Spanish Mountain and Tehipite Dome
(A cross country approach)

27-28 Oct 2006 - by Nile Sorenson

My friend Doug Mantle and I knew the end of the climbing year in the Sierra was closing but we figured we could squeeze in a couple more peaks. We started hiking at the Crown Valley Trailhead. Our objective was to climb Spanish Mountain the first day, then camp somewhere near Crown creek. On day 2 we would climb Tehipite dome and come out--A lot of mileage (35?) with lots of up and down for this late in the year with the shortened days.

As the trail goes east from the trailhead, we stayed to the right toward Statem Meadow. The trail continues toward Spanish Meadow and passes just to the north of Spanish Lake. A trail junction is reached between two lakes at 8632 ft. These lakes are located about three quarters of a mile east of Spanish Lake. The easternmost of these two lakes is no longer a lake, but a grassy marsh.

At the junction we dropped our packs to climb Spanish Mountain and followed a use trail that starts heading east. It soon turns south and heads up the gully to a saddle just north of Geraldine lakes. From the saddle, it is class one to the summit of Spanish Mountain. We returned to the packs at the twin lakes.

Our intention was to camp somewhere east of crown creek, so we needed to go to Crown Valley. The map shows a trail heading northeast from Lake 8632 toward the crown valley trail just west of crown valley station. This trail is not maintained and is very difficult to follow due to the downed timber. We had to use a compass to stay on a heading to meet up with the crown valley trail.

Back on the Crown Valley trail, we headed east. This is a good trail all the way to Crown Creek which was easy to cross this time of year. After crossing Crown Creek, the trail (now called the Blue Canyon Trail) is not maintained and has a lot of downed timber and becomes very faint in places. We found several areas to camp on the slopes east of crown creek near the park boundary at 7200 ft. Two of the streams east of crown creek still had a little bit of water even in the end of October. Make sure and set your altimeter to this known elevation. You will need it later.

The next day we were up early and headed for Tehipite dome along the trail going east toward Blue Canyon. Recheck your altimeter before you leave camp. Some write ups suggest climbing to 8600 ft. before leaving the Blue Canyon trail for cross country travel south along the ridge down toward Tehipite dome at 7700 ft. We found an easier method. Here is where your compass and altimeter come in.

Leave the trail at 7850 ft. (approximately UTM 410890) and head south going through the saddle just east of peak 7877. Note you leave the trail before it crests the ridge. Traverse at 7850 feet as you cross the ridge, and then start a gradual, traversing, descent toward the creek that divides peak 7877 and peak 8401. Time your descent so you will reach the creek at 7650 feet. Never go below 7650 feet. Once you have reached the creek at 7650 ft., gradually ascend as you continue to traverse toward a tiny knoll at UTM 417885 and 7760ft. From near the knoll, stay at 7700 feet until you reach the ridge which heads south-southwest toward the dome. Once on the ridge, follow it south to the dome. Make sure and keep track of the route so you can go back the same way. This is a rather easy traverse, never losing more than 200 feet in elevation. It saves climbing clear up to 8600 on the way in and then back up to 8600 feet on the way out. We even found some game trails with no bush whacking.

By the way, the climb up the dome is listed as class 3. Yes, it is a class 3 move on a slab, but there is major exposure at this spot. A slip will mean almost certain death, so if you are a little uneasy with exposure take a small rope.

Tehipite dome offers a spectacular view of the Middle fork of the Kings River and the Gorge of Despair (aptly named by its appearance). Tehipite dome is a huge dome that you never notice until you are on it or beside it. We followed the same route back to the trail traversing through the same creek and back up to 7850 ft. and rejoined the Blue Canyon trail.

The next 7 hours took us to the cars just before dark. A great fall trip.

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