Warren Fork Route
My wife wanted to try out our new to us (previously owned) tent trailer and I wanted to do some hiking in the Sierra’s. On Friday, September 14, 2007 we headed south from Medford, Oregon and about 9.5 hours later we pulled into the Ellery Lake Campground near Tioga Pass on Hwy 120. It didn’t take us long to set up the trailer and we settled in for the night. On Saturday, September 15 I climbed Mount Conness
and met several other SP’ers on that hike including forjan
, Dave, Alan, and Frank. Returning to the Ellery Lake Campgrounds that afternoon we got to be entertained by a bear that was up to mischief. I had a nice dinner with my wife and got to bed early after locking up our food and ice chest in the bear box.
Sunday morning was again cold and I had to chase the bear away again as it was looking for a breakfast snack. I drove 2 miles down Hwy 120 to the Warren Fork trailhead and found a place to park among several vehicles with most of their occupants car camping. I crossed the highway, walked around the gate, and headed north down the old road. There were several forks in the road in the first couple of hundred yards, but I just headed north on the main path. I passed several walk in camp sites that looked like very nice places, but no one was camping here.
Soon the roadway ended and I was following a nice trail north. I had a previously set waypoint in my GPS where I wanted to leave the trail and head up towards Mount Warren. When I crossed the stream coming from the east, I knew I was close and started looking for a good place to leave the trail. I didn’t want to fight the brush, so I continued on a couple hundred yards and then started uphill under a light forest cover. The footing was good, but rocky in spots. I made good progress as I climbed about 700 ft in elevation before entering a large grassy valley.
This grassy valley was a welcome relief after the steep climb up from the trail. I took my time sauntering up the valley to the north. I could see the stream meandering through the valley, but I just headed straight towards the upper end. At the upper end of the valley the stream entered a more forested area, but the walking was still easy through the trees. My goal was to continue to follow this streambed, so I stayed with it as it turned easterly, climbed, and then entered another grassy valley. This one was skinny and much smaller.
At this point, I could see I was on course because I saw the end of the grass ahead and then a long rocky gully heading up to a V notch passage in the ridgeline above. It wasn’t difficult to pick a path up this rocky gully and occasionally I saw a cairn or a climber’s path. When the gully became steep, I found a climber’s path that made several switchbacks as it proceeded upwards to almost the top of the gully. The wind had picked up now, so I put my jacket on, stowed my sun hat, put on my fleece hat, and even put on some lightweight gloves. I had been working climbing, but that wind was cold.
As I crested the ridge and passed through the V notch, the “trail” turned to the north again and I could finally see Mount Warren and the summit. This was a welcome sight. I didn’t see any climber’s trail so I continued straight ahead towards Mount Warren. This is still a rocky gully, so the going was still a little slow. I finally entered a bowl area right beneath Mount Warren where the footing was better. I had a choice of continuing straight ahead, or going left or right and ascending ridgelines. I chose to go left.
I climbed up to the southwest ridgeline between point 12,177 and the summit of Mount Warren and then followed it up to the summit. Once on the summit I could see I made a couple of wrong decisions about the route above the V notch. On the way back down I took the southeast ridge and walked all the way down a broad ridge with easy walking to just above the V notch. I bypassed lots of rock hopping by taking this route down.
There are great views from the summit of Mono Lake, Mount Dana, Mount Conness, and for a hundred miles in every direction. There are several summit registers in a silver ammo box. One is dated back to 1972. This hike was only about 7.5 miles and gained about 3,300 ft. The round trip took me 5.5 hours plus lunchtime on the summit. Most of the hike is easy Class 2, but rock hopping up the gully to the V notch may be a problem for some hikers.
When I returned to the campground, my wife told me her story of playing “shoo bear” while she was trying to eat lunch. I guess our tent trailer didn’t give her that safe secure feeling of protection from a hungry bear.
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