Muah, Guyot, Chamberlin, Pickering

23-30 Aug 2004 - by Debbie Bulger

The Cottonwood Pass trailhead is a good place to acclimatize since it is almost at 10,000'. Richard Stover and I spent two nights sleeping in the back of our truck at the trailhead; if you prefer, there are free walk in campsites with communal bear lockers.

We warmed up by climbing Muah Mountain as a day hike. Round trip is about 10 miles and is a fun hike through lovely open forest of foxtail and lodgepole pines. We made a loop by leaving the PCT at Mulkey Pass and descending due south to the valley around Mulkey Creek, then hiking east, crossing the PCT to Muah. We returned on the PCT.

We climbed two false summits despite warnings in previous trip reports. We should have realized that the third class stacks were not the high points of this second class peak, but it was too much fun. From the top there are grand views of Olancha to the south, Kern Peak to the southwest, and Langley to the north. During the hike we saw a golden eagle, a Northern Harrier, a red-tailed hawk and four young mallards as well as other more common birds.

The next day we backpacked about 14 miles to Rock Creek. Our objective was Mt. Guyot, a wonderful peak perched on the edge of the Kern River Canyon. In the morning we moved camp to a hidden spot on the Guyot Creek drainage and set off to climb Mt. Guyot after lunch.

From the top we could see much of the route of our 9-day backpack last year when we hiked cross country through the Chagoopa Plateau and over Kaweah Pass to the Kaweah Basin and eventually into Kern Canyon. We also spotted smoke from a lightening-set forest fire burning near Rattlesnake Creek. Guyot is an easy, fun peak with a million dollar view. It too, has multiple summits and yes, I climbed several. I knew the true summit was furthest south; but it was hard to tell if you were at the end of the ridge.

The plan for the next day was to climb to the lake at the head of Perrin Creek so as to be well situated to climb the four surrounding peaks. This late August however, we discovered that the lake was not draining, and the upper reaches of Perrin Creek below the lake were dry. Not sure of the condition of the lake above, we traipsed around the lateral moraines between the Perrin Creek and Guyot Creek drainages until we found suitable water on the upper part of Guyot Creek only a mile above our previous campsite! It was great fun. By then it was noon, so we contented ourselves with climbing Chamberlin from the south. Had we started earlier, we might have had time to traverse the ridge to Mt. Newcomb. Newcomb will have to wait.

Chamberlin's great summit plateau had a great many flat boulders with concave depressions full of water. Here we found a deflated balloon as on every other backpack and observed freshly cut Hulsea leaves drying in the sun for a pica's winter stores. The summit register cylinder was empty. At dusk, as we approached camp, we startled a grey fox. That night we were awakened by a chorus of coyotes.

It was natural history the next day. We rested and explored a lovely pond we had spotted from Chamberlin. The pond housed hundreds of pacific tree frogs colored from bright green to yellow to shades of brown, some as small as my pinkie nail. Every once in a while a Clark's nutcracker would swoop down for a frog snack, taking the morsel back up to a tree branch to consume.

The next day we moved camp to a hidden bench above Rock Creek across from the bowl containing Erin Lake. We were positioned to climb Pickering having noted that the west slope looked icky from the top of Chamberlin.

Pickering's southeast ridge route is a satisfying puzzle. There are hidden ramps to find and cliffs to avoid as you thread your way up. Another register missing-not even a can. I climbed several highpoints searching for the register. Then surprised my daughters by calling them from the summit. We weren't even tempted to traverse the ridge to Joe Devel. It would have taken us much too long.

We hiked out the next day, making a loop by returning via New Army Pass, then cutting south to the Cottonwood trailhead. The trail has been rerouted from that shown on my 1988 provisional topo. In all, a fun week: Four peaks, great views and interesting wildlife.

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