Ascent of Ellemeham Mountain on 2017-09-23
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Saturday, September 23, 2017|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||4659 ft / 1420 m|
Ascent Trip ReportThis is one that I was a bit concerned about. It's obviously on private land and it was a weekend during hunting season. The peak was also out of my way, and it's far enough from Oroville that it would be pretty disappointing to be turned around by a landowner.
I found Paul Klenke's trip report after the fact, and of the trip reports he best clarifies the access situation. Too many other people talk about the passing the no trespassing signs next to the shipping containers, and suggest that this is the appropriate place to get permission as if the upper mountain were one large parcel and the ranch hand lives at the entrance. It's not, and anyone living in a trailer at the shipping contains has no authority to grant access to the parcels at the top of the mountain. The reality of the ownership situation is that the entire top of the mountain is private, but it is a patchwork of several acre parcels split across a large number of owners. I crossed at least three separate parcels between where I parked my car and the summit.
Not knowing any of this going into it, I followed Dennis Poulin's directions, which have always proved to be reliable in the past. Ellemeham Mountain Road is a county maintained dirt road that is in great shape. My mileage differed from his by about 0.4 mi (greater), but it was pretty much constant the rest of the way. There aren't many turnoffs, and the correct one is reasonably obvious. For future visitors, I recorded the route I took up from the county road as I navigated the maze of junctions.
As described, the first no trespassing sign appears at a cattle guard next to a trailer, quasi-abandoned vehicles, and assorted junk. I paused to see if anyone was around to inquire about access, but no one seemed to be there. So, in the spirit of others and armed with the fact that no one has recorded being turned away, I carried on. The road is pretty good and just barely wide enough in the tightest spaces. One could get a passenger car up there, but considering the access situation, it would be pretty stupid.
About 100 yards after the final turn, I ran into an old truck coming down the mountain. The road was quite narrow there, and I had to back up a ways until we found a spot wide enough to pass. I rolled down my window, and he hopped out of his truck. I was expecting to get an earful from a peeved local inquiring what the hell I was doing up there. Fortuitously, quite the opposite happened. He turned out to be an old timer that has lived on the mountain for 18 years. His residence is just a little bit above the posted cattle guard. He was hard of hearing, so it was difficult to have a conversation with him, and I wasn’t able to get his name. But, that didn’t stop him from regaling me with hunting stories from his years up on the mountain for more than 30 minutes. In the course of all this, he explained to me his profound love of Weatherby rifles as well as the ownership situation. He knew generally who owned which parcels, but was unsure of who has died off and whether the kids disposed of the assets etc. Occasionally, people with no ties to any of the owners also get permission to hunt up there. In short, it is difficult for anyone to know who belongs up there, and he was actually enthused that I was going up. The mountain is special to him, and he gave me recommendations on where to go to explore and get the best vistas. Take this for what it’s worth, but he did warn me against being out after nightfall. Allegedly, there is a healthy mountain lion population (he shot one the previous year), and on rare occasions, a grizzly will wander this way. Eventually, after he got tired of standing, we shook hands and he wished me on my way.
From my encounter, it was only a few minutes to the saddle where Dennis parked, and that was good enough for me. I hopped out and quickly made it to the summit and hit the other two contours on the way over. There is an access road on the west side that can be used to avoid any cross-country travel, but it does run right past blinds and trailers. From the summit and from the road back to the car, I was treated to stunning views of the sun beginning to set on the mountains to the west. This is probably the most beautiful summit from the trip.
TLDR - It’s infeasible to get formal permission to access the summit, but it’s also difficult for anyone to know if you don’t belong. The odds of running into someone else aren’t that high, and the tradition of the locals being welcoming continues. Though, it’s probably better to not go up there during hunting season, which is what the top of the mountain is used for.
|Summary Total Data|
| Total Elevation Gain:||382 ft / 116 m|
| Total Elevation Loss:||382 ft / 116 m|
| Round-Trip Distance:||1.7 mi / 2.7 km|
| Route Conditions:||Open Country, Bushwhack|
| Gear Used:||Ski Poles|
| Weather:||Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy|
| Gain on way in:||382 ft / 116 m|
| Distance:||0.8 mi / 1.3 km|
| Start Trailhead:||Saddle 4277 ft / 1303 m|
| Time:||14 Minutes|
| Loss on way out:||382 ft / 116 m|
| Distance:||0.9 mi / 1.4 km|
| End Trailhead:||Saddle 4277 ft / 1303 m|
| Time:||14 Minutes|
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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