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Pilot Knob

23 October 1988 (SPS Trip)

By: Charlie Knapke


Leaders: Dave Dykeman, Roy Magnuson
On Sunday, October 23rd, Dave Dykeman and Roy Magnuson led an exploratory hike to this peak. This peak is behind the private property which recently was closed to Sierra Club access. At 6:30AM, twenty-three people met at the Walker Pass Campground. We got everyone into six cars and headed for a new starting point. About 3 miles east of Onyx is a small ranch which is owned by two Indian brothers. After a ranch hand showed us where to park, we headed north across an old and rickety bridge.

It was a very hot, dry, sunny day though it was actually cold when we started at 7:30AM. We were expecting brush and third class rock. Most people were wearing trousers to protect their legs. This made the heat even worse.

After crossing the South Fork of the Kern River, we headed about 200 yards north up the road. We hiked west up a gully with the peak in plain view above us. The brush was not too bad, but the route soon turned into a boulder scramble. After about 1/2 mile, the brush started to really clog our canyon bottom route. After a short discussion between the leaders, it was decided to try for the ridge which comes down east-northeast of the peak.

Near the top of the ridge the rocks were the size of automobiles and small houses. An occasional class three move was used but these probably could have been avoided.

Then disaster struck. Yours truly was hiking third behind the leader when I touched the wrong rock. Suddenly a three foot diameter boulder was heading down the hill straight toward twenty people. I yelled out the customary ROCK! ROCK! ROCK! Those people were fast! No one was struck directly by the rock due to quick reactions. But one young lady dove through the air and brushed a large rough rock with her bare legs. The result was the loss of a lot of skin. A break was called as first aid was administered. After using most of the contents of more than one first aid kit, she announced that she intended to try for the peak anyway.

The rest of the trip up to the peak was more bouldering. Two of us were carrying loppers though we only made light use of them. Only one person decided to sit down in a shady spot until the rest continued to the peak. We arrived at 1:00PM (5-1/2 hours). A new register book was placed to commemorate the new route. The only recent entry in the old book was made by Lou Breechen in mid-July - a good actor, I've heard. The next earlier entry was made early in the year by Dick Akawie.

After a thirty minute break for lunch we headed back down collecting the 23rd person on the way. We descended by about the same route. I was surprised to find that some people only brought two quarts of water and ran out half way down. The three HPS people had brought four quarts each and were glad to share. After returning to the cars everyone broke out their favorite beverage and toasted a successful trip.

My only regret is that we were too tired to get more information from the ranch owners concerning getting permission to cross the property by mail or phone. I intend to do that on my next trip into the area.


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