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Waucoba Mtn is the highpoint of the Inyo Mountains, a high desert range founda east of the Sierra Nevada. It is also a DPS peak which was the impetitus for our interest in climbing it. I would have been interested in a longer hike today, but Matthew needed to return to the Bay Area and didn't want an epic driving adventure come nightfall. Of the easier peaks that we bandied about, this one seemed most interesting to me since I had yet to climb any of the peaks in this range, and besides, the arduous drive on miles of dirt road would be better suited to Matthew's SUV than to any of the vehicles that I happen to own.
We got a late start for the hour or so drive to the trailhead, and it wasn't until 8a before we were ready to start hiking. Of the two DPS route options, we chose the approach from the east - it had more elevation gain but was easier on the driving with better road conditions. The dirt road that we started hiking up didn't last more than half a mile before petering out, then it was all crossc-country up a poorly defined ridge on the east side of the peak. We found no use trail, but there were a dozen or so ducks that we came across enroute, most of them closer to the summit. The route was steep after the first mile, climbing 3,000ft in little more than a mile. To our surprise, the climbing wasn't all that bad either. Where we had expected mostly sand, talus, and brush, we found some decent class 2 scrambling up firm slopes with lots of granite outcroppings.
It took two hours to reach the flat, rounded summit, covering about ten acres at the top. We had little trouble finding the register, but it wasn't clear that the outcrop it was attached to was the highest of several competing for the honor of highpoint. I wandered about, inspecting the others just to be sure, but the benchmark at the original site seemed to backup the claim. The best views to be had from the summit are those of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada some 25 miles distance to the west. The lower part of the view is blocked by a front range of the Inyos, while trees periodically break up the view that would otherwise cover almost 120 degrees of the panorama. But it's still a fine view.
From the register we found that Waucoba Mtn had been planned for the DPS list finish for Patty Rambert in October of 2006. Her tragic death on Mt. Mendel earlier in that year had cut short the completion of that goal, but dozens upon dozens of her friends, acquaintances, and well-wishers came together to dedicate that hike to Wacauba on October 26 as a memorial to Patty.
After our break, we continued north along the broad ridgeline, aiming for Squaw Peak along the crest, about two and half miles in that direction. It was easy class 1 hiking down to the saddle just south of Squaw Peak, but the climb up from there was another enjoyable discovery, with some class 3 rock to play on if one so chose (which of course we did). The summit of Squaw was also rounded, with two summit "humps", the higher one being to the northwest. The register we found at the summit of Squaw went back to 1960, even older than that on Waucoba (the original on Waucoba was no longer there).
It was not long after noon when we left the summit of Squaw, heading down the SE side of the mountain. There were cliffs on the south side that we had seen earlier and needed to avoid, so with some apprehension we started down. We were happy to find that although the route was steep and horribly talus strewn for much of it, we were able to avoid all the cliffs and make our way down without any tricky route-finding. Once back down to the base of the mountain we still had a mile and half to travel through rolling, forest-covered terrain without good landmarks to guide us. We knew we'd hit the road on one side of the trailhead or the other if our aim wasn't too precise, so there was little to worry about. Still, I tried my best to head us back to the car directly, without aid of GPS, map or compass, relying strictly on dead-reckoning. My aim was pretty darn good as we struck the car before 2p without first seeing the road. I tried to get Matthew to acknowledge my excellent navigational skills on this part of the hike, but he wasn't very impressed. A hard guy to please, it would seem. :-)
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Waucoba Mountain
This page last updated: Wed May 16 16:43:21 2007
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