Gail Hanna, Richard Carey, Edward Earl California Fifty Finest Completion Trip Report

Breckenridge Mountain (7,580+ feet)

Piute Peak (8,440+ feet)

Dates: October 1-2, 2005

Note: All photographs are courtesy of Mark Adrian. Click on any image for enlargement.
          A large number of photographs are available from Mark's photo web pages.

A gathering of prominence-minded peakbaggers took place this weekend near Bakersfield in southern California. With several people looking on, Gail Hanna, Richard Carey, and Edward Earl completed the California Fifty Finest list of prominent peaks.

Wild berries
In addition to the three list completers, the weekend saw Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley, Mark Adrian and a friend of his; Richard Gnagy, Dolores (a friend of Gail Hanna from Independence, CA), Terry Flood, and myself. Note that Gordon and Barbara were the first CA list finishers at Cone Peak back in 2002.

On Saturday we all visited each contending highpoint for Breckenridge Mountain. Edward had "explicitly Earlized" by dropping down some 150 feet along a creek drainage - and I joined him from the campground for the roughly 850 feet of remaining elevation gain to the summit area.

rock pinnacle
Barbara and Richard
at a candidate
Breckenridge high point.
Some class 3+ scrambling was required on at least one of several contending highpoints - a twenty foot tall rock outcrop just west of the summit lookout tower.

Richard Carey had brought an elaborate surveying instrument. Hoisting a supporting tripod up the rocks was a unique experience - as was balancing the tripod on the highest area. Intervening trees made it impossible to see the contending highpoint, to the west, in order to assess which point was the higher.

These efforts consumed the better part of Saturday morning. We then caravaned in eight vehicles to a campsite immediately northeast of Piute Mountain for the next day.

Richard surveys while
Edward is rodman atop
a candidate high point.
There ensued a prolonged happy hour from 5 p.m. onwards. A large assortment of treats were on-hand. Highlights included chicken wings prepared on-site by Edward; deep dish pizza; and many, many cold appetizers: a four bean salad with feta cheese and balsamic vinegar; pickled herring with onions; brie and gouda; four varieties of hummus with crackers and tortilla chips; and much more. Manischwitz blackberry and elderberry wines were available as dessert, both quite sweet - perhaps enjoyed, as I did, with mini chocolate chip muffins.

After sundown all eleven attendees sat around the campire, and passed around my new prominence book while sipping assorted libations of the adult variety - more Manischewitz wine, chardonnay, and hot cocoa spiked with Bailey's cream liqueur.

list completion
Gail, Richard, and Edward
complete the California
Fifty Finest list.
On Sunday Edward and I "explicitly Earlized" Piute Peak at sunrise, dropping down 800 feet only to regain the elevation on our return to camp. We then joined everybody for the actual Piute Peak summit hike at 9 a.m. This is the very first time I explicitly Earlized with Edward. I must say that, although I sympathize with the concept of giving the mountain its due respect by climbing with at least one thousand feet of net gain, in practice it is a somewhat bizarre, time and energy-wasting activity.

There are three bumps along the Piute Peak summit ridge, with the middle one being highest and thus grabbing the prominence glory from the other bumps. We first visited the easternmost bump, as the BM Piute. Then the group split, on my suggestion, so that Edward and I could climb the middle bump alone - with Edward intentionally remaining a few feet below the highest rock so as to complete the list simultaneously with Gail and Richard.

The post-summit celebration.
Edward serves Adam sparkling grape juice
atop Piute Peak.
I wanted climb just with Edward because, frankly, it was not favorable to hike as a group of nearly a dozen. Furthermore, as I had climbed more of the Fifty Finest peaks with Edward than anybody else, some twenty-one, I felt it appropriate that I in particular accompany him to the summit - again, without the bothersome crowd.

The remaining group visited the westernmost bump and then turned back to visit the middle bump where Edward and I waited. Upon their arrival a three-way rock-touching occurred at 10:46 a.m. atop the highest rock of this - the middle (and highest) of the three bumps along the Piute Peak summit ridge.

A mini feast ensued after the requisite photograph session. Champagne, sparkling juice, gouda cheese, and apple-filled oatmeal cookies complemented one another and the entire summit experience.

One person mistakenly opened a champagne bottle without the standard precautions - and about one-third of the pressurized contents were spilled onto the summit rocks and nearby onlookers. Another person accidentally dropped her daypack into a rock crevice. Edward stretched down and retrieved it.

After reaching our campsite each person said goodbye and went their own way. Edward returned immediately to San Diego because his father was in-town from South Carolina - and his mother would arrive soon enough. I had driven with him - a good thing since important deliveries would come in my mail the following day.

Gail and Richard remained one day to pursue more hiking opportunities.

Congratulations to Gail Hanna, Richard Carey, and Edward Earl!