Pilot Knob, Pinyon Peak
By: Alan Coles
Leaders: Alan Coles, Frank Goodykoontz
As expected there was a heavy demand by peak baggers to do Pilot Knob so the leaders were relieved when only 43 souls turned up at 7 am in the familiar Walker Pass campground on Saturday morning. We set off quickly and drove the 13.0 miles west on HWY 178 to the private road that leads to the Stone's residence. We drove about 1/2 mile on this well graded road to a good sized parking area just before the bridge over the South Fork of the Kern River.
I had driven up there only 6 weeks before with some scanty information given to me from Dave Dykeman who led the peak a year ago for the SPS. Fortunately, with what information I had, I was quickly able to find the correct road and drove up to the residence that more or less controls access to the land. Ms. Josephine Stone, a Native American of the Tubatulabal tribe, was quite congenial and gave consent for us to pass over the land. I offered to give her a small donation when we would come through but she seemed very modest about the proposal.
With a large group size, I had everyone carpool in as few vehicles as possible and most everyone keep the noise to a minimum until we were well past the residences. The bridge over the river was in fairly good shape but I would not recommend driving over it in a car. Besides, it is only a short distance (about 100 yards) past the bridge that you come to a gully that leads almost directly to the peaks.
Charleton Shay was with the Dykeman group and described a route which they took. They had crossed the gully shown on the topo that is SE of the peak, ascended half way up the east ridge, then traversed across and over to the south ridge then taking the standard route to the top. With many large and loose rocks, difficult terrain and heavy brush in spots on the slopes, I chose instead to follow the gully as far as possible and try to work our way to the familiar south ridge. This route seemed to work well with the group except for some slippery rocks in the bottom of the gully. We worked our way up and around a non-serious waterfall (dry) at the 4800' level and headed straight up and met the south ridge at the targeted 5500' level. From there the standard route was taken and all 43 made it by lpm with (pause) Austin Stiratt, Shirley McFall, Mickey Sharpsteen (1st list completers) and Betty Stiratt (2nd list completer) leading the way (with a little guidance on those tricky rocks). Congratulations to them all! (Note: not quite a record as Martin Feather, Mary Brooks and yours truly finished on Pisgah and Frank Goodykoontz finished for the third time).
An hour was spent on top getting everybody (yes, everyone!) to the summit and back down safely with the usual celebration of food and drink (the bubbly stuff was served down at the base of the summit block).
At 2pm we set off down the peak and more or less stayed in the same general direction as we had come while finding better routes along the way which made much better progress. Once back in the main gully, the large group was broken into 3 separate groups of varying speeds with the first ones arriving back around 5pm and the last ones around 6:30pm under a rising harvest moon.
Back at Walker Pass, a party was held for those still able to stand with a large community salad. A few hunters drove by looking for a camp site but seeing the army there with virtually every nook and cranny filled with cars turned them away.
The next day a more manageable group of 16 starting at a relatively late time of 8am met at the same spot for Pinyon. We drove the short distance to the lodge area and took the standard route (with permission from the owners) to the peak which was reached around 11am. After an early lunch, we retraced our steps back to the cars reaching them at 1pm.
Some important notes:
Since this is a new route up the peak with little or no evidence of any foot traffic, it would be wise to give the description of what seemed to be the best way to do the peak (our route on the way back). So here it is: From the cars, cross bridge and proceed about 100 yards to where the SE gully crosses the road (not shown). Stay on the S side of the gully and walk up a gentle wide grassy slope crossing over a small saddle at the 3000' level and enter the stream bed. Follow up along the side of the stream for about 1/4 mile, then ascend about 30' on the north side to a bench which has several grassy meadows (dry in fall). Follow this bench which works very well for about a mile then descend back into the canyon when it starts to narrow and the bench disappears. Continue up the gully to around the 4800' level (where it begins to bend on the topo) and work your way west up and around the dry waterfall. Head due west to the ridge meeting it at the saddle at elevation 5500'. You can avoid some brush by going slightly to the north of the ravine that heads from the "blue line" gully to the 5500' saddle-just below the 5600' on the topo. From there take the standard well ducked route to the summit. Distance and gain: 6 mi rt, 34001 gain, strenuous.
Many thanks to all participants (too numerous to list, sorry) and many thanks to Frank "I never met a peak I didn't like" Goodykoontz for a highly successful trip.
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