Glenn County High Point Trip Report

Black Butte

Date: May 22, 2003
Author: Scott Surgent

Following Gary Suttle's directions in his California County Summits book, we left Willows and followed CA-162 west into the foothills and mountains in western Glenn county. I had called the California Highway Patrol for road conditions and was told there were no reports of closures, yet when we turned off of CA-162 on to Alder Springs Road, a sign on the road mentioned the pass as being closed. We decided to go in anyway.

We passed the Mendocino National Forest boundary, lost the pavement a few miles later, and continued up the dusty mountain road. The first vehicle we saw coming down was a NFS truck; the workers inside told us the pass was still socked in by snow. Still undaunted, or maybe slightly so, we still drove in, coming upon a work crew and big snowplow resting along the road at about the 30 mile mark. By this time, we had seen some patchy snow here and there. We asked them about the road and it turns out they had just plowed it open! We very well may have been the first people to drive over the pass for the season.

We continued up the road another few miles along the muddy, snowy, but open road to where Black Butte's access road turns south. That road was still under snow, as was everything else. Instead of driving in and enjoying a quick 1 hour, 2 mile round-trip hike, we post-holed our way up. Not having planned for snow, we had no real snow gear. Snowshoes would have been nice. As it was, the first mile was mostly shin-high post-holing, until we got to the large open parking area about half way in. We spied fresh bear tracks at one point! We started up the main grade to the top, in progressively softer and deeper snow. One traverse had us literally up to our hips in places, and we were so thrashed that we almost turned around, save for the fact the top was in view.

After one more stretch involving severe post-holing, we scrambled to the top, and apparently were the first to sign in for 2003. We stayed for about 30 minutes, then started down. We followed our tracks, thrust- stepped a lot of slopes and finally arrived back to our truck, 3 hours later and totally soaked from the snow that had entered every cavity possible. It was an outstanding experience, much more so in retrospect. At that time all we wanted to do was blast the car heater onto our feet!

The irony here is that Anthony Peak, the Mendocino cohp, was virtually free of snow, save for a few patches along the access road. Neither of us wanted to put back on our soaked boots, and we had gone through most of our water. After getting stuck in soft mud and rocking the truck out of it, we decided the fates were not in our favor on this one, and that we should be happy we got one at all! The drive down the other side into Covelo was fantastic. A beautiful area which we will definitely revisit.