Sorrell Peak, Weldon Peak, Piute Lookout, Mount Jenkins, Morris Peak, Bald Eagle Peak, Lightner Peak
By: Carleton Shay
Leaders: Jenifer Lambelet, Carleton Shay, Dave Jensen
This was to be the famous Big Four led by David Eisenberg and Jennifer Lambelet, but the winter weather damage to Santa Barbara canyon and the damage to David Eisenberg's knee ruled it otherwise. Santa Barbara canyon is closed for the summer, perhaps for the whole year. Carleton Shay substituted for David, and we decided to do some peaks in Areas 1 and 2.
Saturday we met at the Jawbone Canyon turnoff from Highway 14, left Irv and Janet Bartel's car there and proceeded to the northern Kelso Valley approach to Sorrell since the Geringer grade was closed. The weather was beautiful. The Jawbone Canyon road seemed to have been graded recently, but the Piute Mtn Road was in bad shape. Nevertheless, Jennifer's Volvo made it; a good thing, since her two dogs took a lot of space. All ten of us, including Jennifer's dogs and John and Carol McCully's dog polished off Sorrell in a little over a half hour. We then left for Weldon, but after a mile the drivers of the first three cars noticed that the fourth wasn't there. After waiting a while, Dave Jensen went back, then Carleton. It turned out that the McCulys were stuck off the side of the road, but had just been pulled back on by two men we had seen eariier. Thus we ate lunch before we started hiking towards Weldon. After trying several false summits, we found the correct one and were back at the cars in three and a half hours.
Bagging Piute LO didn't go as smoothly as planned either, since several snowbanks blocked the road almost a mile from the peak. It was cold and windy by then, and we were certain to have to drive part of the way to camp in the dark. It took 50 minutes for the round trip to Piute LO.
We planned to climb Jenkins and Morris on Sunday, so we decided to eat at Homestead and camp at Walker Pass Campground. However, we were so late getting there the restaurant was closed and we all had slim pickings for dinner.
All ten of us set off for Jenkins and Morris via the PCT from Walker Pass at about 7:30. The McCully's decided to do only Morris, so we left them at the second rest stop, which coincided with the starting point for Morris. The rest of us continued on to Jenkins, on which we had lunch. The avalanche that roared down near the summit two years ago really tore up the use trail and made it especially difficult for the dogs. They whined and yelped when they couldn't get over some of the rocks, both ascending and descending. Clouds were developing in the north and west, and by the time we were on Morris were somewhat threatening. By the time we were about two miles from Walker Pass the thunder was booming, and we could see an occasional lightning strike. It was obviously raining west and north of us, and we went as fast as we could trying to get to the cars before we got wet. It sprinkled some, but fortunately didn't become a downpour until we were safely back at the cars.
Jennifer decided to return home, the McCully's had already left, and judging by the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading east over Walker Pass, most of the campers in the Lake Isabella area (where the main storm seemed to be) were heading for home too. But the Bartels, David Jensen (who was now coleader) and I still wanted to do Lightner and Bald Eagle, so we decreed that the storm was only an afternoon shower, and headed for Lake Isabella. We were right, since the sky was clear and sunny by the time we got there.
We got some gas, and split up, Dave going to the Bald Eagle turnoff from the Bodfish-Caliente road, and the Bartels and I heading for the restaurant dinner we had missed the previous evening. After eating I went to join Dave, and the Bartels were going to camp in Wofford Heights and join us at 8 am Monday morning along with Theresia Glover and Harriet Edwards.
Heading up the Bald Eagle road a few hundred yards, I could see a locked gate ahead and Dave Jensen parked nearby. By lucky happenstance, someone had driven up the road earlier and had given Dave the combination! He was visiting a friend at a mine, and said that the road should have been open by Memorial Day, but wasn't for some reason, and that the road was fine up to Bald Eagle. Talk about luck!
Hiking Bald Eagle was uneventful except that Theresia and Harriet didn't show up, and the brush on Bald Eagle has become vicious. Later, on the road to Lightner, we met George Schroedter and Walia Ringeler who had just finished Lightner and were heading for Bald Eagle. They had had a hail storm on Piute LO the previous evening, and had been turned back by a gate between Piute LO and Bald Eagle. They were unaware of the lower gate we had encountered, and were pleased to have the combination.
Bald Eagle and Lightner each took us about 1 3/4 hours. We headed home immediately after lunch, probably beating the worst of the weekend traffic.
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