I was on my way to the Inyo Mountains where I was going to join Tom and Karl for four days of peakbagging and jeeping around the northern part of that range. Leaving San Jose in the early morning, I had most of Thursday to myself for some minor peaks in Yosemite along SR120 on my drive through the park. I ended up with more time than I expected and found some additional fun alongside US395 after I'd exited the park and turned south. Most of these were short hikes of less than a mile though some had non-trivial gain which combined to give me a pretty full day. One of the more interesting sights of the day came before I had gotten to Yosemite. I was slowed on my drive up SR120 to make way for a huge cattle drive that was being conducted down the highway. Hundreds of cattle were being managed by several vehicles and half a dozen cowboys on horseback along with an equal number of herding dogs. I'd never seen anything like it in the thousands of times I've driven these state highways. How long they were along the roadway I couldn't guess, but the cattle stretched out for more than half a mile as I drove slowly past.

Peak 8,339ft

Found in the western part of the park, about three miles west of the White Wolf turnoff, it took only 20min to hike up to the summit through mostly open forest. The summit is large and rounded with weak views of Mt. Hoffmann and not much else. I had had this on my radar for a few years now, but never found the extra time on many drives through the park. Turns out to be a bit of a disappointment.

Peak 8,656ft

This one is found in the center of the park on the south side of the highway near the Porcupine Flat CG. I parked in an empty lot across from the campground entrance and hiked from there. The proximity to the campground meant there were numerous use trails through forest and meadow that I could use, though they didn't exactly go to the summit. I passed through several nice meadows that would probably be swamp-like in other times of the year, but were easy walks in Fall. It took 25min to reach the summit with a neat vantage point from which to view many of the park's features. The North Face of Half Dome could be seen about 4mi to the south. Clouds Rest and the Clark Range could be seen further to the southeast. To the northeast and southeast were seen Cathedral Peak and much of the Cathedral Range, including Echo Peaks, Cockscomb, Mt. Florence and Ritter-Banner.

Peak 9,083ft/Doda Dome

These two peaks are found to the west of Tuolumne Meadows, north of Daff Dome. Both are hidden from view from the highway, overshadowed by the more prominent climbing domes found on both sides of this stretch of highway between Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. I parked just off the roadway (no real turnout) on the south side of Daff Dome. Good climber trails (there are several to choose from) will take you around the west side of Daff Dome to access these two lesser points. From the backside of Daff Dome, cross-country travel will take you past several small, unnamed lakes on your way to Peak 9,083ft. The rounded granite summit slabs provide fine views overlooking much of the Yosemite High Country. There is an unusual view of Falls Ridge and the Tuolumne Gorge to the northwest, Matterhorn/Whorl far to the north, and Mt. Conness to the northeast. Directly south rise the various granite domes along the highway with Cathedral Peak rising above the lot. Doda Dome can be seen to good effect to the SSW. Having taken about 50min to reach Peak 9,083ft, it took another 25min to reach Doda Dome, sort of on the way back. Class 2 scrambling gets one easily to the summit from the northeast. Slightly harder class 3 slabs can be climbed from the south (which I used on the descent). Similar views as the previous peak. From Doda Dome, it took less than 20min to make my way back to the jeep at the highway.

Aeolian Buttes

These are a collection of interesting rock formations on the east side of US395, a few miles south of the junction with SR120 heading east. There appear to be lots of cool scrambling opportunities on the various pinnacles. There's also a whole network of sandy jeep/ATV roads and I was able to drive within 100ft of the highpoint on the north side. A short scramble leads to the top.

Peak 7,980ft

This is also a near drive-up, with the same road network getting one within 200ft of the summit. I drove various road branches east of the highway through this sparsely forested area about two miles southeast of Aeolian Buttes to reach the highpoint. Barbara Lilley had left a register here only two years earlier at 88yrs of age. Go Barbara!

Peak 8,508ft

This minor summit is located across US395 from Wilson Butte, a few miles southeast of the June Lake Junction. More Forest Service roads criss-cross the area and make this a complete drive-up.

Peak 9,801ft

This was the hardest of the bunch, found on the west side of US395, near Obsidian Dome. Though the distance was only half a mile, it took a solid 45min to make the climb up steep, loose slopes. It started off as pine needle cover, becoming more gravel, then sand, and finally some terribly soft, dust-like fine sand that gave no traction and much frustration. There are probably easier ways to do this, but going up the east side is not one of them. The only saving grace was the 1978 Smatko register and another from Lilley/MacLeod in 2007. Oh, and a nice view looking east as the day was growing late with the peak's shadow extending across Obsidian Dome.

On my way down the mountain I got a text from Tom asking me when I would be in Bishop. I guessed that he was looking to join me for dinner there and it turned out we arrived in Bishop within about 15min of each other. We had dinner at the Mountain Rambler, Karl joining us about an hour later. Properly fueled, we headed out to the Inyo Mountains around 9p to begin the long weekend's adventures...


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