Hiking Stats as of 11/19/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Jul 26, 2014 - Old Man Mountain / Lola, Mount (North) / Lola, Mount


Partners: Jerry Kohn

Distance: 19.67 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,347 feet

Trip Time: 9:09

Maps and Stats:
I've had Old Man Mountain near the top of my to-do list for a while, having failed in a previous attempt with Kyle when we missed our turnoff and wound up bagging Signal Peak for a second time instead. The approach from Hwy 80 is not pleasant, following a off road vehicle road for several miles. Memories of the many jeeps and dust clouds that followed still haunt me. So when my hiking buddy Jerry let me know of an easier way to summit Old Man I was interested. It turns out that Old Man can be approached from the northwest side (a much longer drive but worth it). This sounded good to me so we planned on making that our target for the day. Old Man Mountain would be OGUL Peak number 31 for me.


The stats for Old Man looked pretty easy - 8-9 miles and about 2,000 feet of gain. This had me thinking that we could get off to a late start, but Jerry pointed out that the weather was quite warm and the hike was fully exposed. We planned on meeting at the Henness turnoff off Highway 89 north of Truckee at 9:30, leaving my car in the large parking area and carpooling along a rough dirt road to Meadow Lake. I don't think my car would make it, but Jerry's Subaru did just fine. We got started at 10:30 under warm temperatures, following a well defined road/trail for a couple of miles. We could see Old Man almost from the start, and with our starting elevation above 7,000 feet it didn't look too high on the horizon.

One the trail ended we had to go cross country, although the travel was quite easy, class 1/2 for most of the section before actually getting to the mountain. We were aiming for 3 little lakes near Phoenix Lake. This was pretty straightforward, and we were down at the lakes by 11:30. At this point we started to find a bit more of a challenge, as we had to cross a gully to get over to the ridgeline. There was a bit of routefinding here to avoid the more difficult class 3 sections, and we were able to keep it fairly straightforward and fun by losing a bit of elevation by going down the gully and starting up the other side a little further to the west. Once we were heading up things remained a bit tougher, with some route finding and steeper class 2 terrain.

What looked like the crux of the route to me was a series of cliffs that appeared on the most direct route up to the summit. Jerry, having been here before, told me not to worry as there was a miners trail that would get us up. He was right, and I was quite impressed with the quality of the trail. It certainly would have taken some doing to blast away some of the rock that had been cleared. The views from the trail were fantastic, especially towards Phoenix Lake below. The minor trail brought us to within a few hundred vertical feet of the summit, and it was an easy scramble up lots of boulders to get up to the top. I arrived at 12:30, with Jerry about 10 minutes behind. There was nobody else on top (we didn't see any hikers all day), so I spent my 10 minutes looking for the highest point, which was not the location of the summit register. I build a cairn on the high point which was probably unnecessary, but fun nonetheless. Next I took some time taking pictures of the great views - Sierra Buttes, Fordyce Lake, Signal Peak and Highway 80, the granite covered landscape and the higher peaks to the south, including Tinker Knob and Granite Chief. Once Jerry joined the party he took a summit shot of me and we both signed the summit register.

I was starting to seriously consider the possibility of trying to summit Mt. Lola later in the afternoon if we were back to the car at a reasonable time. The TH for Lola is only a few miles off a side road where I had parked my car, and with this hike being on the shorter side it seemed like a good opportunity. But first we had to get down, so I picked up my pace, heading downhill through he rocks and back down to the lake. Then it was back uphill (I didn't really remember so much downhill on the way) for quite a while to get back to the road/trail, where we were greeted by the sight of those wonderful off road vehicles. How they manage to navigate terrain this difficult still amazes me. We were back to the car at 3:30 which left me undecided as to what to do for my next hike (or whether to just call it an early day).


On the ride back to my car I considered maybe doing something a bit shorter - Jerry suggested Mt. Baldy, which houses the highpoint of Placer County as a potential target, but with no cell reception I wasn't comfortable with attempting to find the peak and the route without any hard information. So by the time I reached the car I was still undecided, but as soon as I started the engine I started back toward the Mt. Lola trailhead. Mt. Lola would give me a nice boost in my peak lists, with it being an SPS peak (my 21st), a WSC Peak (my 27th), an OGUL peak (my 32nd) and a county highpoint (Nevada - my 15th). As a bonus, the north ridge of Lola has a small peaklet that happens to be in the next county over, making it (Mt. Lola North) the highpoint of Sierra County, giving me my 16th county highpoint. Not too bad for a short drive and a 10 mile hike.

The dirt road coming in wasn't great, but it can be driven by any vehicle. I arrived at the TH a few minutes before 5 PM, and with only 4 hours of daylight left I knew I had to hurry. I set out on a rapid pace, heading uphill from my starting elevation of about 6,700 feet. I was a bit concerned about the heat, but the route is shaded for a majority of the way, making things much more comfortable. The trail was very easy to follow, and eventually it dumped out on a wide road. I can't believe that anyone would dare take this road too far, however, as it crosses a creek on some less than secure looking boards. I was even nervous just walking across it. I stayed on the road, which to my surprise resulted in my inadvertently heading up towards Mt. Lola North first. My plan had been to take the trail all the way to the summit of Lola, and from there going cross country over to Lola North, then cross country downhill until I could find the trail again. With this route, I was going uphill through the area that I though would be cross country on descent. I was actually happy to be doing this, as my only real fear was having to go cross country after the sun set. Getting this section done first was fine with me.

I stayed on the road as it switched back and forth, until it crested and started heading down the other side of the mountain. At this point I turned left to stay on the ridge, and figured I would just follow this as long as I could. It was fairly easy, with a mix of rocks, followed by wide open grassy areas with far less rocky terrain. The ridgeline traverse was very easy, and had some great views to boot. I could see the bump that figured to be Lola North, and sure enough I found the summit register and signed in. It had only taken me 1:45 to get all the way up here, at over 9,000 feet and I was pretty happy with myself, figuring now that I could avoid descending in the dark. I took some summit photos toward Signal Peak and of a spectacular late afternoon sunset over Sierra Buttes.

I spent no more than a few minutes on top of this bump, and started on the traverse over to the main Lola summit. This was very easy indeed, just some easy off trail hiking along gentle slopes and easy terrain. As I got closer I was surprised at the persistence of a couple of very late season snow patches on Lola's northeast flanks. By 7:10 I was at the summit of Lola, having completed all of the cross country that I would have to do on the day. I took some time to enjoy the spectacular evening sky and the surrounding terrain. I found multiple summit registers, the first case completely stuffed with entries and the second well on its way to getting so as well. This is one popular peak. I added my name to the thousands who had come before me, although I was now feeling a bit lucky to have the place to myself. I had seen some people descending as I was starting up, but hadn't seen anyone in a couple of hours. Given the hour I guess that actually makes sense. Anyway, I needed to get down, and found a fine looking trail that would take me home.

The descent was very easy, scenic and I followed the trail this time instead of the larger road when the two intersected. The descent went through the forest, and a meadow, and offered an impressive display of wildflowers. I was starting to lose my battle against the darkness, so I picked up the pace, and avoided having to use any supplemental light as I arrived back at my car around 9 PM. I had a long drive ahead of me, but the crux of the day was actually in finding the way out. The dirt roads can be tricky, and I missed the turnoff and was heading on an increasingly rocky road that was making me quite nervous. I looked at my GPS and it showed I was headed right for 89, so I figured I was okay, and drove past a couple of signs saying the road was closed ahead. I could only drive about 5-10 miles an hour, so just driving 1 mile took forever. Eventually the road became too gnarly for me to continue, and I performed a 3 point turnaround in about 20 points out of fear of getting stuck in the groves on the side of the road. I went back and figured out my mistake, and found my way back - taking over 40 minutes to cover the 5 miles from the trailhead to the road. Thanks to this unfortunate series of events I did not get back home until after midnight, quite tired as I collapsed into bed and was asleep in a matter of minutes...

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