Sat, Oct 3, 2015
Three of us were camped at Badger Flat near Mazourka Peak in the Inyo Mtns for the primary purpose of climbing unnamed Peak 10,961ft on the crest of the range. Ok, that was my purpose. Tom was here because he wanted to climb Winnedumah Paiute Monument which was slated for the next day and Laura just wanted to hang out in the mountains in excellent company. Tom and I did our best to meet expectations but it's not altogether clear whether it up to par or we were even capable of doing so. Peak 10,961ft was my last CA summit over 10,000ft with 1,000ft of prominence, a list of 125 summits that no one had completed before nor, as far as I could tell, ever cared about. Still, it was the 4th highest summit in the Inyo Mountains and seemed worth checking out. Even with a few extra bonus peaks thrown in it wasn't a hard outing at 13mi and something over 3,000ft of gain, but we all enjoyed a fine high desert romp under beautiful skies with exceptional weather.
From Badger Flat we drove about 3mi on rough roads along the Wilderness boundary to gain about 400ft to the 9,100-foot level and save some modest mileage. We could have started from Badger Flat and used an old road going up Tamarack Canyon, but since Tom had brought his Jeep it seemed more fun to make use of it. It was not long before 8a when we started out, passing through an old ranch fence that now marks the Wilderness boundary. Oddly, the fence featured a gate that was merely latched and would allow anyone to actually drive into the Wilderness and judging from the tracks we saw, a few had done so fairly recently. They wouldn't get too far as the road deteriorates slowly as one hikes east up the canyon and after the first half mile only a determined ATVer seems to have gotten further, but not more than about a mile. The road, fine for walking, climbs steadily upcanyon, eventually turning to the south where it ends at an old USFS campground at 10,300ft, about 2.5mi from the start. There are 4-5 old campsites marked by firerings that see little use, but probably did at one time when one could drive to this point before the Wilderness was created in 1994.
The topo map shows the road continuing over a shallow saddle here but we found almost no trace of this or any of the several branches that are also shown. Nevertheless, cross-country travel was fairly tame for the 600ft of gain over about a mile that it took to reach the summit just shy of 11,000ft. The views were partially blocked by sparse tree cover at this elevation, but we still had some open, albeit hazy views looking into Death Valley to the east. A small register had been left in 2014 by a Mammoth resident whose name I couldn't quite decipher, but first name of Chris. The only other entry was from John Vitz (who else?) only a few months before us in July. We soaked in some sun and ate some snacks while resting and collectively planning our next moves.
Laura decided she didn't really care to join us heading another 1.5mi further south to another lower, unnamed peak but also didn't exactly feel like heading back yet either. Our plan then was for Laura to head northwest to Blue BM where Tom and I would meet her sometime later after visiting the first bonus peak. We took about 40min over continuing mellow terrain along the crest of the range, enjoying the views and what was amounting to a very delightful day. We checked out several possible highpoints closely spaced atop Peak 10,492ft (for those that care, this would land on a list of CA non-Sierra 10,000-foot summits), unsurprisingly finding no register. We then headed back north, following in a drainage west of the crest to a saddle at 10,700ft before dropping again, heading northwest towards Blue BM, our rendezvous point. It took us an hour and a half from Peak 10,492ft to find the USGS Blue benchmark at the highpoint after a modest climb, then only a few seconds more to spot Laura waiting for us lying against a tree just downhill. She seemed to have had a fine time of it, despite the lack of our charming company, though she wasn't unhappy to see us finally arrive (quite a bit later than I had guessed earlier).
After a short break, the three of us collected our gear and followed the ridgeline northeast about 1/3mi to the higher point at unnamed Peak 10,728ft. Here we found a little pearl in a 1976 MacLeod/Lilley register. Its 12 pages were mostly filled with entries from hunters looking for deer though there were a few familiar names including Dennis Burge, Keith Christensen & Paul Garry, Bob Sumner and Greg Gerlach. We dropped east off the summit then across a shallow drainage before hiking back up to the saddle where the campsites were found earlier. Trailing behind a short distance, Laura gave out a shout that she'd found something - a tiny obsidian arrowhead, it turns out, a small game-sized one with a broken tip. We had been talking about the case of a Mammoth Lakes resident recently indicted for theft of Native American artifacts and suddenly she comes up with this little gem. I was a little frustrated - I've never found an arrowhead in 20yrs of roaming such places and walked right over this one before Laura picked it up. We took a few photos of it before Laura tossed it aside. As we walked through the old campground, Laura asked Tom and I if we wanted to visit the "campsite" which seemed to hold no interest to us until we realized she meant "camp site", her term for a regular cabin in the woods that had been someone's man-cave back in the day. Though boarded up and in disuse now, at one time it sported spring beds, an outdoor smoker and BBQ and all sorts of accoutrements that would allow one to comfortably spend weeks away from a nagging spouse. Only a few minutes after leaving the cabin and returning to the road, Laura blurted out, "Hey, you almost stepped on one!" as she bent down to pick up a second arrowhead that I stepped over. At this point my panties were in a bunch and I shouted out threat of bodily harm if she went on to find yet another one. The two of them found this rather amusing, Tom especially hoping she'd find a third - "I really want to see you smash her face," he said with a grin. Of course I would have backed down if she had found another because for one, hitting a lady isn't gentlemanly, but more importantly, I'm pretty sure she'd have me on the ground crying like a baby before I ever made contact. She tossed that one aside too, and luckily for me, a third one was never found.
We returned to the Jeep around 3:15p. We were back to the campground before 4p and soon after Tom mentioned he'd like to check out Mazourka Peak. So we piled into the Jeep for the second drive in two days to this easy summit a short distance from Badger Flat. We explored the lower west summit in addition to the highpoint, using the available cell service to send messages to family and otherwise occupying our time on Mazourka as the sun started a slow fade over the Sierra to the west and the breeze took on a cold chill. Smoke from fires burning in Sequoia and Yosemite had blown east into the Owens Valley marring what would otherwise be spectacular panoramic views. Back in camp, Matthew would arrive a few hours later for our climb the next day to Winnedumah Paiute Monument. The weather forecast was calling for more unsettled weather and possible rain and thunderstorms the next day - for now I was hoping it wouldn't come early during the night since I was sleeping out in the open without a tent for shelter...
This page last updated: Fri Nov 20 10:28:15 2015
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