Weldon Peak, Sorrell Peak, Piute Peak, Piute Lookout
12 May 2002
By: George Wysup
HPS leaders Tom Hill and Virgil Popescu planned this trip with an eye to replacing the mundane drive up to Piute Lookout (HPS peak index 2G) at 8326' elev with something a bit more representative of a hike. The lookout is not only lacking in aesthetic values, it is far from being the high point of the Piute range. The lookout has been removed and the remains are four concrete posts above a concrete slab. Tom and Virgil identified three likely candidates for replacement, located about 3 miles to the southwest of the lookout, near the junction of Piute Mountain road and Saddle Spring road. One summit is located at the "Piute" survey marker (8435'). A second summit, about 1/4 mile to the west, appears to be the range high point (8440'+). A third summit, another 1/4 mile to the west, is located at the "Pah Ute" survey marker (8400'+), just east of elevation 8417'. There was some speculation that "Pah Ute" might be the actual range high point, since it is possible that the marker symbol hides a small 8448' contour line.
Obviously, this exploration was not likely to be a full day adventure, so the trip included a significant hike to Weldon Peak and a brief sojourn to Sorrell Peak in order to attract some peak baggers. When the day approached, Tom was not able to attend, so I vultured the vacant leader slot. This peak was to be the List finish for HPS Social Chair Laura Joseph. Curiously, she had already summitted Piute Lookout but refused to count it because it is not a real hike (different folks, different strokes). [Editor's note: See Laura's List Finish article in this issue.]
On a fine Sunday morning the group of 18 assembled at the Weldon trailhead, which served as a very nice car camp spot for some of us. Besides Virgil, myself, and veteran Neal Scott, there were "I" leaders Sandy Sperling and Sara Wyrens, List finishing Laura, peak bagging addicts Ingeborg Prochazka, Tom Connery, Gary Schenk, Pat Brea, Bill Siegal, Lilly Fukui, Val Saubhayana, and the ever smiling Sharon Hechler. We were delighted to have also John Kurnick, Stephen Hara, Hassan Kilany, and Amy Merz.
WELDON: Starting at about 8 am, we quickly disposed of the PCT portion of the hike and ascended the usual second gully and I aimed for the HPS summit (not to be confused with the topo map summit). I confess; I missed, going a bit too far south. We recovered in fine fashion and reached the low class three summit block, which we had a grand time clambering up to reach the register can. No one was inclined to chimney up the last 15 feet to the actual top. We returned to the vehicles at about 1 pm.
SORRELL: We drove past the usual start point for Sorrell in order to ascend the peak from the south side, a pathfinder route for some of the party. In any case, the hike is short and easy, but the summit is quite attractive and the view is outstanding.
PIUTE PEAK: At this point we had lost John Kurnick, Neal Scott, and Sara Wyrens for various reasons and the remaining 15 headed for the Piutes. We drove west on Piute Mountain road, passing the turnoff for Piute Lookout, and continued to Saddle Spring road, looking for a likely place to begin the exploration. At about 1/4 mile I discovered a large and pleasant yellow post camping area on the left and we all parked there.
We discovered a motorcycle trail that appeared to head for the broad ridge up to "Piute" marker. Fortunately this trail turned right and did not go to any of the three candidate summits.
The cross-country walk to "Piute" marker was easy. The summit is very broad and devoid of a summit block. We found the USCGS marker about 10 feet from a small rock pile with an old wooden survey platform and a register can of sorts. There was no peak and no view. We signed in, hoping that the other candidates would be nicer. Several of the party noted their altimeter dial. I edicted that Bill Siegal's Suunto was our standard. He measured 8310' where the topo map specifies 8435' (we were only interested in relative elevation).
List finishing Laura took over the lead. We crossed a saddle and quickly arrived at the high point (8440'+). It was an improvement, with a summit block that offered a modicum of easy class 2 scrambling, and it offered a fine view of the ranches at Walker Basin. On the summit is an aged survey platform and a decrepit wooden box that contained a notebook and a bible. We signed the notebook and again hoped that the last candidate would be nicer. The Siegal Suunto registered 8330', suggesting that this summit elevation is very near 8455'.
On to "Pah Ute". It did not take long for us to reach the last candidate. It proved to have a rather impressive summit block, about 25 feet of high class 2 or easy class 3 on the south side; the north side is much more difficult. We found a Band-Aid can with scraps of paper, which I replaced with a small ammo can and register pad since there was unanimous agreement that this was the best candidate. It has a good view, a fun scramble, and is the longest hike from our trailhead. Also, it has a name on the map (Piute Peak). The Siegal altimeter read 8310' again, indicating that this peak is about 8430' in elevation, slightly higher than the 8417' shown on the topo for the minor bump to the west, but certainly not the range high point (as some had surmised). We noted that another point, to the southwest, has a pretty summit block but is obviously lower. We returned to the vehicles from "Pah Ute".
The trip statistics are about 1.5 miles round trip with 300' elev gain if the other summits are not included. This hike certainly qualifies for an "easy" rating, but at least it is a hike and there is little sign of human visitation.
After we celebrated Laura's accomplishment there was almost zero interest in comparing Piute Lookout. Most wanted to head for home, one vehicle was low on fuel, and Virgil and I had seen it. Only Sandy Sperling bothered to visit the lookout [she later told me that, in her opinion, we should move the register to "Piute Peak" as the official HPS summit].
RECOMMENDATION: It appears to be the consensus of the group that HPS should revise the location of peak index 2G from Piute Lookout to Piute Peak ("Pah Ute" marker). A register has been placed there. All that remains is for the Mountain Records Committee to revise the peak guide and map and to change the peaks list. This action should not require a vote by the HPS membership.
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