5 Southern Sierra Peaks / 1 Day

Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.
~Lifehack

5 Southern Sierra Peaks

In January, I was fortunate to join the Kern River Valley Hiking Club Meetup Group to climb 5 southern Sierra Peaks in 1 day: Butterbredt, Mayan, Pinyon, Gold, and Walbrecht Peaks. Nathan Schultz led this well-organized and challenging day of climbing and coined this trip “The Big Walbrecht Loop Hike”. I have read about these peaks for years and was excited to finally experience them first hand. The routes were mostly cross-country with some use trails and required route finding. A good map, compass, or GPS is a must. The total hike was about 9 miles with an elevation gain of almost 5000 feet. Our group hiked from before sun up to after sun down.


Peak 1 – Butterbredt Peak

Early morning the group met at the Butterbredt trail head on Jawbone Canyon Road. Dan and I had climbed this first peak a couple of years ago. I posted a detailed trip report on Butterbredt Peak Climb. Butterbredt is a fun little peak to climb and the prominent graceful and pointed shape makes it an icon in the area.

Heading up Butterbredt Peak

Heading up Butterbredt Peak

Sunrise looking south from the top of Butterbredt

Sunrise looking south from the top of Butterbredt

GPS Track Butterbredt Peak on Everytrail

GPS Track – Butterbredt Peak on Everytrail


Peak 2 – Mayan Peak

After a brisk descent, we drove to the Mayan Peak trail head on paved and dirt roads. The climb up Mayan intersects briefly with the Pacific Crest Trail, then ascends quickly. It was great fun following bear tracks through a Joshua Tree forest. Apparently, bears can thrive in this harsh desert environment. The route to the correct summit is a bit tricky. GPS, a map and compass or photos are helpful. At the top, we enjoyed views of the snowy high Sierras, the Piutes, and the Tehachapi Mountain ranges. We got a good laugh after reading a very clever register sign-in. Jim had climbed Mayan Peak on 12.22.12 and lived.

Mayan Peak

Mayan Peak

Bear Track

Bear Track

Route to the top

Route to the top

Mayans were wrong - funny summit entry

Mayans were wrong – funny summit entry

Mayans were wrong - funny summit entry

Mayans were wrong – funny summit entry

GPS Track - Mayan Peak on Everytrail

GPS Track – Mayan Peak on Everytrail


Peaks 3 and 4 – Pinyon and Gold Peaks
We again loaded up in our cars and drove a dirt road to a cow infested trail head for Pinyon and Gold Peaks. After a short ascent, the cows were gone and views opened up. The rock formations on both of these peaks were interesting and unique. The route headed up to the top of Pinyon, then traversed a saddle to gain access of Gold Peak. This was a fun cross-country loop.

Heading up Pinyon (center) and Gold (right)

Heading up Pinyon (center) and Gold (right)

Lone Joshua

Lone Joshua on Pinyon

Marker at the top of Pinyon Peak

Marker at the top of Pinyon Peak

Saddle between Pinyon and Gold Peak (Gold in the distance)

Saddle between Pinyon and Gold Peak (Gold in the distance)

Tara and Rockin' at top of Gold

Tara and Rockin’ at top of Gold

Looking back at Butterbredt Peak (left) from the top of Gold

Looking back at Butterbredt Peak (left) from the top of Gold

GPS Track - Pinyon and Gold Peaks on Everytrail

GPS Track – Pinyon and Gold Peaks on Everytrail


Peak 5 – Walbrecht Peak
We quickly drove to the base of Walbrecht as the sun was setting fast. This is another peak that has a tricky summit to find. We were lucky that Nathan had climbed the peak previously and knew where to go. This north facing route was snow-covered, challenging, and well worth the extra effort. The summit block has fun rocks to climb and views at the top are endless.

Walbrecht Peak

Walbrecht Peak

Nathan, Tara, and Dave almost to the top

Nathan, Tara, and Dave almost to the top

Looking down from the top of Walbrecht Peak

Looking down from the top of Walbrecht Peak

After sunset from the top of Walbrecht Peak

After sunset from the top of Walbrecht Peak

GPS Track - Walbrecht Peak on Everytrail

GPS Track – Walbrecht Peak on Everytrail

Thank you Nathan for the well planned day and for the company of a great group of hikers.

View all photos on Flickr

3 Peaks 3 Days

Arrow and I headed for the southern Sierras to enjoy some peak climbing, great food, and luxury hotel camping. The video above is a mix of our weekend. This was my first attempt at video editing and movie making. I used iMovie on my Mac with the help of a plethora of online tutorials. I now have a BIG appreciation of how much ability and time it takes to create a video project. Background music by Ryan Bingham “The Wandering” is an environmental benefit track for Surfrider Foundation I bought from Patagonia.com.

Day 1 – We met the Kern River Valley Hiking Club at the trail head to Red Mountain. This is a great group of hikers that are knowledgeable, friendly, and love the outdoors. Red Mountain is a fun mild climb with easy route finding that rewards the hiker at the top with expansive views.

Arrow and Rockin' - Red Mountain SummitClick on the map for Red Mountain GPS data and pics on Everytrail.

Red Mountain GPS Track on EverytrailThe group members recommended visiting Burro Schmidt Tunnel in the El Paso Mountains. It was definitely interesting and worth the visit. We would like to return to the area to climb Black Mountain.

Entrance to Burro Schmidt Tunnel
Burro Schmidt Tunnel

Day 2 – After a great night at the Comfort Inn in Ridgecrest and excellent dinner at Mandy’s Cottage, recommended by  the club we headed out to climb Boulder Peak in the Owens Peak Wilderness. This is a strenuous climb straight up loose rock and sand, thankfully the stunning views at the summit are a big time reward.

Boulder Peak Summit
Fun part? On the way down we descended the westward sandy slope that proved impossible to climb up, but turned out to be a soft boot ski down. Very luxurious.

Descent of Boulder Mountain
Click on the map for Boulder Peak GPS data and pics on Everytrail.

Boulder Peak GPS Data on Everytrail
Day 3
– I have always wanted to stay at the historic Dow Villa Motel in downtown Lone Pine, CA. I loved it and want to go back soon. Sunrise over Mount Whitney (center) was inspiring and amazing.

Mount Whitney from the Dow Villa in Lone PineHaiwee Reservoir south of Lone Pine and is closed to the public, but the  Coso Mountain Range that frames the reservoir is open for endless exploration. The backdrop of the Haiwee Reservoir is the rock monolith Jurassic Peak. This is a fun peak with a class 3 section at the top and plenty of opportunity for extra bouldering.

Summit of Jurassic PeakClick on the map for Jurassic Peak GPS data and pics on Everytrail.

Jusassic Peak GPS Data on Everytrail
Climbing lower elevation desert peaks in the cool air of winter with hotel camping…try it. Anyone have favorite winter peak recommendations around the Southern Sierras? I am ready to plan the next climb.

  • View additional photos from this trip on Flickr