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I was just about done with snow. The last two days had been tough outings to what would normally be moderate peaks, due to the abundance of soft snow in the High Sierra and the White Mtns. I had planned to spend nine days on the East Side, mostly in the Sierra, but the peaks I wanted to climb were going to be too hard to reach for a few more weeks still while the relatively new snow had consolidated. After leaving Tom in Benton following our outing to Boundary Peak, I drove south to Bishop and then to Lone Pine where I was happy to see no sign of snow in the Inyo Mtns. There were two DPS peaks in this range I had still to climb, and they could both be done in a moderately long day starting from the west side near Lone Pine - provided it wasn't too hot.
Leaving town not long after 5a, I drove out towards the trailhead following the DPS guide. I was unable to manuever the van up the rocky road to the 2WD trailhead, giving myself an extra mile and a half each way for this outing. At least there was no snow, I told myself. The sun had just begun to rise on the Sierra behind me, and it was a bit of a race to keep in the shade of the Inyos as long as possible.
The route I took roughly followed the DPS guide with minor exceptions. There is no special trick really to climb these mountains and there are likely a dozen different ways one might go. I hiked the road to the 4WD TH, then followed the ducked use trail up Union Wash for about half a mile, half the distance I should have for the easiest route. An unusual duck caught my attention to what I thought was the marker to leave the wash. I scrambled up a steep, talus-strewn hillside, not dangerous, just tedious. After another half mile along a ridgeline it joined up with the DPS route that started further up the wash just before the canyon narrows to a constriction. From my route I could see the DPS use trail switchbacking up from the wash through the talus slopes. The ridgeline peters out just below 8,000ft, and the more than 1,200-foot climb to Pt. 9,155ft was probably the worst part of the day. I followed a use trail more suitable for a quick descent than for an ascent, and found it tedious to the utmost. Ugh, ugh. Once past the moderately prominent point, a more gentle trail leads to the shallow canyon north of the ridgeline and a dry camp in the shade of some pines found there at around 9,500ft.
Before reaching the main north-south crest of the range, I angled left to head first for Mt. Inyo. Though not difficult, it included a false summit that I fortunately had suspected of being so, and had wisely chosen to contour around the west side of the range to head for the true summit more directly. There were a number of ducks found along the way, little in the way of a use trail, though neither were really necessary for the easy to moderate cross-country travel found on the way to the summit. It was 10a when I reached the summit, a bit less than 4.5hrs from the start. A fine Sierra Club register box placed in 1957 was still in great shape, holding registers dating back to 1968. The usual assortment of desert rats and Sierra climbers could be found throughout the pages, Matthew Holliman's, Michael Graupe's, Kathy Wing's, and Dick and Jill's among them (I met Dick and Jill near the summit of Split Mtn a few years back). I added my name to the last page, had a snack while I took in the hazy views, then headed back the way I came.
Some small snow patches near the crest were quite helpful in restocking my water supplies while I was traversing between the two summits. I probably would have run out of water before getting down without the added help as the day was quite warm and caught me a little by surprise. Keynot is a little tougher than Mt. Inyo due to its greater elevation and further distance from the saddle. It took about 1hr45min to do the traverse, getting me to the summit just after noon. I had elected to take the somewhat tedious east side route to the summit, following a use trail that lead down around some prominent cliffs before climbing steep, loose slopes back towards the summit. The benchmark is found at a lower point to the north of the highpoint, and is marked "Monarch," an alternate name for the peak according to the DPS Guide.
Though not as old as the registers on Inyo, the Keynot register had many of the same names, most parties doing the two peaks in combination. There were a surprising number of routes used to reach Keynot including the South Ridge from Forgotten Pass (I had to look up the location of the pass later). Peter Croft had climbed it a year ago in March over snow, coming up the east side and down the west side, making it sound like it was a casual, last-minute decision to traverse the range.
Looking at my map and then taking in the view out towards the west, I got the idea that I might make a quicker descent by heading directly down from Keynot rather than traversing the crest back to the saddle I had come up. My map did not extend far enough to show the whole route, but it looked like it would go judging from the view I had looking down on it. And so I went. First down the south slope to where I could get easy access to the West Slopes, then down 2,000ft of talus and rock. Most of the rock was in that intermediate stage where you can't just boot ski freely down the slope, but you don't have to watch each step closely either. A sort of messy, sliding, ankle-twisting drop for fifty feet or more at a time. I kept shifting to the left or right, looking for the easiest descent path, never finding anything ideal, but not tedious either. Eventually I made my way down to easier ground where I landed on a ridgeline heading up and over the spot elevation of Pt. 8,395ft. It took an hour to reach this intermediate highpoint, then another hour to make my way down to Union Wash near the start of the route. Rather than follow the ridgeline to its terminus (where it was uncertain that I wouldn't get cliffed out), I dropped into a side canyon that fed into Union Wash. By 2:30p I was back on the rocky road, and another half hour found me back at the van. Not a trivial outing, but far easier than the snowy slogs of the past two days...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Inyo - Keynot Peak
This page last updated: Sat Jun 21 09:07:49 2008
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