Kaiser Huntington

4-5 Apr 2008 - by Steve Eckert

The Huntington Lake Sno-Park is nowhere near where the state website says it is. See the trailhead page for driving directions and climbing waypoints. You'll have to contend with snowmobilers staring at you like you're crazy until you get away from the lake, but the rest of this route is rather peaceful in winter. No trail, no crowds, a relatively short drive and a very short approach to a peak over 10k.

I chose to spend the night at College Rock (waypoint COLRCK) and carry my full pack over the summit, coming down a different way, but you could easily do this as a summer or winter dayhike. (Pay no attention to that other report claiming it's a death march. It's not.)

I went north-northwest almost directly from the sno-park on the way in, leaving the car mid-afternoon. That's a mistake, because you end up walking along a creek sort of in people's back yards. They stare at you. I'd recommend walking to the end of the road (waypoint KPGATE) where a gate keeps the public out but local residents can drive further. Walk up the roadway (plowed or not) until it ends near waypoint KPTJCT, then follow the trail (or it's approximate route if it's covered in snow) through the trees to the ridge at waypoint KAIPK1. Now go straight up the ridge if there's snow cover. No need to hunt all over for a trail that wanders back and forth.

On this ridge, around 7600', I found myself walking on bare forest duff. More snow down low? OK. Off with the snowshoes, on with the climb! I crossed vestiges of the trail from time to time, but most of it was under snow and the trail's route wasn't obvious. I skirted College Rock on the southeast (waypoint KAIPK2) just as the sun was setting. Scrambling to the top was trivial (that that other report says it's Class 4, and maybe it is without snow, but it was Class 2 when I was there). A really swell view of Huntington Lake during the day and an even better view of city lights at night!

Looking down from College Rock.

Since I was here to grow some new red blood cells, I shoveled a flat spot in the snow between a couple of boulders and made camp near the 9k outcropping. The next morning was clear and crisp, with a fresh layer of sparkling frost on the old snow. I started without snowshoes, even though the bare ground below College Rock gave way to full snow cover above it, because the overnight freeze had left conditions perfect for easy step kicking with plastic boots.

The really cool Sierra Nevada views start when you cross the shoulder at waypoint KAIPK4. Suddenly you've crossed out of local hill views into long distance real peaks. You can run the ridge from here to the summit, but it's worth locating the trail around waypoint KAIPK5 because the ridgeline is rocky and brushy while the trail sidehills on the south side. I'm not sure the map's depiction of the trail is accurate here, but either way you can't get lost. Go up until it's down in all directions, just like always.

Kaiser Peak from the southeast ridge.

The Kaiser Peak (waypoint KAISRP) summit register (an old ammo box) had been left open - the removable lid had just been laid on top of the box, rather than clipping it shut, so critters got in and the pages were chewed and spread around. Sigh. I gathered up as much as I could, hung out for a while, checked in via cell phone, and headed west off the peak.

The ridge I came down (below waypoint KAIPK6) is better than the way I went up, except it doesn't lead you directly to your car. This route is more open, more snowy, more uniform slope, and more of a long walk along the lake back to the sno-park. I plunge-stepped and standing-glissaded down the ridge (still not wearing snowshoes) to the saddle just before Point 8431 (waypoint KAIPK7), then dropped east into a drainage. I crossed the Kaiser Loop Trail without seeing it, stopping to rest under beautiful tall trees next to a rushing stream (waypoint KAIPK8). Checking my map, I decided not to cross the stream.

The trail I was supposedly following never showed up, but I ended up walking through some sort of group camp or resort, crossing their gated Henry McGee Memorial Bridge, and walking down snowmobile-packed Upper Line Lane until I reached the main Huntington Lake Road. The road is a boring walk. And it's not flat. And tracked vehicles of various sorts are likely to go by staring at you. (Well, OK, the people driving them stare, not the vehicles themselves.) This was a nice introduction to an area I've been ignoring, but I suppose I'll have to go back in the summer and spend more time north of Kaiser Ridge.

Map of my route (blue line):

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