Kern County High Point Trip Report

Sawmill Mountain (8,818 ft) and south county line on Mt Piños (8,800+ ft)

Date: July 3, 2002
Author: Michael Schwartz

See mine and other reports on Ventura County for details of the approach and hike to Mt Piños, Ventura County highpoint. From the Piños summit, I hiked northwest as described by Dave Covill to the 6-8 foot outcrop under some pine trees. This outcrop is obvious and easy to find. My GPS reading placed the outcrop a bit north of the northern edge of the 8800-foot contour when plotted on topozone. The big question, however, is the elevation of the outcrop in relation to the summit of Piños. I am not a great hand-leveler, but it seemed startlingly obvious to me that the outcrop hand-leveled some 15 to 20 feet lower than the summit outcrop, probably closer to 20 than 15 feet. No matter how long I looked at the area, I could not reconcile my findings with Dave's.

I took a GPS reading at the metal post described by Dave, and it plots on topozone very close to the county line. However it is also considerably lower than the Piños summit, low enough to cast major doubt, in my opinion, on whether the liner highpoint is actually higher than the highest point(s) on Sawmill Mountain. Much to my chagrin, I felt in good conscience that I had to march over to Sawmill.

The hike to Sawmill is well described by Dave, including the miserable switchbacks, almost impossible to resist cutting. Found cairn and registers at the traditional summit, with a fourth notebook having been added just a few days after Dave's visit. Next, I hiked east along the ridge to the other rock outcrop described by Dave. I did not do any hand leveling on Sawmill, as it's trivial to visit both outcrops. Dave's three quartz rocks had been knocked off and scattered. I restacked them about two feet from the outcrop, just behind the rocks under which Dave's pill bottle register is located. No one other than Dave had signed the register.

Perhaps another highpointer with a better GPS and some quality survey equipment can more accurately pinpoint the location and elevation of the county line on the shoulder of Mt Piños, but for now I would not feel comfortable visiting only the liner and claiming Kern County.