Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mount Jenkins

Track map

14 miles

Sunrise in Freeman Canyon (Hwy 178)
Mount Jenkins is one of the major peaks along the Southern Sierra Crest in the Indian Wells Valley, second only to Owens Peak in height. It was named in 1984 for Jim Jenkins who scouted the Pacific Crest Trail route through the area in the 1960s. There are several ways to get to the base of the final climb, we chose the PCT from Walker Pass to increase the hiking miles. The trail leaves Walker Pass at 5,200 feet elevation and climbs steadily to a saddle on the crest, leaving Freeman Canyon at an elevation of 6,200 feet to the west side for the next couple miles. At the car we heard a vocal and unexpected California Thrasher calling from the mixed Pinyon and Joshua Tree forest across the highway, and a large flock of raucous Pinyon Jays passed overhead as we ascended the first few hundred yards of the trail. Before we made it to the crest and into the west side oak trees, a calling Oak Titmouse surprised us from the pinyons. Dozens of White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos flitted about the scrub and trees constantly.
Freeman Canyon
Crossing the crest the view opens to the west with the Kern Plateau and Domeland Wilderness dominating the view. The trail continues its climb on the west side, crossing back to the east side about 5 miles from the trailhead at another saddle (6,500 feet) near Morris Peak. Great views of Indian Wells Canyon and beyond are to be had for the next couple miles. It was in this stretch that we got our first taste of what was to come with a decent sized flock of about a dozen southbound Steller's Jays passing by overhead. Migrating birds use the uplift of mountain ranges to aid their flight. During our ascent and while on top we would observe at least 4 separate groups of jays passing by, including a flock of 8 Clark's Nutcrackers, and a single Evening Grosbeak who paused on a rock for a good look before continuing on to the south. It was fascinating to see migration in action with all these montane species passing by us.

Kern Plateau and Domeland Wilderness

Mount Jenkins from the west side

Indian Wells Canyon and beyond

Commemorative plaque for Mt. Jenkins along the trail

Indian Wells Canyon

July 2010 burn at the upper end of Indian Wells Canyon

A good use trail takes off from the PCT at the north end of the ridge extending down from Mt. Jenkins and is certainly the easiest way to make the summit. There is some Class 2 scrambling to be done in the .75 mile approach to the summit block, then a few class 3 moves to reach the final summit. Even the severely acrophobic Susan made the top without much trouble as the exposure was minimal.

Pacific Crest Trail at the base of Mt Jenkins

Yucca along the trail

Contemplating the final ascent

Owens Peak view from the ridge below Mt. Jenkins

Scrambling the last section

Class 3 finish to the top

Susan is a mountain climber!

Only a few more feet to the top
The view from the top was spectacular as expected. To the immediate north was Owens Peak, farther away we could see the lightly snow covered Mt. Langley and Mt. Whitney. The view east included Indian Wells Canyon and Valley, and the mountain ranges beyond. After a rest and some lunch we backtracked the route to the car for an early afternoon arrival.

From the top - north to Owens Peak

From the top - west

From the top - Indian Wells Canyon to the east
BLM sign at the trailhead


Bird Lists:

Freeman Canyon
PCT west side
Indian Wells Canyon

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