Nine hikers (R.S., Mike McDermitt, Ron Hudson, Gary Bowen, Scott Sullivan, Elena Sherman, Ted Lenzie, Vishal Jaiswal, Leslie Hofherr) met on Sat, 7 am, at the Mineral King Ranger Station where we picked up our wilderness permit. After marmot-proofing the cars with chicken wire we set off by 8:30 am on the Tar Gap trail. It switchbacks 1000' out of the Kaweah River valley and then contours for 12 mi at the 8200' level to Hockett Mdws (8500'). It is a pleasant hike through forested terrain with many stream crossings. Wildflowers were abundant.
Hockett Mdws was lush and green but already infested by mosquitoes. At the unmanned Hockett Mdws Ranger Station we took the trail to Cahoon Rock. By 3 pm, we made camp at a small stream 0.5 mi east of Cahoon Rock. Since it was too late to attempt the "Nose" we had a relaxed afternoon at our camp in an open forest (UTM 11 349333E, 4027092N, NAD27, 8950'). Some climbed Cahoon Rock (9278'), others went down to Evelyn Lke (8700') for a swim and trout fishing. We caught 10 large trout to supplement dinner. A campfire kept the mosquitoes away. Since the next day would be a long one we retired early for a 4 am rise.
On Sun, the group started hiking by 5:20 am. We climbed to Cahoon Rock where the trail ends and an approx. 5 mi XC roller-coaster ridge leads to Homers Nose. It started with a 1200' drop into the 8,000' saddle where Cahoon Creek starts. The ridge has about half a dozen peaks separated by saddles. We climbed some peaks, skirted others around the SW or NE slopes. We got plenty of bushwhacking experience. But a good portion of the ridge was open forest and easy to traverse.
The first ones reached the summit of Homers Nose (UTM 11 344106E, 4027829N, 9021') by 7:30 am. Although the air was a bit hazy there was a great view over the San Joaquin Valley, the distant San Rafael Mtns, the high peaks of the Great Western Divide and the Kaweahs. We signed the peak register as the first hiking group in 2002 discounting a fire crew which helicoptered to the summit earlier. Due to different hiking speeds our group was spread out but in contact by radio. By 8:20 am we were all together for a summit picture. Then it was time for the return.
Attempted by easy forested slopes to the north we got a bit sidetracked toward Cahoon Mdw which later required us to reclimb the ridge. On either side of the ridge we had our bushwhacking experience. By 12 noon, after a 10 mi, 7 hr XC round-trip, we were back in camp. We had lunch, packed up and started our 14 mi return at 1 pm. If it was not for the morning exercise it would have been an easy hike out. But mile after mile the legs got more tired and it took till 6:45 pm to reach the cars.
Luckily, no cars were damaged by the marmots. Mike chased one of these fellows out of his engine hood. By 7:30 pm we cruised down the Mineral King road with its hundreds of switchbacks for a midnight return home. In spite of the long trip we all had a good time and were glad to have made one of the less commonly climbed SPS peaks.
My special thanks to Mike who volunteered on a short notice to be our assistant leader and did such an excellent job. We missed our original co-leader, Sara Wyrens, and wish her best recovery from her accident.
Mike McDermitt adds:
The ridge hike was interesting. Among the numerous old trails in this area, we found one which descends from Cahoon Rock and goes out to Homer's Nose. In certain places along the ridge we followed it. Note that the streamlet alongside which we camped appeared to be seasonal; after Horse Creek, Evelyn Lake might be the only dependable source of water for late season visitors.
Total R/T mileage for the weekend was 35 to 38 miles. The mileage from Mineral King to Hockett Meadow is 11 or 12 miles (Harrison map states the former, trail signs state the latter) and our camp was another 2 miles beyond that. The mileage to Homers Nose from Cahoon Rock depends somewhat on the precise route taken. The ridgeline route measures about 3.75 miles. Actual mileage with traverse seems to be 4 = to 5 miles, depending on choice of route. The trade-off of course is going directly over the bumps and incurring altitude gain/loss versus sidehilling traverses around the bumps for less gain/loss. In retrospect our second group took a nice blend of the two on the way to the summit (see below).
Vertical gain/loss would also vary somewhat with route. Our route incurred an estimated 1000' of gain outbound from Cahoon Rock (plus another 200' from camp) and 1700' of gain on the return. There is also 500' of gain on the hike out from camp. The hike into camp incurred 1900' gain, for a total gross gain for the two-day trip of about 5,300'.
Cahoon Rock (9278') itself has a large grassy open summit area which would accommodate camping although no water. There is a nice view from the namesake rocks (a few boulders rising ~15 feet) but no register. Ron Hudson found, and we descended, an old trail from Cahoon Rock down to Evelyn Lake.
Two of us made an unplanned but short and not unpleasant visit to the vicinity of Pt. 8318, north-northeast of Pt. 8837. This ridge has an open sandy area with a 2-foot cairn, as well as an old trail along its east side, indicating that it has also been visited by others in the past.
ROUTE FROM CAHOON ROCK TO HOMER'S NOSE
There is an obvious gully which descends from a few feet south of the summit rocks, in a southwesterly direction. With this gully as the starting point, make a steep descent of 1000' in open forest more or less directly to the broad saddle east of Pt. 8387. One can proceed directly over Pt. 8387 or, as we did, ascend a hundred or so feet then traverse on the north side and contour around to the next saddle directly above Cahoon Meadow. The old trail is visible in the vicinity of this saddle, as are side routes apparently heading north to the meadow and south down to the Kaweah South Fork.
We followed along the trail which generally followed the ridge pretty closely until just south of Pt. 8446. Here we stayed high about 100-200' below the point and worked through a short distance of some heavy brush on the left (south/ east) side then continued along the ridge on the north side as I recall not directly on the ridge. We traversed the north side of Pt. 8837, ascending to perhaps 8600' (which gives a fair indication of our traverse line) as we went along, then dropped back down to 8500' at the next saddle.
From this saddle immediately east of Pt. 8837, we headed east and slightly north, traversing the backside of Pt. 8921 (the front side of which is the Nose) crossing at the bench at the ~8700' level. Then back down to the north side of last saddle. From there, we made the simple hike up to Homers Nose, another 400' to 500' through open woods.