Lightner Peak, Bald Eagle Peak, Piute Lookout, Weldon Peak, Sorrell Peak
13 September 1997
By: Diane Dunbar
When Carleton Shay and I decided to lead this trip, we had no idea that Hwy 14 would be announced closed due to a washout at Red Rock Canyon. This was the route Carleton had decided to take, meeting 2 people at the junction with Jawbone Canyon Rd. Since this route was no longer available at the time of our trip, Carleton, who never gives up, chose to take Hwy 5 to the Lamont turn off on the other side of the Grapevine, Hwy 184, and then turn on Hwy 178, following the Kern River Canyon to Lake Isabella, meeting the Jawbone Canyon 2 and the Sylmar Rideshare Meeting people at the Bodfish Post Office on the Bodfish-Caliente Road above the lake.
Carleton had xeroxed a map of the driving route, along with a writeup detailing the reverse order in which we would be climbing the peaks, and written driving directions to the meeting place. We met the group in Sylmar, handed these out to them, and left for the meeting place in Bodfish. Luckily, Carleton had had two phone calls inquiring about the trip and was able to tell them the peak order would be reversed, so that they did not show up thinking they were climbing Weldon the first day, etc. The only unfortunate incident here was that David and Suzanne Michels had no way to hear about the change. This was not a SASE but a car pool meeting point. So, they arrived thinking they could climb Weldon on Saturday, wasting a trip to Sylmar. Sorry guys!!! We had no idea who to call.
Believe me, it's a long drive to the Bodfish P.O.! Talk about the middle of nowhere! It's a remote, lovely area, rolling green farmland with oak trees. Everyone arrived as scheduled, and we set out to caravan to the first peak, Lightner, (via road 28S06).
Lightner is a cross country peak at the end of a ridge - there is a dirt road which is followed for a short way in the middle of the hike. It is very heavily forested. It took us 45 minutes to get to the peak from the cars - we had a long lunch break and celebrated Maura Raffensperger's 200th peak. Congratulations, Maura!! Thanks for the champagne. We reached the cars 2 hours and 5 minutes after we left them. This really is a pretty peak.
What a lot of dirt road driving this weekend! Lightner was just the beginning. There was a lot of really pretty country, and we were always in the position to see it, from all those high roads.
Maura and her husband, Dave Beymer, left after Lightner, this being her 200th. A trip to Wales was coming up in a couple of days for them, making them both anxious to leave and go home to pack. The rest of us headed out to caravan across the valley and follow a high dirt road (27S02) to the access point to Bald Eagle. This peak is really an impressive rock edifice, reached across a rocky and brushy ridge from the dirt road. Carleton found a wonderful use trail on the way back, on the south side of the ridge with hardly any brush at all. It took us 1 hour and 5 minutes to get there from the cars, and a total of 1 hour 55 minutes to return to the cars by the good use trail.
We continued up this long road (our tires never touched pavement again until Sunday afternoon) for about 13 miles, on high ridges with an unbelievable view until we reached Piute Lookout. The last few miles of this road are for 4 wheel drive only, so we consolidated into fewer cars. One of the participants had a new 4 wheel drive vehicle, was not familiar with the 4 wheel drive controls, and had forgotten their glasses to see the controls clearly, so after several tries in a bad place, Carleton stepped in and put it in gear and was a hero. Embarrassing, but how else does one learn? Oh, well. That view from Piute Lookout is spectacular! What a terrific spot for a lookout. You could see across the Sierras and 360° across such beautiful tree covered mountains! There was no register on the peak, so good old Leon went to his car and got one and we placed it after signing it. From there, we came back, picked up our cars, returned to the place where the Piute Mountain Viewpoint road had branched off, and had our car camp dinners, first prize going to Harvey Ganz, who somehow prepared a hot turkey dinner plate, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy, eating it all like a king on a folding picnic table with a look that said, "I always do this." Patrick Wood was raving about the wonderful teriyaki noodles fixed by his wife, Jane. Richard Whitcomb and Judy Hummerich, from San Diego, had arranged to meet us here Sunday morning, but surprised us Saturday night. I, of course, slept like a Queen in my beloved Pathfinder (my favorite all time toy in my whole life), on an egg crate mattress in my warm sleeping bag on my favorite pillow with a view of the stars through the pine branches in the hatchback.
In the morning (after such a peaceful night!), we set out to drive and hike to Weldon. I was looking forward to leading Weldon, never having been there (or to any of these peaks, for that matter) and knowing that it was challenging cross-country navigation. On the hike all was going well; I had planned to zero right in on the peak in all those thick trees and rock piles by means of a bearing from the top of a ravine. The peak is labeled on the recent USGS map at the same UTM as written in the guides, and it is this peak to which I was headed. I called it when I thought I had reached it, but Carleton, who had been there before, said this was not it. Carleton had been there 4 times in 3 years, and said there was always some searching going on to find it, that he had only seen it gone directly to once, when he had happened to find it right away. Apparently a lot of people have searched for the actual peak on this ridge almost every time it has been climbed. The ones who find it sooner are usually people who reach it from memory, they have been there before. Well, we retraced our steps a bit, returning a couple of times to the same place by different thinking, using our maps and compasses as best we could in the extremely limited visibility on the ridge. Finally, Carleton said, "I remember going left here and finding it." He led out in a direction which made no sense and came right to it!!! It is really a very impressive and beautiful summit block. We finally solved the puzzle when we realized that it was definitely not the one labeled on the map, and it has an entirely different UTM. I have xeroxed a portion of the map showing the top of the ridge where Weldon is located, with the HPS register summit block peak circled on it, and am including it with this writeup, hoping it will be printed herein.
As part of the Mountain Records Committee, I am also working on a Weldon Pk HPS map, and hope that this will make it easier for people climbing it in the future. Harvey Ganz put his head together with Carleton and I to solve this puzzle; it was a fun headachy experience and one I always enjoy. As Carleton said, in reference to the fact that people have had difficulty finding this peak in the past, "Well, this explains the last 3 years." It points out the need for detailed study by the mountain records committee members to help Charlie keep track of all these 275 plus routes! One guy can only do so much, and he has quietly done a wonderful job, most of them are very accurate. He really needs our help to find and correct the few discrepancies that exist. This also applies to any hiker with the nav knowledge to convincingly portray a valid correction of a written HPS guide or map. (This does not, by the way, include slight discrepancies in road mileages from one point to the next. These, for some reason, come out a little different in different cars!!!) If you can do it in black and white and send this to Charlie Knapke, you can help.
After Weldon, we headed out to our last destination, Sorrell. This is, as the others, a long dirt road drive, with a short climb to a spectacular jagged peak with the usual awe inspiring view, common to all the peaks on this trip. Boy, did we travel around in that area that weekend, all of it full of beautiful forested views. As we headed home, it took us hours just to get down to the pavement on Kelso Valley Road, and then what seemed like hours to get back to Hwy 178 above Walker Pass. I came all the way down 395 from there to Hwy 58 and over to the 14 in Mojave and home. Carleton later told me Hwy 14 was open, he got up his nerve and drove that direction on the 14, hoping that was the case, saving the long 395 to 58 to 14 route. Oh, well. Hey, I forgot to mention that on the road to Sorrell, Patrick Wood had a flat, and after climbing the peak, we helped to change it before we started home. What a trip!!! Participants: Carleton and Diane, Leo Rosario, Haven Fearn, Rosemary Campbell, Jane Gibbbons, and Judy Hummerich.
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