Climbing History of Angora and Coyote - in three parts
The following three articles about climbing Angora Mountain and Coyote Peaks
Angora Mountain Saga
My, how things have changed in the Sierra since the Sierra Peaks Section was founded in 1955. One example is the approach to Angora Mtn. (10,198’) and Coyote Peaks (10,892’), the two most southerly major summits on the Great Western Divide. Reports in The Sierra Echo and other documents or personal contacts bear this out as follows:
April 21-23, 1956: Six founding members—Frank Sanborn, John Robinson, Chuck Miller, Owen Blackburn, Bud Bingham and Pat Meixner—make a successful independent climb of Angora on a two-day weekend but don’t get back to the cars until the third day. Their report, authored by Pat Meixner (whose married name is Pat Gentry), appears on p. 66 of the October 2005 issue of The Sierra Echo (Vol. 49, No. 5). Two photos accompany the report, and one of these appears in color on the cover. In December 2007, Robinson checks his records and finds that the trip started at or near Quaking Aspen and passed through Lloyd Meadows on the way to the peak and through Burnt Corral Meadows on the way out. He recalls backpacking well after dark on Sunday and not stopping until about 2 a.m. Monday.
June 15-17, 1962: Andy Smatko, Tom Ross and Phil Clayton climb Angora and Coyote on a three-day weekend from, of all places, Mineral King. The three first backpack 4½ miles up to Farewell Gap (10,587’) and then from there climb Vandever Mtn. (11,947’) for good measure. Then, they descend the headwaters of the Little Kern River before regaining elevation to camp on the upper reaches of Rifle Creek. The three complete their climbs on the second day, which involves a gain of 6,000 feet in 18 miles of hiking. The three return to Mineral King on the third day. A report of that trip appears in the November-December 1962 issue of The Sierra Echo.
October 3-4, 1964: Arkel Erb, Gordon MacLeod and Mike McNicholas climb Coyote and Angora on a two-day weekend from Mineral King and return to their car just before dark. Neko Colevins is on the backpack but skips the peaks. MacLeod recalls the peaks were climbed Sunday morning and that the trio found a register entry on a nearby pinnacle left by a pre-USGS survey party in 1873. The party was on the survey of the “100 Meridian”—in their words to “Fisherman Peak,” now known as Mt. Whitney. See article below: ANGORA - COYOTE 1964 - as recalled in 2007 by Gordon MacLeod.
October 15-16, 1966: Rich Gnagy, Barbara Lilley, Jerry Keating and John Peckham plan an independent two-day climb of both Angora and Coyote from near Cedar Slope on Highway 190 (5840’). All but Peckham reach the Coyote Lakes on first day and make the climbs on the second day despite not knowing that a new forest road would have cut the round-trip distance to a mere 41 miles. Peckham, hampered by blistered feet, stops early at Lion Meaows, recrosses the Little Kern (6160’) and moves the car from Highway 190 up to the newly discovered and much better starting place near Junction Meadow (7840’). A report of this trip appears in the October-November 1966 issue of The Sierra Echo. Not mentioned in the report but recalled by the climbers was that a motorcycle rider arrived at the lake on the first day.
September 20-21, 1969: Ron Jones and Don Anderson lead a scheduled climb of Coyote and Angora with only four participants, two of whom drop out along the way. The group starts near Junction Meadow after waiting 45 minutes for latecomers who apparently couldn’t follow the carefully posted arrows to the trailhead. The group follows the Clicks Creek Trail toward the Little Kern River, and two participants reach Coyote Lakes on the first afternoon. Based on the entries they find in the register, Jones and Anderson are the 13th and 14th persons to sign in on Coyote and the first since Gnagy, Lilley and Keating signed in on October 16, 1966. Before that, entries are noted from Henry, Stephenson and Schumacher on September 30, 1965, plus entries from Erb, MacLeod and McNicholas on October 4, 1966. (The date cited for the Henry-Stephenson-Schumacher entry doesn’t match that of the scheduled trip, but that may be the result of a typo in the Jones report.) See the above October 1-2, 1966, entry. See also the November 1969 issue of The Sierra Echo.
May 15-16, 1971: Art de Goede and Bill Wickmer, on a private trip, discover a new starting point for Angora and Coyote because the road north from Quaking Aspen to Junction Meadow is still in its seasonal closure. From near Johnsondale they drive a newly paved road north to Freeman Creek, about one-half mile short of Lloyd Meadows. “This road,” reports de Goede in the June 1971 issue of The Sierra Echo, is bulldozed in at least another mile with further paving apparently the object.” Starting at 9:40 a.m., the two men backpack past Jerkey Meadows and Grey Meadow. Then, a mile beyond Grey Meadow, they meet the trail coming down from Junction Meadow where they originally had planned to start. Next, they cross the Little Kern and reach Lion Meadows. From there, they backpack upward to a dry camp “except for snow” at the 9700-foot elevation. Before dark, they complete the round-trip climb of Angora. On the second day, they encounter snow drifts on a 5½-hour round trip to Coyote but make better time in returning to their car at 7:10 p.m.
May 27-29, 1972: A three-day scheduled trip starts in a newly logged area near Junction Meadow and goes down the Clicks Creek Trail with signs of more logging to come. Leaders are Paul Lipsohn and Bob Herlihy, and 26 persons ultimately are in the group. The Little Kern crossing is easily made, and the group camps at about 7,000 feet along Willow Creek. On the second day, Coyote is climbed first and then Angora with the same Willow Creek location used for camp the second night. “Our fire that night,” reads the trip report, “was rather short, due in part, I suppose, to the 16-mile, 6,500-foot day.” Published in the July 1972 issue of The Sierra Echo, the report mentions that a logging road is planned all the way to the Little Kern. The report doesn’t name the planned road, but it eventually is built past Lloyd Meadows and becomes known as the Lloyd Meadows Road. “Future trips in this area will encounter the results of man’s progress in multiple-use forestry,” concludes the report. “It is perhaps the product of our apathy.”
Summer 1973: Having first visited the area in April 1956, John Robinson returns as an author doing research on a guidebook he and fellow SPSer J.C. (Jim) Jenkins are developing for Wilderness Press. The two start from Mineral King but first head southwestward via Hockett Meadows and then climb Quinn Peak before descending to the Little Kern. From Lion Meadows, they backpack up the Great Western Divide to just north of Angora and then continue along the divide to Coyote Lakes. After climbing Coyote, they eventually work their way down to the Kern River and document terrain there before heading back to Mineral King via the Little Five Lakes, Black Rock Pass and Timber Gap. Some of the routes explored on this giant loop appear in the now out-of-print High Sierra Hiking Guide #13: Kern Peak-Olancha (which corresponds to the 15-minute topographic maps named Kern Peak and Olancha).
July 2-4, 1977: A private trip reported by George Davis in the January-February issue of The Sierra Echo is the second on record to start on pavement close to the Little Kern. “Loggers are pushing roads north from Lloyd Meadows,” reads the report “and these roads will be approaching the peaks as consumption of ‘natural resources’ progresses.” With eight persons, including John Hellman, in the party, the trip starts on “blacktop 2+ miles north of Pyles Camp”
June 9-11, 1979: This three-day trip starts at the Lloyd Meadows trailhead on the first day of a June heat wave. Dave Vandervoet and Bill Russell author the trip report in the August 1979 issue of The Sierra Echo. Russell is kept busy on the trip as he re-plots all of the trail locations on the topos. The second day lasts 10 hours. Coyote is climbed first following the Davis-Hellman route of 1977. Then, Angora is climbed on a day marked by short water supplies. On the third day, the group heads out to the cars via Jerkey Meadows using the bridge across the Little Kern.
May 28-30, 1983: Don Sparks and George Toby become leaders for this scheduled trip when the originally listed leaders are unable to participate. Sparks reports in the November-December 1983 issue of The Sierra Echo that the Sequoia National Forest map is helpful in finding the trailhead at Lloyd Meadows and more accurate in showing the trails than the USGS topo maps. Nine persons participate, and the bridge across the Little Kern is used. As on previous trips, Coyote is climbed first and Angora next. On the third day, the group encounters high water in crossing Deep Creek but safely crosses the stream with the help of a belay. “The trip was rather more strenuous than the leader had anticipated,” reads the trip report, “especially the climbing day in the snow.”
September 13-15, 1986: Bill Russell returns to the area and reports on this three-day trip in the August 1987 issue of The Sierra Echo. Bob Hicks is the second leader on the trip, which starts at the Jerkey Meadows Trailhead and relies on the bridge across the Little Kern. “The topo maps for this area show a trail system that in part is long gone,” Russell advises. “The Sequoia USFS map has the correct trails, but the best map is the 1986 Golden Trout Wilderness map. It uses the topo maps as a base.” The weather is crisp, and camp is established at 7,900 feet at the edge of a meadow along Deep Creek. The second day yields both peaks and takes nearly 10 hours with 15 miles covered and 4,100 feet gained. The 11-mile backpack out on the third day is completed in less than six hours. The gain is given as 1,300 feet. Eight persons—including Jim Murphy, R. J. Secor and Dale Van Dalsem —participate. Seven make both climbs.
June 22-24, 1990: A three-day SPS scheduled trip led by Igor and Suzanne Mamedalin starts at the hiker’s parking lot at the newly constructed Jerkey Trailhead Campground at the end of the Lloyd Meadows Road (SNF 22S82). Eighteen persons start the trip but two sign out at camp on the second day to speed their climbs of Coyote and Angora in order to reach the roadhead that same day. The remaining party members also reach both peaks. The Mamedalins’ trip report appears more than a year later in the September-October 1991 issue of The Sierra Echo. Also, see the SPS website version of this trip, which was marked by warm weather. Go first to: http://angeles.sierraclub.org/sps/ Then, click on Trip Reports on the left side of the screen.
May 23-25, 1992: A three-day scheduled trip attracts 12 persons with a start at the roadhead for the Jerkey Meadows Trail. Leaders are Dave Petzold and Patty Kline. Camp the first night is set up at a meadow on Deep Creek about a mile below the Coyote Lakes Trail. Good water is found 10 minutes below camp. Coyote and Angora are climbed on the second day, which takes about 12 hours to do 15 miles with 4,500 feet of gain. The roadhead is reached at 2 p.m. on the third day. Petzold describes the outing as a “class B death march.” Asked to elaborate, he adds: “A class A death march is where only the leader goes, and only the leader gets the peak.” See Kline’s report in the July-August 1992 issue of The Sierra Echo.
May 26-28, 2001: A three-day SPS scheduled trip starts at the end of the Lloyd Meadows Road (5840’) and attracts 13 persons, including Randall Danta and Reiner Stenzel. Led by Sara Wyrens and Harvey Ganz, this trip encounters some problems with trails not being where the then-current maps showed but puts 12 persons on Angora and seven on Coyote. The trip report by Wyrens (now Sara Danta) appears on the SPS website and in the October-November 2001 issue of The Sierra Echo.
September 7-9, 2007: Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley and Jerry Keating lead a three-day trip to the area around Quaking Aspen to climb Jordan Peak (9115’) and other unlisted summits. In the process, they drive an oiled road that was merely a graded one in 1966 when discovered on the mid-October 1966 trip described above. Along the road is a sign indicating the Clicks Creek trail. It’s clear that the area has been logged, but there also is evidence of replantings. The trip report appears in the January-March 2008 issue of The Sierra Echo.
December 2007: John Robinson, who was on the April 1956 climb, locates a tattered Auto Club outing map of the Inyo-Sequoia region. The map is undated but carries a 1940 copyright, and it shows the road leading into this area passing Quaking Aspen and heading southward only as far as Dome Rock. The map shows no sign of a spur heading northward from Quaking Aspen that would provide a better starting point for Angora Mtn. Meanwhile, Jerry Keating locates a USGS 15-minute series topo (Camp Nelson 1956) that shows a half-mile-long spur that extends only from Quaking Aspen to the trailhead for the descent to the Freeman Creek Sequoia Grove. Keating also retrieves a 1978 version of the Auto Club’s outing map of the Inyo-Sequoia region. Now out of print, it shows what we now know as the Western Divide Highway extending all the way from Quaking Aspen to a junction with less prominent but completed roads leading down to Johnsondale and California Hot Springs. That 1978 map shows a spur road extending northward from Quaking Aspen only as far as the trailhead for the descent to the Freeman Creek Grove. It also shows the Lloyd Meadows Road, which did not exist in the 1960s and some years afterward.
Addenda: Besides The Sierra Echo, two Wilderness Press publications are helpful in understanding this saga. One is Exploring the Southern Sierra: West Side, authored by J.C. Jenkins and Ruby Johnson Jenkins. The other, now out of print, is High Sierra Hiking Guide #13: Kern Peak-Olancha, authored by J.C. Jenkins and John W. Robinson. Both publications contain route descriptions for Angora and Coyote. The first publication (p. 146) reminds us that motorcycles operated on many trails in this area until 1978 but now are banned from operating in the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. Hikers enter that wilderness soon after departing the end of the Lloyd Meadows Road. The second edition of the latter publication is dated July 1979 and carries the following about the Lloyd Meadows Trailhead: “Access point for trails to the Little Kern River, Trout Meadows and Kern River Canyon. Drive to the logging town of Johnsondale, either from the south via Kernville or from the west via California Hot Springs. One-half mile north of Johnsondale, turn north on the new paved road to Pyles Camp and Lloyd Meadows, 20.5 miles. You reach a spur road branching right (east) to Pyles Camp and the trailhead to the Kern River and Kern Flat (Main Trail 3), 2 miles. For the Little Kern and Trout Meadows trail (Main Trail 8), continue north on the main road, passing the Freeman Creek trailhead and the first Fish Creek Meadow trailhead, 23 miles from the Johnsondale turnoff (and ½ mile from road’s end). Park in the clearing to the left of the road. The trail is marked Fish Creek Meadow and numbered 32E12.” Note also that this region of the Sierra is not covered in The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, authored by R. J. Secor and published by The Mountaineers; or the now-out-of-print Sierra Club totebook titled A Mountaineer’s Guide to the High Sierra. Compiled by Jerry Keating with input from various SPS leaders.
COYOTE PEAKS AND ANGORA MTN.—THE EASY WAY . . . . Jerry Keating
From the October-November 1966 issue of The Sierra Echo
A route from the southwest which makes Coyote Peaks (10,892’) and Angora Mtn. (10,202’) reasonable on a two-day weekend was confirmed October 15-16 (1966) by Rich Gnagy, Barbara Lilley, John Peckham and me.
ANGORA - COYOTE 1964 - as recalled in 2007 by Gordon MacLeod
Arkel Erb, Mike McNicholas and I climbed both Angora Mtn. and Coyote Peaks on October 4, 1964, on a two-day weekend backpack from Mineral King, to which we returned just before dark on Sunday. Neko Colevins was on the backpack but skipped the peaks. The trip was memorable in my mind for a number of reasons.
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Updated: July 28, 2008