Del Norte County High Point Trip Report

Bear Mountain

Date: July 2003
Author: Andy Martin

Trip reports on were useful here, and I printed off the ones from Anthony Chan, Ken Jones, and Adam Helman. We drove in on the same paved Little Jones Creek road used by others. The roads in this area are not shown well on my 3rd Edition DeLorme Northern CA Atlas, which is perhaps most useful as kindling. On the drive up the narrow road, we passed several big trucks heading down. The last mile of the road before the key junction near Bear Basin butte was being paved. The drivers gave various versions of the condition of the construction, and possibility of detouring, and none sounded encouraging. We were only 1/2 mile from the crux junction when we met a ranger coming down. After reading us the riot act he grudgingly let us proceed over newly paved asphalt and on to dirt road. Whew! We were not so lucky on the drive out, and had to take a 30 mile detour through Big Flat. This road is good - but not shown too well in the DeLost Atlas.

We proceeded to the trailhead, which is now located just over 4400 feet, about 1 road mile before Siskiyou Pass. Big rocks block the road here, a small parking lot is available, and 3 tent sites with tables are up the hill. Reaching them by Honda is non-trivial, but we set up camp at one of the sites.

Ken Jones had reported a 4,500-foot gain on this hike, which for me means an effort equivalent to hauling a 1960 VW beetle up the Washington Monument. I was already contemplating a ridge bushwhack to water down this task, and the relocated trailhead sealed the deal. The bushwhack would start from the gulch at the road bend 1/4 mile south of Siskiyou Pass, and proceed in a pretty direct line to the summit, contouring around knobs 5232 and 6241. The vegetation did not look too bad, the big concern was getting cliffed out along the ridge, as happened to me on Idaho county ID. Well, if the attempt failed there was always next year.

Set the alarm for 4:15 and took 4 quarts water, which was all consumed on an overcast day. Did not find any snow patches. It turned out the bushwhack went well. The forest sections are not bad, and the manzanita can usually be bypassed or pushed through. The crux is cliffs along the ridge just west of spot 6241. These can be bypassed on steep side hill talus just north of the ridge. I never had to do any real rock climbing, though side hill footing would be nasty in rain or snow. This bushwhack is not for the faint hearted though - and if you get lost or turn an ankle your CA completion might be delayed until your subsequent reincarnation.

Reached the top in 3.5 hours. Enjoyed Gary Suttle's 1992 register, which was drying out nicely in the nestled red cans, probably left by Richard Carey. About half the names were familiar to me - lots of CA completers of course, plus a few more well along on their CA quest. Not a lot of other traffic on this peak. It is a tough one, and nearby Preston Peak, just across the valley, is higher. Later I learned that Preston Peak has over 2,000 feet of prominence, so it is possible I may make another trip to the area - say in year 2020.

Enjoyed the views for a while, then headed out, and was back at the car after another 3 hours. The last 1/2 mile involved a 200-foot climb on the road, which while irksome of course pales to the 11,00-foot end-of-day climb suffered on the traditional route. I'd estimate the bushwhack route involves about 2,600 feet of elevation gain, plus exercise of many muscles and curses that don't get employed on standard trail hikes.