Today I hiked up the striking dome known as Buena Vista Peak overlooking the Redwood Mountain Grove of Giant Sequoias in Kings Canyon NP.
Although the forecast was for snow, around 11 a.m. it became quite obvious that no significant threat was going to materialize, and I headed up the road to Kings Canyon NP, arriving at the gate in about 20 minutes. I then took the General's Highway southeast to the Kings Canyon Overlook, which is at the very tip of the sharp hairpin turn west of Buck Rock. Around the back side of the hairpin and a couple hundred feet south of the vista point parking lot is a small dirt parking area with room for 2 or 3 cars. I brought my full overnight pack with me, hoping to get some excercise, but when I got out of the car and discovered how pleasant it was I decided to take only my camera and ice axe.
There is a faint one-mile-long trail that goes almost to the top of the 7,605 foot dome, but it was buried under what I would call the best snow I have ever had the pleasure of hiking on. With no trail to be seen I hiked up the crest of the ridge and walked south along the gentle half mile slope to the base of the dome. The north face, although not vertical, was way too steep for my liking, so I traversed around to the east face and climbed up the most enjoyable 200 foot snow slope I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Near the top the slope became a bit more challenging and it became obvious to me that the trail climbs the south side of the dome (it doesn't appear on any maps). On top of the slope are 5 or 6 very large (10 feet tall?) boulders. The tallest of the boulders was the one perched along the edge of the vertical 2,200 foot west face of the dome. There is large depression in the large boulder, and an all too convieniently placed 3 foot diameter rock resting along side the larger one. One quick class 3 move and I was on top.
Being so close to Alta Peak, I expected the summit to be cloudy, and it was, but only to the south and west. To the north and east was one of the most spectacular panoramas I have ever seen anywhere. This is one peak that definitely lives up to its name! Six thousand feet of Spanish Mountain's 8,000 foot south face were only a few miles away. Behind it were countless peaks, the most impressive of which was gigantic Mt. Goddard, which dwarfed everything in sight. To the east was 8,500 foot Buck Rock (Obelisk's "brother" according to Native American legends) standing guard over expansive Weston Meadows. Three groves of Sequoias grow on or near the slopes of Buena Vista Peak and can clearly be seen: Buena Vista Grove, Redwood Mountain Grove, and Tenmile Grove. Many more grow on the slopes of the lower peaks nearby.
The 30 minute hike up the peak was made much shorter by glissanding down the the northeast slope of the dome. I stopped to investigate some really big boulders (20+ feet high) on the way down but still reached the car in about 20 minutes from the top.
Hiking Buena Vista Peak isn't exactly a world class mountaineering feat, but the short trip to its summit is just as enjoyable, if not more. If you are ever in Sequoia or Kings Canyon NP with an hour to kill, this would be a most rewarding way to do it.