On the second day of our weekend Zdon peak-athon, Tom and I were in the Inyo
Mtns to tag a foursome most easily reached with the help of a 4WD vehicle. Tom
had brought his Jeep for this adventure, getting good use out of it on our
first day in the White Mtns along Crooked Creek. Today's driving would be on
rougher roads and much longer. In fact, it would take us more time to drive the
various dirt roads than the hikes themselves. In the morning we drove into the
Cowhorn Mountains, a subrange of the Inyos found at the north end, between
SR168 and the Death Valley Rd leading to Eureka Valley.
10mi of often rough driving leads to a saddle just below this unnamed summit
which anchors the SW end of Deep Springs Valley. The hike
takes little more than 10min, though with my van it
would have been an all-day affair. The summit
offers views to Waucoba Mtn, to the Sierra
Crest, to the Whites and to Deep Springs
Valley. A register we found here consisted of a small handful of loose pages
dating back . The second oldest scrap was from MacLeod/Lilley
with Andy Smatko and Tom Ross visiting the
. Brian French appears to be the most recent visitor
This is the highest summit in the Cowhorns, reaching to just under 9,000ft.
Though Zdon describes a route from the west, we found a shorter approach from
the north. Had we not gone to Peak 8,940ft we'd have probably used the easier
drive to, and longer approach from the west side. From , our
cross-country route was 3/4mi one-way with about 700ft of gain, climbing up
through pinyon/juniper forest much like that we found on the first summit.
The were not appreciably better than Peak 8,940ft but the
register had a few surprises. Comprised of a handful of loose pages, the oldest
entry was from Walt Wheelock , probably while scouting for
worthy summits for his 1962 Desert Peaks Guide
, the precursor to Zdon's
more recent and heavily expanded Desert Summits
. The same crowded page
included almost 2 dozen entries including ones from MacLeod/Lilley, Smatko/Ross
and Bob Sumner, spanning 40yrs. The most recent scrap was left by Mark Adrian
with an April entry from Sumner's second visit - 16yrs after the first one. Our
return was down a slightly different, more direct line, getting us
just under an hour after starting out.
This is often considered the northmost of the major summits in the Inyo Mtns,
rising to well over 9,000ft with 1,000ft of prominence. It was one of only five
P1K summits (out of
9,000ft in CA that I had left to visit. This one proved the toughest
of them all, some five miles from the pavement though only the
last mile or so was
particularly rough. Only a few miles from the pavement we noted a sudden change
in the engine noise, not boding well. We stopped and got out to examine it.
While I looked around the tailpipe, Tom seemed to know exactly what it was,
walking around to the passenger side and . Sure
enough, the muffler inlet pipe had separated from ,
effectively taking the
muffler out of commission. With some tools and copper plumbers tape among the
helpful things Tom carried in the back, he managed to at least tie up the front
end of the muffler to keep us from losing it (and there was no doubt it would
have been shortly ripped from the undercarriage had we done nothing). And then
back on the road. The last half mile of the road was excessively steep with
very sharp switchbacks, just barely managable in the Jeep. The temperature gauge
wasn't working, otherwise I think it might have indicated we were exceeding
recommended limits. It was probably 85F outside even at 8,000ft and that last
steep section must have worked the undersized engine to the edge. The road tops
out at an old mine location at 3/4mi west of the summit.
With only about 500ft of climbing, it made for a pretty
which took less than 30min. Unlike the earlier summits, this register was not
even a year old, left by the previous July. Daria Malin
had visited in January and more recently an that included
Dennis Burge (whom I met in Ridgecrest) in May. The ? It was
pretty warm and I don't think we bothered to admire
them all that much. Not long before noon we were back at the Jeep.
This unofficially named summit (named by Zdon for the summit benchmark) lies
at the western end of Harkless Flat. The road out there was remarkably tame
without any difficulties. Zdon describes parking about a mile further east, but
we had no trouble driving right to the described in his
writeup. The cabin, partially built into the hillside is ,
long ago having collapsed. From the cabin the summit is a 10min hike to the
north up sand/gravel slopes on its SE side. There was no register on this one,
but on a lower
to the northwest is something resembling a
wooden cross held up by guy-wires. It appears to have been erected by amateurs
and there is some evidence (broken mirror pieces) that some experiments may
have been conducted using it. After this brief diversion, we returned via the
route we'd ascended.
It was 2p by the time we'd returned back to the junction of SR168 and Death
Valley/Saline Valley Rd where we'd left my van. Tom was heading home while I
still had another day or two left to play in the mountains, so we parted ways.
It was hot down at 4,000ft - 100F and there were few places I could go to escape
the heat. After a quick stop in Big Pine for the largest cup of iced soda I
could muster, I drove back up to the White Mtns where we'd started the weekend
on Friday night. At 10,000ft it was far cooler, in the 70s, and much more
conducive to hiking. I decided to hit up the two peaks we'd missed the previous
day plus a few easy bonus summits not far from the White Mtn Rd.
Clem Nelson Peak
Less than half a mile from the roadway with 700ft of gain,
it as "Reeds Mtn") was too much for us to bother with at the end of the day
yesterday. With more in the tank today, it was an easy climb that took barely
20min. Zdon had left the first of three register pads .
Subsequent ones were left and . All told, there
were more than 50 pages of entries,
making it a surprisingly popular peak, most odd considering there's not even
a vestige of a use trail that I could find.
This was the summit that we found most frustrating the day prior. Located
roughly halfway between County Line Hill and Bucks Peak, Blanco is only a few
miles from the road but seemed so far when we were tired that afternoon. I
used the same
that we'd found for County Line Hill and followed the route up the draw we'd
taken to . From the saddle I around the
south side of County Line to a where I picked up an old
road leading to a small, west of Blanco. The
cross-country travel from the road had little brush and the
at the base of
the mountain was completely dry. Once at the base of the mountain the climb to
the summit was much like Clem Nelson, slopes of
with decent footing thanks to the vegetation that manages to grow there. The
pinyon and forest stops just below the summit leaving the
open in all directions. I found but no
register among the collection of . Following virtually
the same route I had taken in, I to the van
shortly after 6p, a two hour effort.
Back on White Mtn Rd, I drove south a few miles to where the road tops out at a
saddle near 10,900ft. The saddle is about 1/10th mile from the highpoint, about
as easy a bonus peak as you can get. There are two summits, one on either side
of the road and I guessed the wrong one in hitting up the larger massive to
. Turns out the rocky west side summit is the highpoint.
There are several class 3 routes to choose from up the impressive
(easier routes walking around to the south side). I went up one gully and down
another, short but fun scrambles. Though no register was found,
are pretty good.
Silver Peak BM
I'm not sure how this summit got named on LoJ. The topo map doesn't show a
benchmark or any summit named "Silver Peak". Maybe there was such a benchmark
before they built up all the communication towers at the summit, some of them
quite recently. Even easier than Peak 10,940ft, this summit two miles to the
south can be with a sufficiently burly vehicle. I deemed
the road too steep to give it a try so I parked at the
(also quite new) and hiked the short distance in ten
minutes. Amidst the towers is what looks like a two-story wooden
that can be climbed like a telephone pole to one of
two wooden platforms. I don't think it's there for public use, but
are improved with the extra height.
It was after 7p by the time I finished up and time to call it a day. I ended
up parked at the at the 9,300-foot level, afraid
that I would only find unacceptably warmer temperartures lower. There is a
short trail leading to some at the overlook, a fine place to
take in both sunrises and sunsets. I would have this
evening and the former when I awoke in the morning...