Southern Sierra in late fall

26-27 Nov 2012 - by Bob Davey

Taking advantage of a nice weather window in late November, I headed towards the south Sierra to climb Crag Peak and Smith Mtn. I arrived at Kennedy Meadows campground on the 25th and had the whole place to myself. Overnight lows were a balmy 18 degress, clear and calm under a full moon. Pretty darn decent.

On the 26th I headed north on the PCT along the south fork of the Kern River (from waypoint KENMTH on the trailhead page) where I witnessed one hard working beaver building his/her pond. Unfortunately a lot of the area beyond the Kern River bridge has not recovered from recent fires. Still, the area contains a somewhat rustic, arid beauty.

A major factor to approaching Crag from the east is determining the best jump off point from the PCT, keeping the bushwack to a bare minimum. My route left the PCT at the base of the weak east ridge in upper Clover meadow which I followed due west to the summit. It had a fair amount of brush/deadfall to contend with, but not overwhelming. Also, wearing long pants saved my legs from turning into hamburger. Don't try this climb in shorts!

One advantage of the east ridge approach was that it terminated directly at the true summit block, saving any extra effort and time climbing false summits beforehand as some previous registry entries complained of. Once at the summit block, the class 3 knife edge was not too much trouble. I bypassed it on the west side which may have been harder than actually traversing it.

This picture shows the 5-6 ft. knife edge itself.

On the 27th I dayhiked Smith Mtn. via the Jackass Creek recreational trail (from waypoint FISHCK on the trailhead page) on an overcast, calm day. It's actually quite a beautiful trail despite the name. Motorized dirt bikes are allowed here and the trail has continous small humps and recesses. I guess dirt bikes are just mechanical jack asses and luckily none were present this day. Exiting off the trail to the left, climbing up to Smith Mtn.'s summit reminds one more of the Appalachians than the Sierra's. There's a nice view of the surrounding area once on the class 2 summit block.

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