Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kaiser Peak Day Hike Spring 2015

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Screenshot Of Suunto Ambit Download Of Hike Route

I have day hiked this route several times and the older I get, the more I realize this is a labor intensive hike to a view of the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that may offer a good perspective. The hike is about 11 miles round trip with about 3,000’ of elevation gain outbound. I have hiked it on a full moonlight night to arrive at sunrise and late into the afternoon to get photographs at sundown, which required hiking down with a headlamp. There is obviously no view once the sun sets and it becomes a long return hike with only a narrow slit provided by a trusty LED beam.

Hiking to Kaiser Peak this early in the season is almost unheard of. I have hiked this route with my wife in June and we needed to turn around at the midway point at College Rock (about 9,000’) because of the remaining heavy spring snow cover. The positives of this time of year are that it is a cool hike and the air is cleaner.

Another obvious fact about Kaiser Peak is it’s singular location that is not really in the mountains. It is a high vantage point but distanced from the actual Sierras. It is not like Glen Pass in Kings Canyon or Alta Peak in Sequoia Park. They are both in the mountains. Secondly, there are few vistas along the route. There is a vista of Huntington Lake at about 8,000’, which is sadly low for this time of year. Seeing so much shoreline is a stark reminder of the drought here in California. At this point, the mountains are just peeking out in places on the horizon.

The next vantage point is at College Rock where the mountains are more evident but getting a photograph is somewhat risky as you boulder hop your way to the best view. At this point, even a camera with a 30X optical zoom would only provide a close view of the tops some of the peaks. As I climbed higher this year, I was hopeful but the clouds were gathering. The air was clear and the temperature was comfortably cool. But the Sierras make their own weather! The forecast for Huntington Lake was “Partly cloudy” but the reality was a sky that become increasingly threatening and finally rain!

By the time I reached the first real opportunity for a view, the weather had turned and was closing in. I walked across crusted snow toward the saddle before the final climb and took the photographs that openings in the clouds would allow. I began to think about the rain that was coming toward me from the southwest and decided to head back down. My camera and lenses had fair protection from the rain but I was not convinced they were completely safe. This trip I was using my Sony A7R with the native Zeiss 55mm 1.8 and the native 70-200mm zoom. While it is possible to clearly see the ski lift terminal on top of Mammoth Mountain with the naked eyes, the mountains require at least a 200mm lens to provide the “mountain look”. When the view is clear, the 360-degree perspective from the top of Kaiser Peak is stunning and stretches from the mountains in Yosemite in the north down to Mt. Whitney in the south as one looks east. It also includes Lake Edison. There are several small lakes directly below the peak. The view west is usually hazy with smog.
I headed back down, only getting to about 9,800’, (Kaiser Peak is 10,300’) because of the oncoming weather. I had a hooded rain shell with me but did not want to risk harm to myself and the lenses in a bid to climb to the peak that could no longer provided a view anyway. One the way back down, I hiked into a partial fog/clouds that had moved in.

For those who attempt this as a day hike, my recommendation is a good weather forecast (not a guarantee) including clear air, strong legs and a big lens or high optical zoom camera.

 Above Shaver lake From Highway 168
 Sign At Trailhead Above Stables
 Small Waterfall Below Trail 

Ski Runs From China Peak Closed For Season

 Huntington Lake

 Possibly Mt. Goddard

 Telephoto Of Condominiums Above Huntington Lake

 College Rock

 Trail Leading To False Summit Below Final Climb

 Banner Peak Shrouded In Clouds
 Mammoth Mountain 

 Edison Lake

 Storm Coming In

Fog/Clouds Enveloping Huntington Lake And Trail

Here is the 2014 complete hike where the weather was good. 
and the most recent hike in 2016:  

1 comment:

  1. "I have hiked this route with my wife in June and we needed to turn around at the midway point at College Rock (about 9,000’) because of the remaining heavy spring snow cover" I think this will be the same for this year of heavy snow (2017).