Muah Mountain, Trail Peak, and Wonoga Peak 06/12/2021

Muah Mountain, Mulkey Peak, Peak 10721, and Trail Peak

For day 2 of my 3 day trip to the Sierra I was planning to climb Muah Mountain (11016 feet) and Trail Peak (11605 feet). Both peaks are near the Sierra Crest just south of Horseshoe Meadow. Muah is on the Sierra Club Sierra Peaks Section list, so that was my primary goal for the day. Horseshoe Meadow is a very popular area containing numerous trailheads, walk in campgrounds, equestrian facilities, and tons of parking. I had slept in my car the night before in the parking lot, so I slept in a little since I had all day (and it was one of the longest days of the year). I decided to park at the day use picnic area just east of the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead Campground. I began hiking at 6:47am at 9849 feet above sea level.

I took off south through the woods. At 0.2 mile I reached the meadow. I could see Trail Peak rising just above the tree line to the southwest.

I crossed a small creek.

I proceeded across the meadow and reached the Mulkey Pass Trail on the far side. I had to cross another small creek just before reaching the trail.

I continued south on the trail as it gradually gained some elevation.

At 1.5 miles I reached Mulkey Pass at 10379 feet.

I turned left at the pass to get on the southbound PCT. I saw a group of PCT hikers resting at the pass, and then saw many more hikers (mostly solo) as I made my way south.

I got my first look at Muah Mountain in the distance.

The trail gradually descended for the next few miles beyond Mulkey Pass.

At 4.4 miles I reached the Wormhole Canyon Trail, which goes all the way down to the Owens Valley (according to the map). I turn left (east) onto this trail to approach Muah Mountain. A small cairn marked the turnoff.

I ran into a guy who was out for a short 2 or 3 day backpack. He mistook me for a PCT hiker and asked if I was looking for water. He was impressed when I explained I was planning to climb the peak. The trail meandered east along the southern edge of a small meadow. Diaz Creek flows through this meadow which is why he assumed I was here for water.

At 4.7 miles I left the trail and began climbing south towards Muah. It would be a 1400 foot climb in 1.3 miles from this point.

After about a half mile I turned east and crossed another small creek.

This is where the really steep part began.

I made slow progress up the steep slope as I started to feel the effects of the altitude.

It got very rocky towards the top. At 5.7 miles I passed a false summit.

At 5.9 miles I reached another false summit. This one actually fooled me, so it was a little disheartening to see that I wasn’t quite there.

The actual summit finally came into view.

Some mild class 2 scrambling was required to climb up from the west side.

I reached the summit at 9:38am at 6 miles!

I signed the register which had been placed in 2017. The previous entry was on May 31. It occurred to me later while I was descending that I accidentally signed the previous date (6/11) in the register. Oops. I located the benchmark and 2 reference markers.

To the south I could see the always-impressive Olancha Peak. I was getting very excited about climbing it the next day. Cartago Peak, which I had just climbed the day before, is the plateau to the left of Olancha with the rocky pinnacles. Of course, it was impossible to tell from here which pinnacle was the summit.

To the west I could see Kern Peak, a mountain I had climbed just over a year before.

To the east I could see Death Valley’s Telescope Peak.

I also had a great view of the High Sierra to the north, but the views were much better on Trail Peak, so I took more pictures there. I began descending after a 25 minute break. I found it to be an easier scramble on the east side of the summit block.

I worked my way around the false summits as I descended.

I made my way slowly down the steep slope.

I reached the Wormhole Canyon Trail at 7.5 miles and the PCT at 7.8 miles. I turned north and began heading back the way I came.

I hiked north on the PCT in the direction of Trail Peak. I didn’t see any more PCT hikers for the next few miles (not entirely surprising since I was now going in the same direction as them, but I thought I would still pass a few since they hike much slower with heavy packs). Just before reaching Mulkey Pass, I left the trail to make a short climb to an unnamed Peakbagger peak of elevation 10605. This peak is referred to as Mulkey Peak by some climbers on Peakbagger, which seems appropriate given how close it is to Mulkey Pass. I climbed north up a forested slope to the peak.

The summit block was easy class 2.

I reached the top of Mulkey Peak at 12:05pm at 10.5 miles. I could see Muah Mountain to the southeast:

And Trail Peak to the west:

I descended Mulkey Peak to the west and reached Mulkey Pass at 10.9 miles. I decided to climb another Peakbagger peak of elevation 10721 on the way to Trail Peak. Peak 10721 divides Mulkey Pass from Trail Pass.

I reached the top of Peak 10721 at 12:30pm at 11.3 miles. The summit was indistinct, and the trees blocked most of the view. Trail Peak was getting closer now.

I descended to the west and reached Trail Pass at 11.6 miles at 10482 feet.

I began hiking up the eastern slope of Trail Peak.

The trees thinned out and the terrain became rockier as I climbed. I reached the tree line around 11,400 feet.

From there it was only 200 feet further.

I reached the top at 1:23pm at 12.6 miles! I signed the register which had been placed in 2018. I was mildly surprised to find a bunch of entries from today. I guessed it was from one large group. I found a benchmark on the summit.

The views were tremendous. To the north I could see Cirque Peak (left) and Mount Langley (right). Mount Whitney could barely be seen behind Langley to its left (in the center of the picture).

Mount Kaweah could be seen to the northwest.

And the peaks in the Mineral King area could be seen to the west. It was unsettling to see how little snow there was on any of the high peaks, especially Langley.

I began descending after a 30 minute break. I went northeast off the summit towards Horseshoe Meadow.

Soon I was back in the woods again. I crossed over the PCT at 13.2 miles but kept going down the slope.

I reached the Trail Pass Trail at 13.8 miles. I turned north towards the trailhead.

I passed through the meadow again and crossed a creek at 14.6 miles.

I turned east and soon reached the parking area. I made it to the car again at 3:08pm. This hike totaled 15.45 miles, 4603 feet elevation gain, and 8:21:45 total time.

Wonoga Peak

I had time for one more short hike, so I decided to climb nearby Wonoga Peak (10371 feet). I drove about 4 miles east on Horseshoe Meadow Road and parked at a large turnout where the Little Cottonwood Creek Trail begins. I began this hike at 3:33pm from 9254 feet.

The trail made a few switchbacks away from the road as it climbed above the creek. At 0.2 mile I passed a wilderness sign.

Just after the sign I crossed Little Cottonwood Creek.

I left the trail right after the crossing and started climbing north up the slope. There is a use trail at the start, but it quickly petered out.

I made my way up the steep southern slopes of Wonoga. The summit soon came into view.

The summit area looked too steep and rocky to approach directly, so I decided to climb to the ridge on the left and approach the summit from the west. This part was very brushy.

After some moderate bushwacking I reached the ridge and turned east towards the summit.

The summit was easy class 2.

I reached the top at 4:31pm at 1.1 miles! I found the register which had been placed in 2018. I was the first person to sign it since it had been placed! I located the benchmark and 2 reference markers.

Wonoga Peak is further east than the other peaks I had climbed earlier, so I had a great view of the High Sierra to the north for the first time all day. The northern view on the previous peaks had mostly been blocked by Mount Langley. I could see Mount Williamson, the 2nd highest mountain in California.

Much further north I could see Split Mountain and Mount Pinchot (among others).

On the other side of the Owens Valley, I could see White Mountain Peak, the 3rd highest mountain in California.

To the northeast I could see Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, with Waucoba Mountain in the background.

I took my time on the summit since I still had plenty of daylight left and no where else to be. I decided it was the best views of the day (and possibly the whole trip) which I hadn’t been expecting for a peak that was basically a throw-in at the end of the day. I began the descent at 5:15pm. I found a much easier route by descending initially to the north and then wrapping around the summit to the east and back to the south. It was shorter and much less brushy than my ascent route.

I hiked back down the southern slopes of Wonoga. I took a more westerly route than I had ascended.

I reached the trail again at 1.9 miles. From there it was a short hike back to the car, which I reached at 5:51pm. This hike totaled 2.21 miles, 1122 feet elevation gain, and 2:18:31 total time.

I drove back to the Horseshoe Meadow parking area and spent the night there again. I had considered driving down to the Olancha Trailhead, but I chose to stay at Horseshoe Meadow due to the much higher elevation and therefore cooler temps.

To be continued…

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