Lava Buttes

15 Jun 1998 - by Pat Ibbetson

I got bored after dinner tonight and decided to go climbing. I should have stayed home.

I once again headed to the Baldy area, this time with my hopes set on either Buck Rock (via the ladder to the lookout tower of course) or Big Baldy itself. I arrived at the point where the General's Highway crosses Baldy's north ridge only to find everything in sight buried in the bottom of a large and ominous thunderstorm looking cloud. I then went around the corner to try Buck Rock only to find that the road was only plowed for about half of a mile. It was already past 6pm and the hike would have been about 3 miles each way. Under the best of circumstances, I would still have to hike back to the car in the dark, so I passed on this as well.

Instead of going home I decided to go check out the Lava Buttes, a collection of 4 volcanic peaklets between Buena Vista Peak and Hume Lake. Sadly, the drive down the winding road in the shadows of Park Ridge was more enjoyable than the climb.

According to the map on the Topo! CD-ROM, there is a logging road that leaves Ten Mile road and heads south almost directly south of the southernmost butte. What the Topo! map failed to indicate is that there are two campgrounds on the north side of the road, one directly accross from the logging road.

The highest of the 4 buttes, and the one without a benchmark, is the southernmost, which I headed for at about 6:20. After finding my way to the campground I reached an incredibly dense thicket of Manzanita and Buck Brush which made for a painful hike to the base of the butte, a column of basaltic (or something similar) rock protruding from the top of a small cone shaped hill. I push through the brush to reach the north side of the column, where I found a class 3 route that went almost to the top without any trouble. The column appeared to be split down the middle by a large crack, with an enormous Live Oak growing out of the top of the northernmost half. The only tricky part (the only part that required any brains or any physical exertion) was doing the limbo under the low growing branches of the tree without falling off the side. Once past the tree the crack had to be crossed to reach the southern half of the columb, which was a mere 4 or 5 feet higher. Unfortunately with the thunderstorms obscuring the major peaks, the view from the top was, for all intents and purposes, non existent.

The familiar outline of Buck Rock drifted in and out of the cloud base but other than that the only things that could be seen were the western (6,082 ft) and middle (6,130 ft) Lava Buttes, both of which were completely forested on top and had no visible rock pinnacles. Although I wanted to climb all four summits, I headed back to the car, trying to avoid as many thorns as possible, and went home. This was, without a doubt in my mind, the most worthless peak I have ever wasted my time on. Perhaps the view into Tehipite Valley would be something worth seeing on a clear day, but other than that it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. If for some reason you are in the area with some time to kill, perhaps it would be better spent exploring the gorgeous creek that flows along the west side of the peak into Hume Lake.

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