Rockin' out on Rockhouse

15-16 Oct 2004 - by Will Mollandsimms

On October 15th my partner, Judy Molland, and I drove out from San Luis Obispo to the Domeland's to climb Rockhouse Peak. We arrived at Big Meadow at around seven P.M. and bore witness to an amazing sunset. We set up shop at the South Manter Trailhead and crawled into our sleeping bags before nine.

We awoke around six-thirty to a brisk 28-degree morning and were heading down the trail by seven fifteen. The trail initially gradually ascends for a few tenths of a mile before you reach a divide and a big wooded sign welcoming you to the Domeland Wilderness. The trail then gradually descends for two miles or so until you reach a trail junction. Looking at the myriad of signs here can be somewhat confusing, but it's really not that difficult. Although both trails point to Manter Meadow the one that veers right goes to the eastern side of Manter Meadow, which is where one would go to Climb Rockhouse Peak. The other trail goes to the Western side of Manter Meadow. We jaunted off right to the east.

The meadow itself is very striking. Even in mid-October with most of its vegetation long since dried up, its size and views of the surrounding domes is quite spectacular. After perhaps a mile we came to another trail junctions. This one goes off to the south to Church Dome. We continued north on our trail for another mile or so until we came to Manter Creek. Here there are yet more signs. On the south side of the stream there is a large "Trail" sign that points to the north side of the creek. On a north side of the creek there are two signs. A "Manter Trail" sign and a "Trail" sign. The "Manter trail" continues up to Little Manter meadow while the "trail" contours around to the north side of Manter Meadow and then to the western side and back to Big Meadow.

We followed the Manter trail towards Little Manter Meadow. The trail is virtually invisible as it leaves Manter Meadow, but it become more easily negotiable the farther from Manter Meadow you go. There is another wooded sign hundred yards or so from the aforementioned trail junction where the trail is more easily recognizable. The trail gradually descends a few hundred feet as it more or less follows Manter Creek. At Little Manter Meadow the trail really does disappear, but at the far side of the meadow there is a White Diamond about six feet up on a tree signifying where the trail goes. It is here that Manter Creek breaks off and goes south and the trail becomes harder to follow. At first there are marked trees helping point out the trail, but they eventually disappear. We never lost the trail, but it is easy to see how one could lose it. After a short section of steeper elevation gain we came close to a pass and could see Rockhouse Peak to the North. From here to Manter Meadow it is probably 3 miles.

We left the trail before reaching the actual pass near a very large natural cairn about six feet high and six feet wide. We went up a canyon filled with somewhat recently burnt out trees and shrubs and then contoured right until we came to large plateau with the granite dome of Rockhouse Peak looking over us. If you're heading for the east face is easier to scoot right and ascend the sandy slope near the bench between Rockhouse and the small peak to the east. We decided to try and climb the boulder and brush field directly in front of Rockhouse instead. Although it is doable, it is a bit of a bushwhack and not all that enjoyable. We finally got around to the east face and walked up some low angle granite slabs to the base of the face.

The section that we ascended was more of a large ramp with good handholds and footholds than a face. The book calls it class three but I might call it class four not because it is at all difficult, but because a fall on the face would definitely not be a good thing. Once above the face there was more walking up low angle granite and then one third-class move before you reach the top. We got to the summit at about 11:45. The views from the top are very nice. There's a great view of Bart and Taylor Dome's as well as countless other dome's near by and nice views of Olancha, Whitney and the Palisades far off in the distance. We sat on the summit for half an hour basking in the glorious sunshine. The weather was perfect, upper 60's with a light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. We were the first people to sign the register since May. I suppose it wasn't shocking that we saw nobody the entire day then. After being lazy on the summit we clambered back down Rockhouse and back to the trail.

We had a leisurely hike out and returned to the car at about 4:30 after a long, but enjoyable 17 mile day hike. Pretty good considering this was by far the longest hike I've done since I had knee surgery in June. We picked the perfect day to do it as well as the first storm of the year hit the Sierras the next day. All in all it was just another perfect day in the Domelands.

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