Smith, Jackass, & USGS Crag Peaks Sierra Club I Provisional In Golden Trout Wilderness

  • Updated: June 24, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June  23rd & 24th, 2018
Jackass Peak (9,280')
13.08 miles, 3,000'
13.24 miles, 1,800'

This was the last of the Southern Sierra trips for the season as it gets pretty hot and dry down there after about mid June.  We had just enough time to sneak in one more Sierra Club "I" provisional which this area works well for thanks to faint or missing trails, ample opportunities for cross country travel, and the lack of useful landmarks in the distance.

It's also an area I hadn't been back to since I did these peaks originally in 2010 and I had really fond memories of hiking through the meadows and the views from the peaks.  When Lubna mentioned in when looking at provisional options I jumped at the chance to go back.
Kristen and I ended up bailing on our carpool after she found out that an odd popping we'd noticed in the Subaru was the sign of a major failure that could have stranded us if it happened on a trip.  Fortunately she was able to get it fixed quickly and we got on the road only a few hours later than usual.

The trailhead is accessed just past Kennedy Meadows so fortunately the drive was reasonable.  That meant our late departure just turned things into a standard late night drive and prevented us from doing something silly like getting to bed before midnight.

Lubna had identified a few places for people to camp the night before and so we ended up with people all over the place.  Fish Creek Campground was an option for some while others stayed in the overflow lot or at the trailhead itself.  Kristen and I drove around a bit and ended up at a rather nice site a short distance down the dirt road from the trailhead.

The trailhead is the end of this particular road though you can drive further in along an ATV trail further to the west.  The road might technically be passenger care accessible as long as you have decent clearance and take it slow but there's enough ruts and rocks a high clearance vehicle really helps.  There are no facilities or access to water here.

We met at 7 am and got everyone signed in.  Thanks to a few last minute adds we had a full complement of 15 including a number of current and former WTC students and staff.

Lubna had even arranged a card for Kristen since it was (almost) her birthday!

We started hiking up the trail and made it about 3/4 of a mile when someone realized they didn't have their car keys.  We stopped the group and a few of us retraced our steps scouring the ground and trying not to think how messy it would be to have to get the persons spare key from Irvine.  Fortunately we found it sitting on the ground all of ten paces from the car!

The trail the map shows to Hooker Meadow is there...mostly.  As with a lot of trails in Golden Trout it tends to fade in and out and disappear into the meadows on occasion.  While there were plenty of signs that cattle had been in the area they must let them loose later in the year because everything we saw was old and nothing had been feeding on the grass.

Our campsite location was dictated by access to water and Aqua Bonita Spring in Hooker Meadow is just about the only reliable option in the area this time of year.

The water was flowing but while the fence kept it clear of cow dung it had enough silt and bugs that we all ended up filtering.  The gravity filter folks struggled quite a bit so if you have an option bring something with a hose like a katadyn.

Fortunately the water comes out of the ground here so it's nice and cool.

We dropped off our camping gear up the hill from the spring and set out a little after 11 am with a goal of climbing Smith and Jackass.

After going north across the meadow and through some thick forest we picked up a trail running south of Jackass which soon turns into an ATV road leading down Jackass Creek.

We left the road almost immediately and climbed up a ridge towards the obvious bump that was Smith.  And as we climbed the view turned into that amazing view that made me fall in love with this area.

The summit of Smith has a few different bumps and we had to do a bit of scouting to identify the correct one.  This was the ramp we used to get up.

The summit has spectacular views of the other southern sierra peaks.  The big one in the background is Olancha Peak and on the far left you can just see Cottonwood Pass which I'd been over a few weeks back when I did Tower & Overlook.

And of course we had the flag.

2018 WTC Kaweah Group student Barry Yoch showing off his awesome Kaweah Group shirt in front of the Kaweah range!

Another treat was that we could make out the Kaweah range off in the distance.  These are the peaks that I named my WTC group after which are located just about in the dead center of the Sierra between Whitney and Mineral King (-ish).  That makes them hard to reach but easy to see from all over.

We could also see our other two peaks off in the distance.  The small rocky bump on the left is Jackass while the triple bump in the back is Crag.  The left of the three bump on the skyline is the Crag on the Sierra Peak Section list.  Unfortunately we couldn't do that one on this trip since it's third class by any route I've found and this was an I rated trip.  So instead provisional trips usually do the middle bump which is labeled Crag on the USGS topo.

Dropping back down off Smith everyone was running a bit low on water not to mention energy thanks to the heat.  Fortunately Lubna determined we still had enough of both to manage Jackass and after a bit of encouragement we set off on the short detour.

There is a bit of clambering around on rocks to get up Jackass but it's possible to keep it all 2nd class coming at it from the west.  We made things a little harder than they needed to be by swinging around too far to the north so if you're following my track I'd recommend climbing the more southern descent route.

Once again the views from the top were spectacular.  You can just make out Mount Whitney and Langley on the left and the big meadow is Monache.

Victor climbed over to the other bump fo the summit to get another group shot and then it was time to head for camp.

We made it back to our camp near the spring around 6 making it a solid 11 hour day.  Once everyone had set up tents we started a fire and had a pleasant happy hour followed by a great nights sleep.

The next morning Lubna had us out at first light.  This time we were heading southeast following a use trail and then setting off cross country to Corral Meadow and around the southern end of Finger Rock (which is another bump I keep intending to climb)

The area around Crag burned years ago so the terrain is a challenging mix of downed logs and thorny brush.

Even the ridge itself isn't much better.

We made the summit a little before 9 am.

The 3rd class SPS Crag looks damn impressive from this side.  (The 3rd class routes are all on the far side)

We followed roughly the same route back though I left the group for a time to go retrieve some hiking poles which had been left behind during a break on the way up.  (I was batting a thousand on recovering peoples items this weekend)

We made it back to camp around 1 and the trailhead around 4 which meant we were out early enough to enjoy some of the local color up in Kennedy Meadows.

Grumpy Bear is one those icons of Kennedy Meadows.  It's a restaurant that's been up there for quite a long time though it's apparently changed hands and closed down a few times along the way.

It's claim to fame (besides having cold beer) is the Grumpy Burger...

I have to give them credit for producing something that looks exactly like the picture on the menu.  Two patties, bacon, jalapenos, avocado, cheese, and an egg.  Perfect for a group hungry after a few long days backpacking.

And how, you ask, does one go about eating such a monstrosity?  Well I'm glad you asked...

And with that another fun weekend in the Sierra was behind me.  Next up Kristen, Jen, and I were heading out to Washington for a 5 day paddle adventure in the San Juan Islands!

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