Mt. Nunn P750
Peak 7,620ft P300
Karl Hill
Peak 8,100ft P300

Fri, Oct 11, 2019

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


It had been two years since I last climbed in the Inyo Mtns of Eastern California with Tom and Karl, and a few years before that with just Tom, both times with just a single day in the area. Tom had a 4-day weekend this time, allowing us a more thorough exploration of the area's peaks. We would visit 27 summit in the north end of the range over the four days, leaving a few stragglers for a future visit. We camped three nights at at an old mining site just off the main road at around 7,100ft, enjoying campfires and our modest desert cuisine (sorely missing the more gourmet offerings that Matt Yaussi used to provide). Most of the peaks we visited made for short hikes of a mile or less and it was difficult to keep track of them with so many. Most of the remaining parts of these TRs are intentionally short descriptions - one can get the best use by just downloading the GPX tracks and following those. Bear in mind that some of the roads are pretty rough and 4WD may be required to get to our starting points.

Mt. Nunn / Peak 7,620ft

This was the only long hike of the four days, about five miles each way with 3,400ft of gain. Mt. Nunn was the primary goal with more than 800ft of prominence, while Peak 7,620ft was just an easy bonus peak on the way. Mt. Nunn was named for L.L. Nunn, the founder of the Deep Springs College, a unique 2-year liberal arts program at an isolated ranch & farm at the base of the mountain in Deep Springs Valley. There is an old road that climbs up from the paved Death Valley Rd, but it is now within the Piper Mtn Wilderness and closed to vehicles. We parked at the start of this road shortly after 7:30a and started up from there on foot.

We followed the old road 2.7mi to its end in about 45min, finding the remains of an old mining cabin with a rock hearth that took up most of the space in the small, 1-room log structure. Littered about the outsides were the remains of an iron stove and lots of detritus from the homestead. Just up the hill was a 20-foot deep pit that looked to be excavating a blue-green vein of rock (copper?) from the hillside. It doesn't appear to have amounted to much given all the effort. We left the road to head north cross-country, reaching the easy summit of Peak 7,620ft in another 30min. A Rocky Rockwell of Bishop had left a register here in 1996, making two more visits through 2000. Only a handful of others had signed the small notepad. Not long after leaving the summit, we got sight of Mt. Nunn another mile and a half further north. There were some ravines and folds in the mountains between the two, necessitating some unwelcome dips along the way before finally climbing up to Mt. Nunn. We reached the top shortly before 11a, about 3.5hrs from the start. Lying in the open at the top were some scattered sheets of paper relating to the Deep Springs College Constitution and Deed of Trust. These formed a picture of a faith-based college built on self-determination, manual labor (there is an alfalfa farm, dairy cows and cattle to attend to) and heavy on student class participation. There was a register as well, with many pages and some older scraps. The main register was left in 1980 by Jim Morefield and Ed Cronk in 1980. The latter was the president of the college at the time, the register placed to commemorate the USGS granting official status to the naming of Mt. Nunn. Jim Morefield was a student there, and through Kirk Dixon was made aware of the register photo I had posted even before this trip report was written. I had a short but pleasant exchange with Jim via email, during which he provided a dated photo of the two of them atop Mt. Nunn, complete with Levis, the preferred hiking apparel of the day.

From the summit, one can tell where Deep Springs Valley is to the northwest, but the valley floor (and the college) are out of view because the peak sits back from the edge of the valley. Eureka Valley can be seen with its sand dunes in Death Valley NP far to the southeast, while the Sierra Crest around the Palisades rises in the distance to the west. One can also see far into Nevada, with the Silver Peaks Range recognizable to the northeast. After a short rest at the summit, we headed back, taking some variations on our outbound route in an effort to avoid some of the dips encountered along the way. The three of us ended up splitting up for about 30min while I nearly went back over Peak 7,620ft and the others found ways around it. We were back together before reaching the old road. On the way down the road we shortcutted a large turn in the road before regaining it and following it down to our start, finishing up by 1:45p. This officially unnamed peak lies east of our start for Mt. Nunn, just north of the main road. We repositioned the jeep for an easier ascent, taking all of 50min for the roundtrip effort. There are four contours on the topo map of equal height and we had to visit three of them before determining which was the highest. We left a register here whereby I dubbed the summit as "Karl Hill" for no other reason than there isn't already such a named summit in the state. We considered briefly continuing on to nearby Lime Hill, but its lack of prominence and the deep drop between the summits dissuaded us, so we simply returned to the jeep on the main road. As it wasn't yet 3p and I wasn't ready to call it a day, I had little trouble persuading the others to explore more options. At the west end of Little Cowhorn Valley I turned north off the main road and drove a few miles higher into the hills on that side. Karl was done for the day and planned to nap in the car. I hoped to convince Tom to climb Peak 8,500ft with about 800ft of prominence, but the mile distance and 1,000ft of gain was more than he wanted to do. So we settled on the easier Peak 8,100ft, a third of the distance and half the elevation gain. It took less than 15min to climb to the uninteresting summit with decent views. We were back before Karl had had time to fall asleep, a little to his dismay. I'd have preferred to do a bit more, but my companions had had enough so we called it a day and drove back to camp for showers, dinner, campfire and beers, though not exactly in that order...


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