Del Norte County Highpoint Trip Report

Bear Mountain (6,411 ft)

Date: August 10, 2005
Author: Mike Murphy

After studying the map for at least a year I was convinced that I could make it to the top along the ridge. I then saw Andy Martinís trip report and decided to go for it.

I arrived at the Doe Flat trailhead at 9:25 AM and was hiking down the road by 9:30 AM. The first quarter mile was easy downhill on a former road. At the sharp curve where the Siskiyou Fork crosses the road, I headed up the hill toward the "5232" peak. It was steep and all went well until I started to come out on the sunny side of the ridge and ran into very heavy buck brush which was difficult for me to get through. I tripped a few times on large branches that I could not see under the foliage. I flushed out four Blue Grouse in this area. After finally getting to the saddle near "5232", I began a steep climb along the ridge toward "6241". The northeast side of the ridge is a cliff at this point but the brush was lower on top so I stayed at or near the edge to make walking easier. At about the 5280-foot contour, the northeast side became less steep than the southwest so I favored that side of the ridge. I continued up to about the 5400-foot contour when I came to a saddle. The other side of the saddle was very steep and looked to be impassable. I remembered Andyís report about going across the scree on the left side (north) of the ridge and looked down there. It looked better so I went that way.

I was getting very tired by this point and stumbled and fell two or three times on loose rocks, some of them were large and looked stable. After a few hundred yards, I could see another narrow saddle and went up and through. There was heavy tree cover and I still could not see Bear Mountain. I went through the forest toward the southeast, trying to keep my elevation even. There were a lot of fallen trees that I had to climb over for a while then I reached a very long steep slide area where I got my first glimpse of the top of Bear Mountain. I carefully crossed the slide and went into another area of very heavy buck brush. I fought, tripped, and broke my way through using occasional bare ground areas whenever possible. By this time, I was getting very sore muscles on the front of my thighs from the "Bowflex" effect of pushing my way through the low brush.

I trudged uphill to the saddle above the Devils Punch Bowl and got my first view of the very blue lake far below. By this time, the shadows were getting long and I was seriously weighing my options for getting back before dark. I was thinking of going down to the Punch Bowl and taking the trail back. I decided I needed to reach the top since it was so close, so I continued and hoped for the best. I struggled up, stopping every few feet to rest; my legs were killing me. I made it to the summit surprisingly fast (although I never looked at the time until the end of the day).

The view was great. I could see Thompson Peak southeast in the Trinities. Mount Shasta, Goosenest, and Cottonwood Peak to the east. Ridges and then the fog over the ocean in the west and many peaks to the north in Oregon. I signed the newer "fake money" covered log book which had been signed two days ago by a group of Highpointers but had very few other entries going back to 2001. I looked at entries in a red log dating back to 1993; it had been wet and was deteriorating badly. I took a picture of the benchmark which showed an elevation of 6438, not 6411. I ate a sandwich and an apple and finished my first 1.5 liter bottle of water. After thinking about spending the night on the 7.5 mile hike back out on the trail, with no sleeping bag and not being sure which chute would get me down to the Devils Punch Bowl, I decided my only hope was to return the way I came in.

I started down the mountain, moving so much faster downhill. I found out that the muscles I used pushing through the brush are the same ones that I needed to slow myself going downhill. I stopped and rested with pains in my front thigh muscles. Slowly I continued down, very carefully surveying ahead of me down the ridge to spot the easiest way to traverse the heavy brush. When crossing the slope below "6241" a sharp piece of brush ripped a huge hole on the knee of my pants, I already had scratches and cuts on my forearms and holes in my shirt from the sharp branches. I eventually crossed over the saddle above the slide area west of "6241" and struggled across the talus on the northwest side of the ridge and then down through a route going around as much brush as possible. I fell numerous times from sheer exhaustion and just lay there until I caught my breath, my leg muscles were very sore and I was almost out of water (I had brought 2-1.5 liter bottles). The sun was getting close to going down behind the western ridge when I entered into the forest to hike down the last 900 feet of elevation to the old road below.

I reached the road and slowly managed the hike uphill to the truck by taking 100 steps and then resting for 25 breaths and then repeating. I got back to my truck and was on the road at 9:04 PM; it had just gotten dark. My legs hurt just stepping on the gas and brake pedals. This was one of the hardest highpoints I have done. If I knew how hard it was going to be I would have camped at Devils Punch Bowl and made a three day trip out of it. I heard they are building a new shorter trail to the Punch Bowl that eliminates some of the initial elevation drop.