Homer's Nose

10 Oct 1998 - by Mark Adrian (view roster page)

WARNING : the following route passes through a patchwork of private inholdings. NO TRESPASSING signs are clearly posted, starting with the gates at 5,200'.

Discouraging tales of brush, poison oak, ticks, ripped clothes and battered psyches seem to be the "norm" for reports from the "standard" southern route up Homers Nose, this otherwise innocuous western Sierra peak that's "innocently" nestled just inside the southwestern corner of Sequoia National Park. We had originally planned to take the traditional route up this peak (via South Fork and Clough Cave) and suffer the consequences as had our precedent peers. But not being one to always follow the trend, it was mandatory for me to assess all the options. It was suggested to me by my friend Brian Smith (soon to be SPS list finisher) that we consider an approach from the north since his preliminary research revealed roads yielding access into the area. So, acting on some dated but essential information passed on to me from Ron Hudson, we set out to forge what was to hopefully be a better, or at least easier, route than that from South Fork. Foremost, we didn't want to hack through brush and poison oak (been there, done that). Directed by Brian's information, I scanned (aged) 7.5' maps for the area around Homers Nose which actually reveal a variety of route options. However, none are as "short" as the route from Clough Cave coming up from the south. But, keep in mind, "short" is relative when you're hacking/groping through thick brush. Anything would be better than that, especially after reading all the compelling reports. Odd that some of the more astute SPSers and PCSers hadn't researched these options. Anyway, to get to the point and after much map assessment and deliberation with my hiking friend, Brian Smith, we decided to scout out and hopefully succeed at a route from the northwest that was originally pioneered by Ron Hudson back in 1996. However, thanks to Brian's observations, we were able to refine Ron's route in to a dayhike and specifically, we came at the peak out of Oak Grove, which is not much more than a place name along the Mineral King road. We arrived near Oak Grove in the dark Friday. The 7.5' map revealed a nearby "4WD" track that could ultimately get us to about 6000' on Salt Creek Ridge. If this all panned out, that would eliminate any intense brushwhacking, deposit us beyond/above any poison oak threats and have us ideally situated conveniently on the Salt Creek Ridge ridgeline where we'd be in "easy" forested terrain, above the thick brush-laden slopes that blanket the peak's lower flanks. The big question was, was this 4WD track good and was its bridge over the East Fork intact? A quick recon Friday night revealed the bridge was indeed intact and superficially the road was too, in fact, it looked in excellent condition, but, for how far? Saturday morning, we'd find that out and much more. Departing Saturday just before 7 AM under ideal Fall conditions, we quickly made our way over the bridge and continued walking up an excellent dirt road that, had there not been a locked gate at the pavement, we could have driven up to 5,400' (mountain bikes are a viable option up to and perhaps beyond here). The roads shown on the latest 7.5' map (Case Mtn., CA, 1987, 40') are not quite accurate in the (Case Mountain Grove) area, so good intuition and compass bearings are necessary to lead you from about the 5200' contour along the remaining 4WD track shown on the map, to where it intersects the better road shown at 5870T. Some old residual 4WD tracks and some newer 2WD roads are not shown on the 7.5' map, but, it's not too difficult to navigate through this area. From the 5870T intersection, we followed excellent dirt roads southeast towards point 6015T along Salt Creek Ridge. Keep in mind, there has been virtually NO brush whatsoever until this point! We were beyond exhilarated having avoided that dilemma we'd heard too much about. From the vicinity of 6015T, a sometimes-faint and patchy use trail warbles up the sometimes-steep SCR ridgeline to the 9040' summit. Some minimal brush is encountered along the way, but it's virtually inconsequential. The bigger obstacles, if that's the right word, are several large rock croppings along the ridgeline that can be passed by dropping off the ridgeline's apex as needed. The forest in here is lush pine. Despite this though, there isn't too much redeeming value in this long approach (other than brush avoidance), except for a few rare Giant Sequoias that haven't been cut down around the 5500' elevation. However, the summit views are well worth the effort. And perhaps most dramatic, are the sheer granite faces of Homers' southern walls, rivaling those of perhaps, Yosemite. With breaks, lunch and navigational checks, our ascent time was 7.5 hours, we arrived on top about 2:30 PM, the good ammo can left by Doug Bear is still intact, not many people climb this isolated summit. We spent nearly an hour on top, basking in the sun and enjoying the clear views to the east and north. We departed the summit at 3:30PM and retraced our exact path as best we could back to the dirt road near 6015T. Once back on good dirt road near twilight, we relaxed a little. The glowing, nearly-fluorescent orange sunset against the nearby towers and walls of Castle Rocks and the Sierra was stunning and almost surreal. We arrived back at the trailhead at 8:30 PM (well in to dark, take headlamps), making for a 13.5 hour dayhike, not really all that bad. After several adult beverages and copious amounts of chips, we departed for Wolverton/Lodgepole. We dayhiked Silliman (extremely clear summit views, amazing how little snow is left in the Sierra) on Sunday and then returned home. My estimate for the Homers' roundtrip via this northwesternern approach is 22 miles, 6500' gain (net), extreme class one+, 12-14 hours. However, I had my Avocet altimeter accumulator running and the ascent's "gross" gain was 7,200'. But, since there are several dips along the ascent/descent, the total day's gain for the roundtrip was nearly 8,000'. There were several small streams flowing along the way, but residual evidence of cattle was also noted, so a water pump is prudent. Furthermore, public access to these dirt roads is blocked by locked gates. We saw a lot of fresh tire tracks en route, but never saw anyone.

Mandatory maps : 7.5' Case Mtn.; 7.5' Silver City Route notes :

Thanks to Brian Smith and Hillery Royer for their collaboration and quality camaraderie in making this a great and satisfying adventure into the "great unknown". I'm sure over time, this route description will become refined. We found the hike to be enduring yet enjoyable, especially as a Fall dayhike. Some may desire to backpack, but we felt a dayhike was certainly a doable endeavor as we've proven. It was actually quite fun "engineering" a route past the dreaded brush we'd heard so much about which added to the day's satisfaction.

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