Sawtooth Peak (South), 7970 feet

14 Feb 1999 - by Arun Mahajan

On the 14th of February 1999, on a privately arranged trip, the four of us (myself, Ahmad Zandi, Don Peterson and Roly, the poly little Cairn Terrier) took a walk to the top of Sawtooth Peak in the Southern Sierra.

This is a very straightforward hike with a bit of bushwhacking and route-finding at the later third of the hike. Accurate details are in the book 'Exploring the Southern Sierrra, East Side' by JC and Ruby Jenkins.

After spending a rather cold night at a small pullout on the Canebrake Flat road, we met Don Peterson and Roly (of Ridgecrest) at the dusty junction of 178 and Canebrake Road. The driving on this washboard surface road was doable for my generic sedan and after a few miles we were at the point where the PCT crosses this road. We started walking at 7.45 am on the PCT just as the sun came up in a cloudless sky and very soon we had removed the warm layers of clothing. We reached the saddle mentioned in the Jenkins book which is at about 6300 ft. At this point we took off left, cross country. There is a foreground hill and Sawtooth is the rocky peak that seems to peer over this first hill's right ridge. It is a bit of a slog to go up this first hill but the moist scree made it tolerable and once we topped out, we were in a forest of pinyon pines and low brush. Don pointed out Sand Canyon and Ridgecrest and the Argus range in the distance. Continuing on this plateau and then traversing right we aimed for the ridgeline that is left of the summit hump with it's interesting looking rocky ridge. At 10.45am, we were at the top. We were the first party to summit (sign in) this year. The summit register dates back to the 1960's. The view is spectacular and on this clear day we could make out Telescope and the Panamints, Whitney, Langley and (we guessed) the Kaweahs and the Mineral King group. The view of Olancha is the one that takes the breath away. It dominates the foreground and stands tall and solitary, almost like Shasta. Small wonder that it is an emblem peak.

After a 45 minute summit dawdle and another bout of cross country crashing through brush, we were back at the saddle. Then a pleasant walk in the still warm sun on the PCT that was littered with pine cones brought the journey to an end. It was about six hours for the round trip.

On this day atleast, there was very little snow and the axes remained on the packs.

Much thanks to Don for getting us to the summit with unerring accuracy and for sharing his tremendous knowledge of the beautiful Southern Sierra and to Ahmad for carpooling with me for the long drive to the trailhead from the Bay Area.

Some details:

  1. The Canebrake Flat Road is 9.2 miles east of the Onyx Store on 178, in case you are trying to find it in the night.
  2. The PCT crosses this road, 0.2 miles before coming to the Chimney Creek campground. There is a sign that says so. This is where you start hiking.

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