Tehipite Dome Attempt #3 -ish and Spanish Mountain 2x WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: June 19, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 17th to 19th, 2016
Spanish Mountain (10,051')
Tehipite Dome (7,708')

Tehipite Dome has become something of a bane of my peak climbing career.  Allegedly 3rd class with spectacular views it's a long drive and long hike so not the sort of peak you really want to have to do more than once.

The first time I tried it in 2012 I came down so sick the second day I could barely get out of my sleeping bag turning our aggressive three day loop backpack into just getting Spanish then hiking out.  Then in 2014 I went back with friends only to run into enough snow we had to abort.  Then a rescheduled attempt in 2015 was aborted before we even left home due to major storms across the Sierra.  Then a potential late season redo was killed due to the area being burned by the Rough Fire.

But it was now 2016 and this time was going to be different!  Jeff Atijera, Laurent Hoffman, and I were back leading a strong group including 5 Kaweah staff and 6 students from this year's WTC class and we came loaded with what we thought was more precautionary gear than we really needed for the 3rd class crux based on the beta we could fine.  And the weather looked spectacular.

This also had the distinction of being the first WTC experience trip of the season and one of the harder ones I was going to lead this year since I was trying to ramp back up gently after having a microfracture done on my right knee in November of 2015.

Getting the hell out of LA
The drive to the trailhead is a long one and leaving Orange County at 7 pm and driving straight through we didn't arrive until 1:30 am.  Fortunately the local rangers will give you a night drop permit so after a brief stop in Prather we were able to get all the way to the trailhead and sleep for a few short hours before we had to be up and hiking at 8 am.

We camped at the Crown Trailhead which had bear boxes but no bathrooms.  Unfortunately it also has a road going by which was populated by a steady stream of logging trucks moving along at high speed throughout the night.

And then once morning rolled around several of us were woken up when a mystery dog wandered up and stuck it's nose in our face which is an exciting way to wake up in bear country.

Coffee.  Just give me coffee...
11 slightly groggy backpackers shouldered their packs and we were off.

Day 1: Crown Trailhead to upper Geraldine Lake

9.9 miles, 3100 ft

This area has had a rough few years a fire in 2008 followed by the massive rough fire in 2015.  As a result we were going to be hiking through a fair amount of charred terrain.  Also we're seeing a huge amount of tree die off due to the drought so we were expecting more downed trees.

The area is relatively low (7000-10000 ft range) and I was concerned about water sources initially.  After the first few miles where we had several stream crossing including one flowing high enough we had to remove our boots and wade I stopped worrying.

Also we seemed to have beaten the cows to the area which was nice.  When I was here in 2012 everything smelled of cow dung and we were inundated with flies.  And then we nearly got charged by a bull.  So I was very appreciative of no cows.

We even saw a bear in the distance as we were descending into the valley below Geraldine Lakes.  This was the first time Kristen had ever seen one in the wild and she got a little excited.

We planned to camp at upper Geraldine Lake which meant we had a few hundred extra feet of climbing but the campsite makes it work it.

The lake isn't bad either...

That's a happy look.  The water feels great!  Really!  Jump on in...
The water was    painfully cold which wasn't surprising considering the snow was melting right into the lake on the far side.  Refreshing though once you were out and had regained feeling in your skin.

And it was low enough we could have a campfire at happy hour which is always a treat.

Day 2:  A Long Haul To Tehipite

23.6 miles, 4600 ft

The next morning we got people up at 4:30 and were hiking by 6 in anticipation of a long day.  This went fairly smoothly except for the two people who missed the wakeup call and had to scramble to get ready in a few minutes.  Oops!

The trail started out decent but soon disappeared amongst the vegetation  We managed to stay -ish on the trail for the most part but it was difficult to make good time.

Coming back we came up the slabs to the east which was much nicer so my advice would be to just ignore the trail and do that.

There's a cow camp in Crown Valley which was unoccupied when we went by the first time.  The trail was decent through here but soon became indistinct again with downed logs and vegetation covering the trail periodically.

Matt Kipper taking a bath during one of the larger stream crossings

Jason demonstrating how to properly take advantage of a water break

Past the cow camp the trail got worse again and one section in particular required wading through heavy prickly brush and balancing on burnt logs to make progress.

We left the trail at a large duck but there didn't seem to be one distinct use trail.

From there to the northern ridge of Tehipite it was an unpleasant amount of sidehilling.  The route we took coming back dropping down was actually a lot more efficient.

And there were flies.  They got so bad on the ridge several of us pulled out our headnets.

Big finally after all of that we could see the dome!

We threw on our gear and went looking for the route largely based on the beta from the Summitpost page.

It could use a little work.  We followed the yellow line but after getting around the large bouler they mention you get a short but rather featureless slab.  We ended up taking people along the left and climbing directly up to the crux.

So here's the bigger issue.

This wasn't really what I'd call 3rd class.  You can get up the lower part off to the right of the picture above.

We protected it with a big piece of webbing slung creatively around the bolder but the footholds slant out over a big drop.

Once to the top there's a high step up and then you cross a big slab.  The step up happens at a spot sloping down towards the drop to the right.  There was a piece of webbing already run down the slab which had been bleached white from the sun.  The bottom was tied to a cut dyneema sling which appeared to be anchored by a rock jammed into the crack.

With a little more gear and maybe a longer rope we could have set something up but we'd come expecting 3rd class.  Also we'd been hiking almost 12 miles and it was late in the day.  So no peak.

The hike back was uneventful except for it's length and not helped by the fact we'd turned back from the peak.  Also the cow camp at Crown Valley was now occupied and we could see cows in the distance.

It was a *very* long day.

Day 3: Geraldine to Crown TH

2.3 miles, 880 ft - Optional side trip to Spanish Mountain from Geraldine
9.3 miles, 680 ft - Geraldine to Crown TH

Despite the rough previous day we had several takers for grabbing Spanish Mountain before hiking out.  Since nothing makes an orphan peak better than having a 2x on it's easier neighbor 7 of us set out for the summit.

We crossed the stream on the north end of the lake and worked our way up the slabs. 

The slabs above the lake basically all go though we wanted to avoid the steeper snow and swung a little further west towards the north ridge of Spanish.

The climb is just downright pleasant and the views spectacular in every direction.

We yelled down to camp and could hear our friends who had stayed in camp.

We could see a fire off in the distance which is sadly a common occurrence during the summer but it wasn't enough to mar the view.

View of the Kaweah range from Spanish Mountain

Back in camp we packed up and headed for the cars.

On the way out we found more cows. Apparently they'd been brought in since we'd come by the first time.

We left camp at noon and were back at the cars by 6.  That gave us enough time to drive down the hill and get something to eat before all the restaurants close.

Usually we hit Velascos in Prather when we're in the area since it's right along the way and rather good but we found a sign on the door saying they were closed.  (
I've since learned it actually moved to a nearby spot next to the CVS) 

Instead we ended up driving into Clovis and stopping at La Kebrada which also had good mexican food and were nice enough to supply us with endless pitchers of ice tea.

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