Waucoba Mountain, Nelson Peak
By: Dave Jurasevich
Waucoba Mtn by a seldom used route was the objective for Saturday. Les Hill, Marcia Pengruber, En Lee Lin and I met that morning along the Waucoba-Saline Road to explore the possibilities. We were successful in doing the peak from Squaw Flats, a broad, brushy valley lying to the west of Waucoba. The approach required a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. The details are as follows.
Drive/Approach: From Hwy 395 at Big Pine, CA., turn right(east) on paved SR-168 heading for Westgard Pass. At fork in 2.2 mi., bear right on the narrow, paved Waucoba-Saline Road and go 11.1 ml. to where you turn right onto a good dirt road. If you miss the turnoff, continue driving another 1.9 mi. to the intersection of the Waucoba-Saline and Saline Valley roads, turn around and backtrack the 1.9 mi. to this road. Bear left at fork in 0.2 mi. near a guzzler. Drive 3.4 mi. on a steadily deteriorating road (shown on 9 minute 1987 topo as going from unimproved to 4WD) to a saddle at 8582 ft. elevation. Drop over this saddle and go 0.6 mi. to a fork; bear left.** At faint fork in 0.2 mi. bear left and start a downhill drive eastward into a canyon, reaching the remains of 2 cabins at a place called "The Narrows" in 1.9 mi. Reaching its lowest point, the road now climbs upward in a SW direction, staying in the wash for a considerable ways and eventually emerging at Squaw Flats and a junction with the main N-S dirt road in 2.2 mi. from the cabins at the Narrows. Turn left here and drive 1.1 mi. to a fork. Bear left and go 0.8 mi. to the starting point for the hike, a concrete water trough on your left. Parking is available for 3-4 cars on the south side of the trough. Note: Good camping with shade is available at an established site just opposite the trough on the west side of the road.
**Bearing right here will get you to the Squaw Flats parking area in 3.6 mi., but enroute you'll have to negotiate a horribly steep downhill portion on a road which is sloped in the direction of a potential 200 ft. roll if you're not careful. We drove in this way, but opted for the Narrows route going out. Definitely not recommended.
Hike: The majority of the route is visible from the water trough at a mag. bearing of 90° and includes prominent landmarks such as the obvious saddle between points 8829 and 9143 and the relatively barren ridge seen behind the saddle and leading toward the top of Waucoba. The actual summit is not visible from the water trough. Start hiking E across nearly flat terrain toward the mouth of the wash that separates points 8829 and 9143. Follow the wash to the saddle between the two points, avoiding the dry waterfalls encountered by climbing right around them. From the saddle head ESE across easy terrain to the above mentioned ridge. Between 9800 and 10200 ft. elevation on the ridge the brush starts getting thick. Staying below the crest on the left (N) side and picking your way seems to work best here. Above this obstacle, the walking is easier through a pine forest to a saddle at 10600 ft (UTM grid 097977) and then up to the large flat summit of Waucoba.
Stats(Round Trip): 3200 ft. gain, .5.5 miles, Jhrs up 2hrs down.
Map: 7-1/2 minute series 1987 Waucoba Mtn, Calif. (See Inset)
On Sunday the 9th, Les and I did a climb of Nelson, The approach to this peak has been altered by Mother Nature since the introduction of the Peaks Guide. The road has become more difficult and should be downgraded from 2WD to probably 4WD with high clearance. Following describes our approach and hike.
Drive/Approach: From Olancha, CA., drive east on SR-190 14.7 mi. to its junction with SR-136. Turn right on SR-136 and go 17 ml. to the signed Saline Valley Road. Turn left (N) and drive 8.2 mi. on the fair, paved road to pavement end at a fork. Bear left here on the signed
White Mtn Talc Road, which is excellent dirt and go 3.8 mi. to its junction with a good dirt road. Turn right here and follow the rapidly deteriorating road NW for 3.5 mi. to a poor (but not 14.WD) road heading right (E) toward the peak. The road snakes around for slightly over 1/2 mi. until it reaches a cabin at the base of the mountain. 0.1 mi. beyond the cabin park at a switchback in the road with plenty of room to turn a vehicle around.
Hike: From the switchback we took the ridge directly up and angled right past the false summits to the top. On the way down we chose to descend the wash which terminates at the southernmost of two cabins shown on the map. Good sand in the lower portion of the wash made for a quick descent.
Stats(Round Trip): 1200 ft. gain, 2 miles, 45mm up 30mm down.
Map: 9 minute series 1987 Nelson Range, Calif.
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