Homers Nose (N#125, T#52)
Nathan Day 83, Travis Day 28
Homers Nose has the reputation of being the "bushwhack" among the SPS peaks. As a self proclaimed bushwhackachist (bushwhack masochist), I was a bit skeptical. The Sierra is known for its effortless travel through smooth meadows and enjoyable pine forests. Walking off trail is almost as easy as being on trail in the Sierra. How bad could it be?
Driving to the trailhead, I realized this peak was not a typical High Sierra mountain. It rises 9000ft above the Central Valley and may be considered small in comparison to the summits of the High Sierra, but the trailhead is down at 4000ft, so this "little guy" packs quite a punch of a climb. I also noticed how green it was, that meant a lot of bushes. I was still feeling confident it couldn't be that thick.
We parked and began walking up a trail towards the drainage we would ascend. From there we would gain the west ridge and follow it to the summit. After a mile and a half of lovely trail walking we found ourselves face to face with a wall of poison oak between us and our drainage. Uh oh. That was the moment it dawned on me that our day might not be as straightforward as we imagined. Nonetheless, we quested forth.
The drainage consisted of fallen trees, large mossy boulders, mud, bushes, and lots of poison oak. Slow going. Eventually we got to where we planned on leaving the drainage. A steep dirt slope stood in our way, and it was covered in, guess who, our familiar friend, poison oak. I clawed my way up the slope carefully but failed to avoid getting further acquainted with our new friend. Oh well. Now we were on the ridge, and the next few hundred feet of climbing up a golden, grassy slope looked promising.
"Are you climbing Homers Nose!?" We turned to see two fellows with big backpacking packs.
"Yeah, are you as well?" I asked.
"This is my third time attempting it, this time we are going to split the climb into two days. The next mile isn't bad but after that you have to navigate fallen logs and then steep manzanita slope."
"Thanks, and good luck!" I replied.
The climb is only 12 miles round trip, but if this guy had bailed twice and was now bringing overnight gear, I could only imagine how heinously slow the hiking would be. Nathan and I exchanged a look and continued on our way.
The next hour or so was pretty cruiser terrain, we even found an old overgrown trail.
We weaved in and out of manzanita tunnels and thick oak groves.
We even caught a sighting of the Nose.
A huge 400ft granite wall protrudes out of the dense forest and off to the summit. My family called my uncle Mike, "Uncle Nose", because he had a big beak, although I think Homer has him beat.
Soon we got the business. It was indeed a proper bushwhack.
We had to navigate big rocky boulders, downed trees, and bush thickets. Eventually we reached the upper ridge where the travel became easier and then finally the summit.
Looking down on the ridge we climbed we hadn't gone very far but, dang, it sure was a lot of effort. I wasn't upset about it, and had actually enjoyed a change of terrain from the alpine world.
We retraced our steps on the way down. Nathan had joked earlier if we could glissade down the steep golden grass it would be much faster. When we got there I gave it a go.
To my surprise I began cruising down the grass on my butt! Nathan glissaded behind me. It was actually working, the slope was steep enough and the grass was thick. Definitely a unique mode of travel.
We reached the van in just under ten hours after 12.5 miles. Our slow, just over a mile an hour, pace is a testament to the bushiness of the terrain. Overall, it was a fun adventure and somehow neither Nathan or I ended up with poison oak!
View the activity here.