Placer County Highpoint Trip Report

two points on northwest slopes of Mount Baldy (9,040+ feet);
possible alternative site based on GPS-derived location of state line

Date: June 18, 2009
Author: Dan Baxter

I thought I completed the CA COHPís a couple of years ago with Dennis Poulin on North Palisade. Then last autumn Jerry Brekhus broke my bubble by announcing the discovery of this new Placer County highpoint, a liner near the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

I was teaching an advanced orthopedic trauma course last week in Reno, and took an additional week off to spend with the family in Stateline, Nevada. Of course, I just had to mix in some highpointing in the week's festivities, what with so many COHPís and prominence points in the area.

Monday through Wednesday I successfully summited Peavine Peak (which has overlap onto my Calif 2K prominence completion map and lies right above Reno), East Peak (Douglas County NV HP), and Mount Davidson (Storey Co, NV HP). Now it was Thursday.

approach

The turnoff for the signed Martis Peak Road is just a short drive north down Highway 267 (North Shore Blvd) from Brockway Summit (where the highway crosses the Tahoe Crest, and hence out of the lake basin). Martis Peak Road (also named "Forest Rd 16N92") is narrow (i.e. one lane), yet surprisingly fully and nicely paved for the first 3.2 miles. Here were 3 parked vehicles. Most obviously use this point as their trailhead. After your COHP walk, you can also continue the main road north to the lookout on Martis Peak (8,742 foot elevation), another great viewpoint. The rougher, now dirt road goes right (east) from this junction. It was a little slow to drive, with many larger rocks to skirt around. Not once, however, did I bang the oil pan on my boutique AWD SUV. This road goes 0.6 mile to the Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead on the right. There are a couple of nice little pullouts for parking and turning around. Iím glad I drove the dirt road, as the road looked like a boring and needless extra 1.2 miles RT for the family.

The roads in are different than either my vehicle GPS, and on the topos. The road is straightforward, however, and easily followed.

Useful aids are:

From here you head east on the very pleasant Tahoe Rim Trail. As the entire route to the COHP is mountain-bikable, the grade is always easy. There are not a lot of annoying switchbacks, however, as Iíve seen on other bike trails.

Initially one goes though woodlands abundant with large firs. This section interfered enough with my GPS to make an accurate trip log impossible. There were also no distant views until the second time you head NE (around a small hill to the north). Here you briefly can glimpse the COHP rocks from the trail.

At one point for 5 minutes the trail unites with a forest road coming in from the rear right. The trail then heads to the right off of the road. There are trail signs here, but if there is more than 3 feet of snow they would be covered. Here we also discovered hundreds of porcupine quills lying on the road, a mystery we could not solve.

The trail eventually curves southeast, and joins a ridge just before point 8603 feet. Here one can see Mount Baldy, which looks truly unimpressive from this angle. It looks like a bump along a ridge, which in fact it really is, with much higher mountains just a short distance north along the ridge.

There are, BTW, some switchbacks shown on the two maps described above that are not on the topos that can help you guide your distance. Here you also begin to see views of Lake Tahoe and the NW basin area.

Patches of snow, occasionally up to 4 or 5 feet in depth, began to impede our walk, but no one fell. Then one reaches the HP described accurately by Rich Wilson.

The two knobs are obvious, a mere stone's throw across open ground. On the south knob were two resting mountain bikers. Below on the lake was a parasailer towed behind a boat.

We could not find the register left by Rich. Some one might attempt to leave another at some future date.

Now I have a problem accepting the knobs as the highpoint. At home I previously placed a waypoint based on the topos as best I could on the state border at the midpoint of the 20 foot contour line bulge. On site, I found this to be very near the trail. The two knobs were higher than this area, and hence the likely COHP.

My Garmin Vista Gx etrex GPS, however, clearly had a line representing the state border about a hundred feet to the east of the trail. The mini-ridge that the two knobs lie on is clearly higher here than it is at the knobs. It is also more ridgelike. I scrambled up this sharp but compact talus ridge until I precisely reached the stateline on my GPS.

The altitude demonstrated on my GPS more accurately matched that of the topos as well. (The knobs were 60 to 110 feet lower than the 9040í height assumed by the topos. I placed a mini cairn there. The site on my GPS was: UTM zone 10 S (758364 Easting, 4352085 Northing) in the WGS84 datum.

Now I donít attest as to the accuracy of the Garmin Corpsí state line placement. The area could use some of the survey work that other more experienced COHPíers are renowned for. Until then, however, it might be in oneís best interest to include this other possible site. It is, at most 4 or 5 minutes scramble from the trail.

I also highly recommend continuing on the trail and then going up the class I easy scramble to the summit of Mount Baldy. Here the views of Lake Tahoe are more complete. One can see the Ski Incline slopes, Freel Peak (and East Peak as one can see the tramway), Pyramid Peak, Snow Valley Peak, and Granite Chief (The formerly believed HP of Placer County). Rose Mountain is hidden by the higher Rifle Peak to the northeast.