Obsidian Dome
Peak 9,700ft
Mt. Downs

Mon, Jun 15, 2015
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

Continued...

Between the Sierra Crest and US395 south of June Lake is a collection of small volcanic summits and other minor peaks that I've been saving for a short day on my way to or from the area. Heading home from some peakbagging in the Whites and Inyos, I spent a few hours here before leaving the East Side.

Obsidian Dome

Obsidian Dome is part of the Mono-Inyo Craters, a 25mi-long chain of domes, lava flows and craters stretching south from Mono Lake. Obsidian Dome is a massive rock jumble of obsidian (most of it has too much air in to produce the glass-like version favored for tool-making) that is terribly uninviting for the casual hiker and scrambler, alike. I found a gate with a road leading up the west side of the dome where some mining activity left some usable paths, allowing at least half the distance to the summit to be easily navigated. After that, it's a somewhat precarious affair, scrambling over unsettled rocks to reach the highpoint, marked as Pt. 8,601ft on the topo map. Though a fairly short distance, the scrambling requires class 3 skills to reach the highest rock that overlooks the jumbled terrain. Despite its fairly recent creation (using tree rings, geologists have accurately determined the eruption date as summer, 1350 CE), there are small trees and other shrubs that have managed to make a living where there appears to be no soil at all. I spent about 45min getting to the summit and back which included some dead-end navigation as I attempted to make full use of the available mining paths.

Peak 9,700ft/Mt. Downs

These two closely-spaced summits are found just east of June Lake and the ski resort there. For a low-clearance vehicle, the easiest approach appears to be from the Hartley Springs Campground on the east side. A rougher Forest Service road (2S78) can be used to drive higher on the mountain. My route took me up past Hartley Springs (I didn't see any water coming out anywhere) and then to Peak 9,700ft, climbing 1,300ft in little over a mile. There are some smallish, nasty aspens growing on the south side of the summit that can prove troublesome. Most, if not all these can be bypassed by moving around to the east side. The summit proved nearly viewless thanks to trees growing near the highpoint. Ritter-Banner can just be seen over the tops of the trees to the west. Starting down the north side of the summit I could see Mt. Downs about 20min away in that direction. It makes for the more interesting climb of the two, thanks to some granite scrambling and better views afforded by its summit. There are several rock outcrops vying for the highpoint - the benchmark appears on the western point, but the highest is to the east. One can see Mono Lake to the north, the White Mtns far to the southeast, and the snowy Sierra Crest to the west. My descent route went almost back to the saddle between the two summits, then a descending traverse to the SE where I picked up FS road 2S78 which I followed nearly back to the start. Though the slopes are steep, the cross-country travel is fairly easy with open terrain under the forest canopy. I spent about an hour and a half covering the two summits, finish up around 10a. Time to head home, but not before I had to compete with the massive influx of Yosemite visitors trying to get over Tioga Pass...


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This page last updated: Fri Jul 3 18:30:34 2015
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