Old Man Mountain - exploring the "Tunnel" on a very long but interesting hike

Publiziert von 360 Pro , 9. Mai 2014 um 17:33.

Region: Welt » United States » California
Tour Datum: 7 Mai 2014
Wandern Schwierigkeit: T5 - anspruchsvolles Alpinwandern
Klettern Schwierigkeit: II (UIAA-Skala)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Aufstieg: 1000 m
Abstieg: 1000 m
Zufahrt zum Ausgangspunkt:Exit 164 on I-80, 0.7 miles north(west) on Eagle Lakes Rd, then right to the Fordyce Creek 4x4 trail head

After I looked at Old Man Mountain on the US topo map, I was wondering why there was a "Tunnel" clearly indicated as such in its south flank at an altitude of approximately 6700 ft. After doing some research and asking a friend, all I found out was that it probably is connected to the former mining activity at the Carlisle Mine at the southern foot of the mountain. Due to the lack of available information I was even more curious what this tunnel would be and therefore I decided to explore the Old Man Mountain South face on my way up to the summit. My original plan was to also visit the peak(s) of Black Buttes on my way back, but since I found too many interesting things on the way there, I ran out of time and still walked almost 30km.

For the first approximately 6 1/2 miles of my hike to the Carlisle Mine, I follow the so-called OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Fordyce Jeep Trail. It is considered a difficult trail for expert drivers only. You would think it is hard to lose a road, but I manage to lose it anyway. I am also amazed that cars can actually drive on this "road". (If you watch some videos out there from this trail, you probably know what I mean.) Since it is early in the morning and on a weekday, I do not have to share the road with these OHVs, but enjoy my wilderness peace. I am a little worried about crossing the Fordyce River, because I read that the water might be quite high at some point and there is no bridge here. Therefore, I brought my Teva  sandals and shorts along. However, the water level isn't all that high today and crossing the river is not a real problem. I do take off my hiking boots and cross the river in my sandals and am glad when I reach the other side of the creek, because the water is ice-cold!

Shortly after the 6 1/2 mile marker I then leave the trail and take a left uphill to the remainders of the Carlisle Mine. There are literally tons of old mining equipment laying around there, from old oil barrels and mining tools to an intact boiler. I walk around the debris field which is quite interesting. I then look up the south face of old man mountain and try to spot the "Tunnel". About half way up I clearly see a blueish greenish rock debris field which indicates where this tunnel could be. So I head uphill and soon find some steel ropes which seem to go up there as well. In a few places the steel ropes are interrupted and I have to find the next part, but the "path" up there is quite obvious and offers some easy scrambling as well (T4).

The actual entrance to the "Tunnel" is easy to find and of course I want to explore it a little bit and put on my headlamp. The beginning of the tunnel is somewhat "underwater", about ankle deep, but later it is more or less dry. I can clearly see the old minecart tracks and other mining related installations. After about 100 yards into the tunnel I get to a branch where two sidearms split off in different directions. I follow the left one for a little bit but then turn around. I might come back another time and explore the mine to its end(s) though.

After exploring this interesting "tunnel" I now want to go all the way to the top of Old Man Mountain of course. In order to do so I follow a chute which starts slightly west of the tunnel and heads directly north. Scrambling up there is a lot of fun and sometimes quite demanding (T5,II) in particular in places where the rock is wet. At around 7000 ft I then turn slightly east and scramble to the not very distinct SE ridge. From there I finally follow this ridge (T4) all the way to the top. The view from up here is quite impressive and I enjoy it during my lunch break.

It is after 1PM already and I think about what I want to do next. I have my doubts that I will be able to also climb the interesting looking peak(s) of Black Buttes, because the way there is long and the way back to my car after that even longer, at least another 10km. However, I don't feel like going back the way I came and so I head towards Black Buttes anyway. In order to get down to Phoenix Lake I choose the NW ridge. The nearly vertical drop at the top I bypass on the east side (T5). What looks like an easy and rather flat crossing from Phoenix Lake to Wagon Wheel Lake and Point 7670 on the map turns out to be a continuous up and down and with somewhat challenging orientation, because often times in the little ditches there is no obvious orientation points visible. In addition in many places there is quite some snow left on the ground which isn't hard enough any more to walk on without sinking in (and of course I didn't bring my snow shoes long). Shortly before P. 7660, I cross the Beyers Lake Trail and decide to follow it back instead of climbing Black Buttes, simply because it's too late now. A wise decision.

I think it should be a piece of cake now to follow the trail to Beyers Lake, Eagle Lake and then back along the jeep trail to my car. Far wrong. Most of the trail is underneath the snow at this point and it is almost impossible to follow it, because it's simply not visible. Instead I consult my map quite often and also take some shortcuts (which sometimes turn out to be "long cuts" :-). Past Beyers Lake close to P. 6772 where the path makes a turn south, there is finally no more snow on the ground, but I still manage to lose the trail once. From the point where the Beyers - and Grouse Ridge Trail join up it finally gets less difficult to stay on the trail, mainly because there are lots of cairns which now clearly lead the way. However, after 12h of hiking I am getting tired. I am glad to finally reach the bridge over Fordyce Creek and from there switch into my Teva sandals for the remaining 1 1/2h walk back. I reach my car shortly before dusk and feel like an old man...

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