California is known for its spectacular mountains. But while areas like the Palisades and Yosemite attract the attention of most climbers in the state, a little known gem in the Tehachapis offers exciting mountaineering that avoids the Sierra crowds.
Black Mountain #3 is an impressive grassy knoll located just north of Tehachapi, California. By its easiest route (the Quail Springs Road/Southeast Ridge route), it is a strenuous 2 mile class 2 hike (round trip) with almost 1500' feet of gain--all cross-country. As you might expect from such a demanding outing, it makes excellent practice for a number of the "Fifty Classics" climbs throughout the country: Hoosier Hill, Britton Hill, and the imposing Hawkeye Point. In fact Black Mtn #3 is higher than most of the 50 state highpoints, so it should not be taken too lightly. Acclimatization is important - for most people, lunch at one of the many fine eateries in the town of Tehachapi (elev. 4,000ft) at the base of the peak is sufficient before making an afternoon attempt at the summit.
Black Mtn #3 is on the coveted HPS Peak List. The Hundred Peak Section list actually has 275 peaks, and six of these are named Black Mtn, by far the most popular name on the list. It is surmised that the original intent of the Sierra Club was to have a list of 100 Black Mountains, but the BGN and USGS did not fully cooperate in these plans, choosing other names for many of the Southern California peaks.
The history of the first ascentionists is not well-documented, but it seems likely that the first to reach the summit were bovine alpinists, probably more interested in the tender grass morsels found at the summit rather than the spectacular views. Evidence of these early mountaineering efforts, and indeed continuing bovine interest in the peak, can be found in abundance on most of the mountain's slopes. Watch your step.
Follow SR 58 from either Bakersfield or Mojave to Tehachapi. Exit on SR 202 west (exit 148) and reset your odometer. At 1.1 miles, turn right (west) on Valley Blvd. At 2.6 miles, turn right (north) on Woodford-Tehachapi Road. At 4.1 miles, turn left (west) on Country Club Drive into a subdivision, opposite an abandoned golf course.
Go 3 blocks, then right on Mariposa.
Go 3 blocks, then left on Quail Springs Road.
Continue up Quail Springs Road about 1 mile, almost to the end of the street. Park at a horse trail on the north side of the street about 150' northeast of house #21800.
While the above directions should be sufficient for those skilled in orienteering, it is readily admitted that finding the trailhead can be difficult and confusing. You should refer to the accompanying photos on this page to successfully make it to the trailhead. The HPS offers more detailed directions for those requiring more beta. It can also be said that alternative trailheads in the area are possible, though there is additional confusion over which parcels are private property and which are BLM lands.
More Getting There Photos
The speed limit through the subdivision on the approach is 25mph. Also, you should avoid parking in front of House #21800 in case they have guests. Although the area is not yet protected as Federal Wilderness, please keep the area pristine for future climbers. Pack out anything you take with you, including human waste. If you find waste scattered from thoughtless bovine ascentionists, BLM managers ask that you pack these out with you as well.
When To Climb
The peak can be climbed year round. However, it stands almost 5,700' in height, so the area can occasionally receive snow. In this case, you should be prepared for the possibility of snow, ice, or mixed climbing.
Bivy spots are found along the southeast ridge at about the 5,000' elevation. The campsites are dry, and you will need to pack in water.
As of January 2005, House 21800 was up for sale, so well funded expeditions can also buy this prime camping spot at the base of the ridge.
Yahoo! Weather Forecast for Tehachapi. The peak is over 1,500' higher than the town, so expect cooler conditions on the summit.
Do not underestimate this peak in winter conditions. As can be seen from the photo below, the NW slope can become dangerously corniced and avalanche prone. Those not carrying avalanche transponders and skilled in their use, or if your name is Mark Thomas, should not attempt this peak at such times.