Stegosaurus Fin is an impressive summit in the heart of the Domelands Wilderness in the Southern Sierra. The summit block is a massive, 50ft-high chunk of granite that appears overhanging or vertical on all sides. It's resemblance to the dinosaur's armor plate is marginal, but the name is one of the most colorful in the range. A fortuitous pile of rock on the east side and an improbable ledge combine to provide a class 4 route to the summit, making for one of the best summit blocks in all the Sierra. The peak is remote from all trailheads, and combined with its absence on any notable peak list, it sees few visitors. There was no summit register when visited in December, 2006.
Located just west of Rockhouse Basin, Stegosaurus Fin is found in the rockiest and most impressive part of the Domelands. A fine view of this region can be had from Bald Mtn
to the north and from along select portions of the paved road east of Sherman Pass. There are dozens of rocky peaks, domes, and outcroppings in the general area, with bountiful climbing opportunities.
The name of the peak is not official, and its origin is uncertain. From the SE the peak appears to look more like the whole dinosaur, though again I think the resemblance marginal. The name appears among other places, in J.C. Jenkins, Exploring the Southern Sierra, East Side
Stegosaurus Fin from the south
The shortest approach to Stegosaurus Fin is from Rockhouse Basin, but as of 2005 it is no longer so easy to get to the trailhead. The north end of the Long Valley Loop Rd is now permanently closed, but the southern portion is still accessible, a decent dirt road suitable for all cars. There are no trailhead signs at the end of the road and the trail has been largely abandoned. Check here
on climber.org for more details on this trailhead. From the TH, hike three miles west down to the the S. Fork of the Kern River, turn north and hike another three miles, then ford the river (not so easy most of the year!) and continue west four miles to Stegosaurus Fin (about 10 miles total, one way).
Stegosaurus from the west
The route from the west is longer (about 12 miles), but the trails are more frequented and thus more easily followed. From Kernville, drive north 20 miles to the junction with the Sherman Pass Rd. Turn right and drive about 5 miles towards Sherman Pass, turning right onto Cherry Hill Rd (signed for Big Meadow). The first eight miles are paved, turning to dirt for the last 5 miles to Big Meadow. From Big Meadow
, hike east on the northern of two trails leading to Manter Meadow. Turn left and follow the trail north. Where the trail branches, take the fork leading down Tibbets Creek (you don't want the trail heading to Trout Creek). Stegosaurus will come into plain view when about 3-4 miles to the west. The trail grows increasingly thin and difficult to follow. You can attempt the noble effort of reinforcing a disappearing trail, or head cross-country directly to Stegosaurus Fin.
Find your way to the north side of the peak, about 100 yards below the summit. If coming from the west, you can climb directly up the class 2 West Slope to a notch leading to the north side. If approaching from the east, climb slopes on the southeast side (well to the right of the summit), up and over a saddle and then a boulder scramble to the north side.
Climbing the Fin
The Improbable Ledge Class 4 Route
This description is for the class 4 route, the easiest route to the summit. There are more difficult rock climbs leading to the summit, but I have no information on these - please contribute if you can.
At the very top
From the north side of the peak, scramble class 3 rock to the summit ridge. The highpoint is the scary looking block just to the west of the lower east summit. Do not despair at this point - the route up is far easier than it first appears. Scramble down to a notch between the two summits, and climb blocks on what has been described as the East Arete of the summit block - it's not much of an arete, really just convenient blocks that get you halfway up the sheer East Face. The crux is right at the beginning where you have to mantle up and onto a north-sloping ledge with big air. This leads to a horizonal ledge that runs south along the east face. The ledge is several feet wide and very easy, but has horrific air that is unsettling, to say the least. Follow the ledge to the southeast side, where the edge of the summit block can be climbed to the top via a 45 degree edge with huge holds. There is a smaller 12-foot block at the very top which is a bit tricky. Fortunately the exposure is minimal (only 12ft unless you try to climb it by the less-obvious sides) and it is relatively easy to surmount.
Permits are currently not
needed for overnight stays in the Domeland Wilderness, though a fire permit
is required for stoves or open fires outside developed campgrounds. The access roads close in winter sometime between October and December, opening after snowmelt in the early spring. Contact the Ranger Station in Kernville for road conditons and closures (they seem more knowledeable than their counterparts at the Lake Isabella Office):
Kern River Ranger District - Kernville Office
105 Whitney Road
P.O. Box 9
Kernville, CA 93238
Monday through Saturday, 8:00am - 4:30pm
Camping is permitted at the trailheads and through the Domeland Wilderness. Manter Meadow is fairly popular and picturesque. This and other meadows are used for grazing cattle in the spring and summer months.