Thu, Oct 11, 2018
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Day 2 in the Wishon/Courtright area of the Sierra National Forest was a lot more enjoyable than the first day. With the peaks closer to the TH, the mileage and elevation gain were both significantly less. The area around Courthright Reservoir is far more scenic than Wishon Reservoir, the former featuring a host of impressive granite domes - it's pretty clear why rock climbers flock to Courtright and mostly ignore Wishon. It also helped that the weather was nicer today. Though still cool, it was more of what one expected on a sunny Fall day in the Sierra - yesterday's cold breeze and overcast skies were a bit unpleasant. I was up early today, around 5:30a, spending the first hour converting the jeep to daytime use and then driving from yesterday's TH where I'd spent the night to Courtright Reservoir. After crossing the dam at the south end of the reservoir, I drove to the end of the pavement where the Dusy-Ershim OHV road begins. This 31mi OHV route goes all the way north to Kaiser Pass on SR168. It is rated most difficult and for good reason. I drove only the first mile of this route before parking where I planned to start my loop hike. I found just the short portion I drove quite challenging, going at a speed no greater than I could hike. I was happy to be done with that, parking the jeep off to the side, just past where the Blackcap Trail forks off from the OHV route.
I started hiking at 7a, following the OHV route for the first mile and a half. This took me past the Voyager Rock Campground, a huge area dedicated to OHV camping overlooking the reservoir. Just beyond this, the crux of the route is encountered. A difficult rock garden to be negotiated to reach a very steep granite slab climb at an angle approaching 30 degrees. I would have liked to do the granite slab climb in the jeep, but the rock garden to reach it looked beyond my abilities and probably my jeep's as well. This slab leads up to the rounded, lower shoulder of Maxson Dome's SW Ridge. There was a fine view of the fog enshrouding the reservoir in the early morning from this point, soon to begin dissipating. The route follows along the ridge for a short distance before dropping to the north side of Courtright Reservoir where it begins a long ascent up the Dusy Creek drainage. I left the OHV route on the lower shoulder and continued up steepening slabs to the summit of Maxson Dome, nothing harder than class 2. I reached the top around 8:10a, finding a memorial cross but no register (I found none on any of the day's summits, also left none). PG&E had placed a survey marker at the summit, no doubt during the dam's construction. Views were open in all directions on this granite dome, the best of the day.
I descended the easy NE side of Maxson Dome until I reached forest, then angled east and southeast towards Long Top and Corral Mtn. I crossed the Blackcap Trail just below the pass on the west side, climbing back up to the ridgeline on the SE side of the pass. From there I contoured around the north and northeast sides of Long Top in order to hit Corral Mtn first, without having to gain and lose extra elevation. The going was most through open forest, quite pleasant as was all of the 8.5mi of cross-country I did on this loop. It was nearly 10a by the time I reached the rounded top of Corral Mtn, views mostly blocked by sparse trees, but there was a partial view of the White Divide far to the east. Corral Mtn would mark the day's highpoint. I descended Corral Mtn to the saddle with Long Top, then climbed up this lower summit, an easy, unhindered walk along the forested ridge. Reaching the top an hour after leaving Corral Mtn, I found Long Top's summit forested as well, rounded with no obvious highpoint and weak views. I probably should have continued south and southwest along the ridge to enjoy views and an easy descent down more granite slabs (which I only realized after climbing Voyager Dome). Instead, I used the GPSr to set a more direct course for Maxson Meadow where I parked the jeep, down 1,400ft of forested slopes.
It was just past 11:30a when I reached the jeep, not quite done yet. I had seen Voyager Dome on the drive in and even better on the descent from Long Top, and decided to add it to the itinerary. As it was only 1/3mi from where I'd parked, there was no need to drive anywhere just yet. I grabbed my rock climbing shoes just in case the summit proved tricky. This impressive granite dome has a huge East Face wall that looks to have challenging rock routes. The north, west and southwest sides are less severe and offer scrambling routes to the summit. I went the north side, finding nothing harder than easy class 3 (though some old barbed-wire caught me by surprise), enjoyed the views from the summit (my pics from there were blurry, unfortunately) and descended the class 3 southwest side. This shorter loop took me all of an hour.
It was still early, so I decided to add one more, Power Dome, found 1/3mi from the pavement on the southeast side of the reservoir. This easy-to-climb minor dome overlooks a unique geologic feature, but unfortunately again, my photos were out of focus. At one time in eons past, the Dusy Creek drainage (in which the reservoir sits) drained out through Lost Canyon and down to the North Fork of the Kings River. Helms Creek eventually undercut the Lost Canyon route, forcing the flow to redirect, leaving Lost Canyon high and dry (thus the name, "Lost" Canyon). I plan to climb Lost Peak on Day 3, which lies between the two canyons, so hopefully I'll get to explore this interesting feature a bit more.
It wasn't yet 1:30p by the time I finished up, but I thought it a good time to call it quits. I would spend the afternoon writing and relaxing and getting perhaps a bit tipsy. A most enjoyable day in the Wilderness...
This page last updated: Mon Oct 15 15:43:08 2018
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