By: Matthias Selke
Crag Peak is normally climbed from the west via a cross-country route from Albanita Meadow. A few years ago, a report in the Echo mentioned that during an attempt on Crag Peak some 30 or 40 years ago, a participant nearly drowned in the Kem River. Thus it appears that the peak had also been climbed from the east "in the old days". However, there do not appear any reports of recent climbs from this direction. I have climbed Crag Peak twice from the east in recent years, once in late March 1996 (with CMC member Miklos Peterfy) and once in May 1998 (with Miklos, his wife Krisztina, and two graduate students from UCLA). If the correct route is followed, this is an excellent climb that can be done almost any time of the year. The road to the Kennedy Meadows Campground is open yearround, and the Kem River crossing (see above) is no longer a problem, as a sturdy bridge across the river has been constructed when the PCT was built in the area. One approaches the peak from the PCT out of the Kennedy Meadows Campground. Since this area is east of the Kern Plateau, the area receives little snow. Even in late March 1996 (a 120 % of normal water year), there was no snow until just below the summit of the peak. From the Kennedy Meadows Campground, the PCT leads north, on the east side of the Kern River, until it crosses it on the aforementioned bridge at the twomile point. The PCT continues through a forest to Clover Meadow. This "meadow" is usually dry, and most of the forest nearby has never recovered from a fire that occurred many years ago. Crag Pk. is due west and 2,000 ft above the meadow. The key to the climb is not to leave the PCT too early, as this would lead into much nasty brush, but to continue until one has passed through about 2/3 of the meadow. The best place to turn west is north of a very small hill that extends into the meadow from the south. After hiking cross-country through the meadow for a quarter mile or so, one has to negotiate a brushy steep slope several 100 ft high. It looks worse than it is, and most of the brush can easily be avoided. After a short time, one reaches a flat area above the dry slope. There is a pleasant pine and fir forest here. One continues to go west and straight up. Angling too much to the right or left leads into manzanita. bushes near the crest. It is most pleasant if one hits the snow near the crest. The crest is followed a quarter mile or so northward to the summit block, which is climbed from the east, just south of the actual high point (easy class 3). The short knife-edge on the north ridge described by Jenkins in his guide to the Southern Sierra (East Side) is harder, i.e. much more exposed. This climb is recommended as a great early season climb. One can do the whole trip in a day from L.A. (as I have done twice) by leaving at 6:30 am or so; it is only a 2.5 - 3 hour drive to the Kennedy Meadows Campground from L.A. Round trip stats: 14 miles, 3,500 ft gain.
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