Ascent of Condon Peak on 2021-03-14

Climber: Edward Rice

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, March 14, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Condon Peak
    Elevation:4970 ft / 1514 m

Ascent Trip Report

There were no campsites free at the Condon Peak campground, so I camped the night before at Oak Flat. When I got to the trailhead, there were three guys pointing guns into the canyon below. I asked them if it was hunting season, as I had thought hunters were usually only out in the fall, and then realized it might have sounded like a passive-aggressive way of telling them I didn't think they should be pointing guns into a canyon this time of year. They didn't seem to take offense, though, and explained that it was always feral pig hunting season, but they weren't actually shooting anything, just playing with their new scopes. They were friendly and having a good time enjoying some beer. My car thermometer read 29°F.

The climb starts off on a road that alternates between flat and oh-please-God-no steep. Like, hard to stay upright steep. The flat sections were through classic California inland oak meadow habitat, the steep ones through chaparral characterized mostly by chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) and yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei... I think). The road tapered off eventually and the hike became an unpleasant bushwhack up a steep ridge, all following a fence marking the boundary between San Benito and Fresno counties. I didn't find the fence to be much of a hindrance as it was fairly easy to push the top wire down and step over in most places. There was also some scrambling up loose rock. The brush was incredibly thick in places, and I picked up a tick or two every couple minutes. Eventually, I figured out what their favorite plant was to hang out on lying in wait and was able to avoid it or when that wasn't possible check my legs every time I brushed by it. Light-colored pants tucked into socks along with frequent checks kept them an annoyance rather than a real problem, and none found my skin.

The going was slow on this section, and I feared that the rest of the climb would be like this. I figured I'd have to give up and turn around at some point to get home by a reasonable hour, but I could see Peak 4900 ahead and it looked like a nice consolation prize, so I fought my way up. From that vantage point, I realized there was a nice road the rest of the way, so I continued despite my earlier pessimism. The rest of the way was an easy and mostly flat road hike, much to my delight. I do not understand how there is a maintained road up there, as the BLM map shows it only connecting to trails and not other roads, but it was a nice stroll. The top had great views of the Clear Creek area with its otherworldly serpentine barrens and mining scars, as well as the series of ridges stretching off towards the Salinas Valley. Best of all, I could see one of the longest stretches of the Sierra I've ever been able to see at once. It was interrupted by the occasional nearby peak, but still impressive.

The way down was similar and uneventful: a pleasant stroll, then bushwhacking, ticks, and scrambling down loose rock, and finally a steep road back to the trailhead.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3476 ft / 1059 m
    Extra Gain:758 ft / 231 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.6 mi / 15.4 km
    Trailhead:Condon Peak campground  3010 ft / 917 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 9 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 57 Minutes

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