Crater Mountain P500
Peak 8,620ft P300
Peak 8,860ft

Aug 10, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX


Day 7 of the 2023 Sierra Challenge was to Redwind Peak out of the Taboose Pass TH, with more than 7,000ft of gain. Not up to such punishment, I hit up a trio of rather easy summits before calling it a day in the early afternoon. There was much enjoyable jeeping around in the Inyo Mtns, taking nearly as much time as the hiking portions.

Crater Mtn

This low summit is found about 4mi south of Big Pine. Because the elevation is barely 6,000ft, it seemed wise to do this first and start early. I had camped at 8,000ft up SR168, so I was up at 4:15a, drove down to Bishop to pick up my Starbucks shortly after they opened, then drove to Big Pine and along the well-graded McMurray Meadows Rd. This got me to the west side of Crater Mtn, 1.2mi from the summit, and ready to start at 6a. High clouds helped paint a colorful sunrise as I started out, the Sierra Crest lighting up behind me. Other than the cool weather, nice sunrise, and some decent views, the hike to Crater Mtn has little to offer. The entire distance is over dark lava rocks and dry grasses, requiring vigilence with each step on the awkward terrain. I spent just under 45min making my way to the top where a small cairn, a benchmark, and a register are found. The peak is surprisingly popular judging from the register dating to 2021, though most of the 20 pages or so of entries were from outside the summer months. My return route avoided the minor crater I had traversed on the ascent, making for a slightly better route. Roundtrip time was about 1hr20min.

Peak 8,620ft

I spent the next hour driving into the Inyo Mtns to the northwest of Waucoba Mtn. I had been to the area on a number of previous occasions, usually part of a Jeeping tour with Tom Becht. On our last visit we had trouble finding our way close to Peak 8,620ft and had skipped it. Tom had come back in June of this year to tag it, so I figured I ought to do so as well. I thought I had researched a route from the north through Harkless Flat that would get me within half a mile of the summit, but I came to find the last mile of road, though visible in the satellite view, is now closed by the Forest Service. I tried another route nearby but found it closed as well, so I settled on a 1.5mi route from the closed sign. It's an easy walk with modest gain along the road that appears to still be in driveable condition. It goes up to a saddle between two minor drainages, then descends gently into the southern drainage before rising just as gently along the east side of the peak. The 0.35mi of cross-country to the summit is only moderately steep under sparse forest cover. I found a duck on the summit rock outcrop on the west side of the peak, overlooking the Owens Valley and Sierra Skyline. I left a register here, took a longish break and a few photos afforded by my perch. I headed back down after about 15min and returned to the Jeep just after 10a, an hour and a half effort. The first mile or so of the road into Harkless Flat from the pavement is in terrible shape due to heavy runoff - 4WD and high-clearance needed.

Peak 8,860ft

This last summit is about 6.5mi ENE of the previous one and would require about an hour of driving between them. The dirt Forest Road to Squaw Flat that I used was in much better shape than the previous one. Only high-clearance required for this one. I parked at a high saddle about 1.2mi WSW of the summit. The first half mile can be followed along a 4WD road that is probably still driveable but showed no recent use. From there, the route goes cross-country along an undulating ridgeline with no serious gain or loss, and rather easy cross-country through sparse pine and juniper forest. There are a number of prospects in the area and refuse from mining days, but no serious quantities of ore appear to have been removed. I spent 30min reaching the summit. There was a duck at a southern rock outcrop, but I think the highpoint is likely a nearby outcrop to the north. I found no register at either and had none with me to leave. I was back to the Jeep by 12:15p and ready to call it a day.

I drove back down to Big Pine, picked up some ice and beverages at a gas market, and then some BBQ in town. I then drove up to Onion Valley where I would spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in the much cooler temperatures. Day 8 of the Challenge would start from here the next morning...


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