Southern Sierra in Fall
17-18 Oct 2003 - by Will Mollandsimms
On Friday, October 17, my climbing partner, Judy Molland, and I drove up to Big Meadow in the Southern Sierra. The route was easy to follow as we took 155 to Kernville, then Mtn. Route 99 to the Sherman Pass road and finally got on the Cherry Hill road, which leads to Big Meadow. The Cherry Hill Road is paved at first but deteriorates to a very wash-boarded surface as it continues to wind its way through the Southern Sierra. We drove onto the south fork of the Big Meadow road and arrived at Big Meadow trail 34E15 at about 2:30 in the afternoon. We set off to climb Taylor Dome by 3. The trail is a rather faint, but negotiable, one which is very well described in J.C. Jenkins book, Exploring the Southern Sierra: East Side. After a brief stroll on the trail we reached a small pass and saw the striking twin summits of Taylor Dome to the East. We left the trail at a boulder-heap near the trail and traversed along the south side of the ridge to the base of Taylor Dome. From here it is a simple ascent up a sandy and Manzanita ridden hillside to the summit. The summit is an easy, but exposed, 30-foot section of 3rd class rock. The view from the summit is quite nice with far reaching panoramic view. We spent quite a while on top reading the register, which dated back to 1962, and enjoying the surroundings. We then went back down towards the trail with hopes of being back at the car to enjoy dinner before it got too dark. Unfortunately it didn't work out quite so well. The faint trail turned invisible and in the Domelands there are quite a few boulder-heaps. We wandered around for some time until we found a trail. After following this trail for about half an hour we decided that, although this trail was going the right way, it was most definitely not the trail we wanted. In fact it wasn't even a trail that was on our map. By this time it was getting dark and although we probably could have gone x-c back to the car we decided that instead of running the risk of getting totally lost we'd just follow this trail around. Luckily we were prepared with jackets and headlamps so the dark didn't present much of a threat. After a short walk we found a sign that lead us to Manter Meadow and then back to the cars via a very large loop. Finally after walking through the dark for two hours we returned to the car a bit tired and quite hungry. We decided to call it a night and hit the hay.
We got up to a very cold Saturday morning and frigidly got prepared for this days adventure. Because I stupidly left my camelback at home, one camelback and one bottle would not be enough water for a 12+-mile hike to Rockhouse Peak, our intended goal. We instead decided to go up Sirretta Peak, which is less than 8 miles round trip. We left by mid morning and followed the Cannell trail (33E32) for about half a mile until it forked. The Cannell trail is a popular dirt bike and motorcycle route that goes to Cannell and Mosquito meadow. This part of the trail has been obviously reinforced with cinder blocks to prevent erosion. Unfortunately it takes away greatly from the aesthetic value of the surrounding and the sound of motorcycles engines is not what one usually assimilates with a peaceful trail. Fortunately after half a mile we broke off onto the Sirretta trail (34E12), where motorcycles are not allowed and peace is once again restored. We followed the trail as it gradually worked its way up to Sirretta Pass. Near the top of the Pass there is a very well ducted route that goes around the backside of Sirretta Peak and then follows a plateau to the summit blocks. However it is not necessary to go this route to the summit as one can go up the eastern slopes of the mountain and reach the summit much quicker. We did this and reached the peak in a little over two hours from the trailhead. The views from the top are quite spectacular since Sirretta is the highest peak for quite a ways around. We sat on top for rather a long while and marveled our surroundings and at the three feet high by three feet wide cairn that stands on top of the peak. After enjoying our lunch we went back down through the Chinquapin and Manzanita that litter the eastern side of Sirretta. This time we found the trail and hiked out by 2. After returning we meandered around Big Meadow for a while enjoying what had turned out to be a beautiful day. Soon though we drove out and went home after an interesting, but very enjoyable trip to the Southern Sierra.
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