. Using this approach from Tomhead would have meant driving back down to Red Bluff and then up SR36 and the road to Stuart Gap, probably 3-4hrs of driving. This would have been most distasteful. Luckily there are other options, lesser Forest Service roads that connect Tomhead more directly with Stuart Gap. I had no idea if these were driveable in the van, whether they had been even cleared of winter downfall, or whether snow/mud would prove a problem. I was happy to find the roads clear and driveable, or mostly. I had gotten to Rat Trap Gap, only two miles from Stuart Gap when I was stopped by a sign saying the road was closed one mile ahead. Resigned to having to drive down to SR36 (at least I didn't have to drive back to Tomhead and Red Bluff first), I was excited to find there was an alternate road to Stuart Gap starting about 4mi below Rat Trap Gap. It made an extra 6mi or so of driving, but it saved many more miles and several hours over the SR36 route. At Stuart Gap was another closed road sign to Rat Trap Gap, this one attributing the closure to a slide. The dirt road to the Stuart Gap TH was in good shape and I arrived without additional trouble not long before 10a.

The two summits are only a few miles apart along the same ridgeline, most easily combined in a single outing of 9-12mi depending on the route. This would be the longest hike of the day, taking about 4hrs. There was no snow at the TH, but it made its appearance within the first 15min of starting up the trail. It had the feel of a winter outing - a cold wind, foggy conditions, snow on the ground, but without the real dangers of winter. The snow was really just a dusting though there was some older consolidated snow found on north-facing slopes. When I reached the saddle on the main east-west ridge, I found ice-encrusted trees and shrubs with the clouds blowing over the ridgeline. I had gloves and balaclava as I made my way west towards Black Rock Mtn first, another lookout-topped summit. Off to the left of the trail I had fleeting views of the terrain below, but only enough to see that a fire had swept over the area in the not-to-distant past. By the time I reached the lookout around 11:40a, blue skies were breaking out periodically - it seemed the storm was on its way out.

The lookout was in awful condition, neglected over the decades. The bottom section of stairs was missing, probably by design to keep the curious off the dilapidated structure. Ice coated the western face of the lookout, having been blasted through the night by freezing rain and fog. I explored several likely looking rock outcrops that vied to be the highest, finding neither benchmark nor register at either location. By the time I started down some 15-20min later, the skies were clearing and I finally had a view east to North Yolla Bolly.

It took about an hour to get from Black Rock to the summit of North Yolla Bolly. I failed to make use of a trail that goes to the summit because it goes from the saddle along the north side of the ridge which I mistook for another trail heading downhill. The cross-country scrambling wasn't too bad though and barely any brush to contend with, so there was little lost. I managed to find the trail aqain in the forest before reaching a high saddle between the two summits, only to lose it again due to old snow and a poorly-defined tread. The highpoint is the northernmost of the two points. A benchmark is located here along with a leatherbound register book placed in 2000. In marked contrast to the general lack of registers I found in the area, someone had lovingly prepared a beefy container for the handsome register and perhaps that contributed to it lasting as long as it has.

By now the skies had virtually cleared and blue sky was dominate. The clouds that remained served only scenic purposes, no longer of any threat. The storm had cleared out the haze and left crisp air in all directions. Immediately to the south was the lower south summit (which I did not visit) and over its left shoulder could be seen South Yolla Bolly in the distance. Tomhead was visible now to the east, Black Rock framed in the view to the west and Mt. Shasta visible far to the north.

From the summit I spotted what looked like a faint trail traversing a talus slope heading north. I knew that it would be a much shorter route off that side if I could find a way around the cliffs present on the NW aspect of the mountain and went off to investigate. Whether it was an actual use trail or not I never really deciphered, but the route off the north side was a good one. Cliffs were easy to avoid by staying north and not veering to the left too early and after a steep descent through forested slopes one eventually comes upon the trail that forks off from Pettijohn Basin and goes around the north side of North Yolla Bolly. After reaching this trail I had intended to follow it back to the junction, but the cross-country was working so nicely I simply continued down on a more direct path to intersect the main trail about half a mile from the TH. By 2p I was back at the Stuart Gap TH where I found it had finally warmed enough to forgo the gloves and get by with just a tshirt.

Star Mountain

Forest Road 35 runs from Stuart Gap down to Forest Road 30 which then drops to SR36. Along the way, Road 35 goes by Star Mtn, a P1K that rises along the ridge northwest of Stuart Gap. I parked at the edge of the pavement about 1/3mi from Star's summit and climbed easy forest slopes to reach the top. The trees had been thinned not long ago ("thinned" is a euphemism for "we'll take some now and come back for the rest later"), so aside from some slash littering the forest floor, there was no brush or other hindrance. A cairn had been built at the top amognst the manzanita found there. Andy Martin had left a makeshirt register in 2010, John Vitz being the only other visitor in 2011. I was in elite company ("elite" is a euphemism for "crazy"). The views are extremely limited due to the trees, about all I could recognize was the north side of Black Rock Mtn through a gap in them. Not much to this summit.

Brushy Mountain

This was just an easy bonus peak I spotted on the GPS as I drove down Road 35 from Star Mtn. It doesn't even have 300ft of prominence. The use of a side road got me within 1/2mi from the south. A downed tree blocked the road leading to the top, otherwise I might have had only to walk about 30ft. The summit was very brushy and devoid of views altogether. Even less alluring than Start Mtn, and consequently why neither Martin nor Vitz bothered to visit. I was feeling a little dirty counting this one...

Dubakella Mountain

This P900 proved to be more interesting than I had expected. The summit is located a short distance south of SR36. The route I had planned was something like 4.5mi one-way. It was getting late now and I was worried about running out of daylight. I also had to admit I was getting tired. There are a number of old logging roads shown on my GPS that get closer, but I had no idea how accessible they were. I tried one, finding it marked for no passenger cars. Another was gated and signed for No Trespassing. I went back to the first one and decided to give it a try. It wasn't in the best of shape but I managed to drive the van within a mile of the summit. It would have to do. My route would be hard to reproduce with only a written description, starting up a long forgotten logging road, then cross-country up a steep slope, then along a good road I wondered if I could have driven on, then more steep cross-country, then finally an OHV track that leads to the top. I covered about 1.5mi in just under an hour, happy that I was able to actually get up this one. The summit is clear of trees providing fine views. A wooden structure (a lookout?) once stood at the top, but it was all just a pile of wood, rock and broken glass. Empty beer cans completed the scene.

Flush with the success of reaching the top, I decided to explore an even shorter route off the north side, following the motorcycle track to its end, then dropping further north along the ridge before making a right turn to follow down through forest cover to the NE in a direct line to the car, all in less than half an hour.

I would spend the next hour+ driving back down to SR36, then east for a few miles, then north on a Forest Service road to Deerlick Springs. This decent road was paved at one time which means that it has some serious potholes now that one needed to watch out for in the fading light. I followed Dennis Poulin's directions for the eastern approach to Chanchelulla Peak where I planned to hike the next day. I spent the night tucked away in an unofficial campsite along Chanchelulla Creek about a mile SW of Deerlick Springs. It occurred to me that if I died here in the night it could be months before anyone might chance upon my decomposing body. Not the best of thoughts to drift to sleep by in the Wilderness...


Kirk D. from Sparks comments on 04/28/15:
Enjoyed this re-set of a backpack to Black Rock and North Yolla Bolly. There was 5'+ of snow in the summit hollows on July 4, 1998. YIKES ! What a difference. With the general drying up of the west one hopes the Foxtail Pines on North Yolla Bolly fare better w/ regards to the bark beetle infestation, which is reeking havoc on the Whitebark Pines. Surprised to see the BR Lookout still standing !
anonymous comments on 05/10/24:
I was listening to an allegedly true story on YouTube recently about the Tomhead Mountain lookout in Trinity National Forest. I have no clue if you are still active or not but just in case, is there any way you can verify if this story is true? I was not able to find any news articles from the time period the story takes place in.

The story begins at timestamp 30:53

Attachments area
Preview YouTube video 3 True Scary Fire Lookout Stories

Since I don't plan a return visit, I have no more access to additional information than what you can find in the Internet, sorry!
Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Black Rock Mountain - North Yolla Bolly

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