Sat, Aug 12, 2023
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Day 9 of the 2023 Sierra Challenge was a long, 36mi outing to Crabtree Crags out of Horseshoe Meadow, far more difficult than I could manage. I chose instead the modest summit of Haystack on the east side of Owens Valley at the base of the Inyo Mountains. There were a couple of trip reports by Richard Carey and Candace Skalet on PB that had piqued my interest. Richard had first climbed Pt. 4684 in 2016, the highest point indicated on the topo map. His hand level had shown a northern point about 1/5mi away to be higher, but it was too late in the day to go over there. He thought it looked unclimbable (which really means, unscrambleable). Candace had visited six years later and had reached both points. She thought the northern point could be scrambled at class 4, but didn't give it a try. I thought it was interesting enough to pay it a visit early in the morning before it got too warm. I'd spent the night camped high on Horseshoe Meadow Rd, driving down in the morning and then across Owens Valley near Lone Pine to the base of this small hill on its south side. There were several parties camped off the BLM roads in the area, but I couldn't imagine them sleeping too comfortably with the overnight lows around 70F.
Haystack is really a small hill, a collection of weathered granite rocks and boulders, piled up in a haphazard fashion like the Alabama Hills on the other side of Lone Pine and the valley. There doesn't seem to be any easy way to the top and there's a good deal of scrambling up to class 3 by almost any route. It's a fun bit of romping about if you're in the mood and I found it rather enjoyable. I took about 45min to reach the southern summit block. I surveyed it from the south and west before settling on the east side as the easiest line. The large block is split with a lower chunk breaking off the south side, the east side allowing a line up the crack formed by the split. The crux comes right at the beginning, getting one into the center of the split region. There's then a class 3-4 face climb up the south side side to reach the highpoint. All well and good, but in looking north, it sure seemed like the point well to the north is higher, as the others reported. Luckily the terrain is easier between the two blocks and it took only 15min to find my way from one to the other. The northern summit is composed of two tall blocks, the western one slightly higher. The weathered crack on the south side between them offers a class 4 way to the summit. It is more exposed than the southern block and I took more care. I climbed about 1/3 of the way up the crack, then transitioned right on to the lower block which I climbed on its southern edge. From its top, I had a close-up look at the upper east side of the taller block which I would have to surmount. The gap between them offers some exposure, but the move from one to the other was easier than it first appeared, really just class 3. It's a pretty neat little perch on the highpoint, enough room for a few folks to gather, with views up and down the Owens Valley. There's no place to put a register up there, so after reversing my moves back down to easier ground, I left a register under a small cairn on the south side of the block as indicated in the photo I took. On the return, I used Candace's route to the northeast and then southeast, a mostly class 2 route taking me well around the southern summit, longer than the ascent route, but easier. I was back to the Jeep around 8:30a, about 2.5hrs all told.
Upon finishing, I decided I was going to skip the last day of the Challenge and head home, but first went to Miller's in Lone Pine to visit with my brother. His RV engine had given up the ghost and was in need of replacement or rebuild. I spent about half an hour there with him and the various mechanics as Jim was trying to get a plan together and decide whether to stay for the rebuild or travel home and come back later. I offered him a ride to San Jose, but that was in the wrong direction and didn't seem like it would make things easier for him. It would take me something short of 7hrs to get home, but I made it before sunset, without incident. I only managed three of the ten Challenge Peaks this year, which sadly is likely to be as good it gets going forward. Still, I had a fine time and it was nice getting out for almost two weeks, all told...
This page last updated: Wed Sep 20 15:37:01 2023
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