A Memorable Memorial Weekend
Well, I didn't get the 15 peaks that I planned to, but I did have an exciting time the Memorial Day weekend.
Friday - Scodie Mountain - alternate route. The driving instructions are way too complex. As you drive north of Mojave on Highway 14, your compass Jawbone canyon on the left and then the Randsburg Road on the right. At 16.7 miles past the Randsburg road, you come to a group of deserted buildings on the left and you turn left just at the end of this group of buildings and head west on a dirt road which becomes marked with "SC51" signs. Stay on this road for approximately 8 miles to the end where a sign says "Kaveah Wilderness." The west end of the dirt road (SC51) is shown in Cow Heaven canyon on the Horse Canyon Quad.
Turn around very carefully here or park before you get to this point. I got stuck in the soft sand on the downhill side of the road and even with letting the air out of the fires and using my shovel, I dug my van into a hole about 15 feet off the road. Fortunately, a camper down the road took me to the Jawbone canyon ORV BLM ranger station (about 20 miles each way) where the desk clerk was able to radio contact a ranger with a pickup and a chain. We were finally able to get my van back on the road and by the time I was able to pump up my tires (with a bicycle tire pump) it was 3:30 PM. Use the Auto Club Kern County map and the Horse Canyon and Walker Pass topos.
I went up the ridge and two hours later hit the peak. The view was great and coming down was fun (only 40 minutes).
Saturday - Morris and Jenkins
I drove back to highway 14 and left on Indian Wells Canyon road to the kick off point for Morris and Jenkins. Again the driving instructions are too complex and the road is very difficult for a van and I would not take a passenger car in here. There are a lot of deep ruts from all the rain (a lot of wildflowers, too).
Use your 1972 Owens Peak topo as a road map and follow the dirt road to the "Pack Trail" just north of Buena Vista canyon and south of Morris Canyon (also due east of Three Pines Cyn on the left edge of the map). You walk through a deserted mining camp and follow the canyon (trail) up to the saddle marked 6565' where you pick up the Pacific Crest Trail.
For Jenkins, do not follow the ridge directly to the peak. Follow the PCT about 1.5 miles to the ridge leading to the northeast from the peak. If you follow the ridge like I did, you will have to circle around or climb up and down (3rd and almost 4th class) several peaks (sentinels) before you get to Jenkins. Some of these vertical ascents/descents are very hairy with lots of exposure and this route will add 3-4 hours to your trip. It was pretty exciting, though!
Sunday - Owens and Five Fingers
To get to the trailhead for Owens, follow the Indian Wells canyon dirt road to the end. There is a little "O" marked on a sign post at the junction that takes you to the Morris/Jenkins starting point. Bear to the right at this junction. The old write-up that I have says that you can drive into a small parking area near the Indian Wells creek, passing an Owens Peak wilderness sign until you come to an old clearing near the creek. Continue up the jeep trail, it follows the canyon all the way and becomes a good ducked trail. Do not leave the jeep trail and cross the creek as my writeup says. If you do, you will slog through a lot of brush on what used to be a trail and you run into the real trail later. Eventually, you start to climb a ducked gully filled with white rocks. Continue up this gully until you see another gully to your left which has black rocks. There are supposed to be ducks leading you to your left, but I missed them and again found myself scrambling up a 3rd class chute until it got too hairy. I went back down and around the rocks to the left, found the ducked trail up the black rock pile and got to the peak after five hours. The view was great!
For Five Fingers, you park near the bee hives and head up toward a gully between the westernmost finger (the peak) and the one next to it. Peter Doggett tells me that you go betweeen these two peaks before going around to the left. I went around the west side of the peak and again found myself going up some hairy 3rd class chutes. I tried several of these but always stopped 3 - 5 feet below the ledge that gets you to the very top. I never did find the ducked trail that gets you to the correct chute. These 3rd class chutes really get the adrenalin pumping when you are alone and hanging on by your fingertips.
Monday - Tehachapi and Double Mountains
I got an early start because I wanted to do Black Mtn #3 and still get back to town for a going away party. On Sunday, the weather in the desert was in the high 80's, so when I started, I left my fleece jacket in the van. When I got to the top of the road on Tehachapi (7000'), there were lots of snow drifts that I had to climb over. There was snow all the way to the top. I looked to the south and saw the microwave tower on Double and a lot of fog blowing in from the west. Double Mtn was completely covered in snow! By the time I got to the peak on Double Mtn, I was surrounded by fog and the visibility varied between 25 to 50 feet. I was not able to see the microwave towers and Tehachapi Mtn had disappeared off the face of the earth.
Somewhere on the way up Double Mtn, I lost my topo map. It probably would not have helped because of the visibility, but having the map gives me a sense of security. I never found the peak of Tehachapi Mtn on the return (it was not visible). Using my compass, I got to the top of a ridge and started down in a northerly direction. There were some steep gullies going down the north side, but they were covered with snow and it was too slippery to go down. I decided to head in a NNW direction. At the top of the ridge a light hail started and turned into a light cold rain. Fortunately, I had my Goretex rain gear and waterproof glove liners so I stayed warm and dry. When I got to elevation 6800' I came across a jeep road and took it in a northerly direction. Every time the road forked I tried to go north or northwest, but the road switched back and forth sometimes going in a southerly direction. I resisted the temptation to leave the road and head due north, which in the worst case scenario would get me to the town of Tehachapi or highway 58.
There is a strange feeling that you get when you are lost and alone and you are hoping to find civilization before dark arrives. Fortunately, I had my compass, extra food, water, and clothing, and two flashlights. These provided some emotional comfort.
After wandering around for about 3 hours and not knowing where the heck I was (but going down and north), I came to the paved road leading back to the park and I arrived at my car about 4:30 PM. Visibility was still poor as I headed home until I reached Mojave where the sun was shining.