After a day of uncertain weather, we were grateful for clear and beautiful sky. Anticipating a long day, we struck off early (6:30 AM) for Rockhouse Peak (8383') on 10/3/97.
We took an eastern approach. Existing beta and even the USFS Sequoia NF map revealed a good dirt spur road off of the Long Valley Loop road that goes between Chimney and Lamont Meadows. However, we were surprised to encounter a locked pipe-type gate at the top of the 2.5 mile spur road that would otherwise allow you to drive down 1,300' to the eastern boundary of the Dome Land Wilderness. This spur road is clearly shown on the USFS map as "open", but, it's not and is gated at its intersection with the Long Valley Loop road (this spur road is on the border of the line between Sections 29 and 32, about one mile northwest of VABM Long). Such was/is the case and this added about five miles and 1,300' loss/gain to the hike.
DRIVE : From the Chimney Creek BLM Fire Station, proceed west to milepost marker 11 (posted on the road's south side) and continue 0.4 miles west to a dirt road signed "Entering Chimney Peak Recreation Area". This dirt (Long Valley Loop) road veers northwest from the pavement. Drive 7.1 miles on the Long Valley Loop road to the intersection with a spur road with a locked pipe-type gate. About one mile before this point, you'll cross/drive over the PCT. At the gated spur road, either park here (room for one or two vehicles) or continue 0.1 mile further on the Long Valley Loop road to a pullout that will accommodate about five or six vehicles and a primitive carcamp. From the vicinity of this pullout, you can see the distinctive profile of Rockhouse Peak to the west.
ROUTE : From the locked gate mentioned above, walk down the good and sometimes steep dirt road for about 2.5 miles, loosing 1,300', to the gate at the Dome Lands Wilderness boundary. Cross through the gate and continue down the road at first west, then southwest on trail/road number 35E12. A little over a mile from the Wilderness boundary, the road crosses the South Fork of the Kern River. In Fall, this could be (and was for us) a simple crossing (about 25' wide, knee deep at most through placid water). Don't underestimate the River crossing during high Spring runoff. Once across the river, continue southwest/west on the road about 0.3 miles to a gated private inholding at the boundary of the cow-plop-infested Rockhouse Meadow. Cross over the fence and continue west along the road towards several structures and a corral. (Note, allegedly there is a "rock house" in this area from which the placenames are derived.) The road fades near the corral. From the corral, follow the fence line 300' north to where a cluster of stumps and a fallen tree guide you toward the continuation of 35E12. Using the fallen tree, cross over the fenceline and pickup the trail which continues west, paralleling the south side of a sometimes-dry creek. Continue west on the remnants of 35E12, climbing now, up the progressively degrading trail, to the obvious saddle (UTM 11S 0389240, 3972110) at 7,300' where good views of Rockhouse Peak's southern wall come in to view from the north. From here, Rockhouse Peak is about 0.8 miles due north at UTM 11 S 0389240, 3973450. Leave the trail and hike north through brush and boulders. Beyond this short section of brush, walk over a flat area that's to the west/northwest of point 7846T and continue north-northeast to the saddle just east of the summit. From the saddle, proceed northwest, then west, then finally turning south where an easy scramble up the peak's north side will lead you to the final summit moves which could be rated as mildly-exposed and tilted class one slabs with an easy move or two of low third at the very top. Alternatively, several register entries indicated two pitches of 5.7 somewhere on the massif's south face.
Round trip stats : 7 hours; 17 miles; 5,700' gain
Comment : since this summit is not named on any map(s) that I have, it seems only reasonable that the name Rockhouse Dome, rather than Rockhouse Peak, be proposed. The formation there, I believe, deserves the distinction.
Recommended maps : USFS Sequoia National Forest; 7.5' Rockhouse Basin
Eric Beck adds:
All of the currently archived reports ( including the SPS archives ) describe an approach from Big Meadow on the west. We used it with excellent results yesterday. It should be noted that climbing Rockhouse from the east involves crossing the south fork of the Kern and as such is preferable to do in the fall.
Carol Snyder and Richard Whitcomb had invited me to join them, so I drove down Saturday afternoon. The dirt road in from the Kennedy Meadows has a feature worth noting. A short distance before the locked gate where the spur into Rockhouse Basin takes off, there are two ice shields totally covering the road. I didn't think that my vehicle ( 2wd) could get back up these so I parked above them, on the edge of the road. I walked down to the gate which took seven minutes, but Richard and Carol were not there.
In the morning they were there. They had come up from hwy 178 and the Long Valley road and reported no ice. We were off at 6am by moonlight. The river was easy, only fifteen feet of ankle deep water, although nippy as the sun was not yet on us.
The climb went exactly as described by Mark and was a pleasant late fall day. I hiked in a sweater almost all day. We took several hours more than the seven mentioned by Mark.