Peak 8,980ft P500
Peak 8,180ft P300
Peak 8,540ft P300
Banana Crags P500
Peak 9,481ft P300
Peak 8,900ft P300
Peak 9,060ft P300
Squaw BM P500

Sat, Oct 12, 2019

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Squaw BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


Our second day in the Inyo Mtns had us driving around the Squaw Flat and Papoose Flat areas, found north of the main road and west of the range highpoint, Waucoba Mtn. We left Tom and Karl's vehicles at our campsite off Death Valley Rd, using my jeep for the dirt road adventure. Karl took up the back seat while Tom rode shotgun, the general seating arrangement we used all four days. As we were heading out, I looked to the back seat to notice Tom had left his banana there, next to Karl. With a straight face I told Karl he was welcome to the banana. Tom sort of laughed, to which I asked if he wanted it up front with him. He said, "No, leave it back there and I'll eat it later." Not five minutes later, before we'd reached our first peak, I looked back again to see Karl happily consuming the banana. I started laughing out loud which garnered only a mild response from Karl - "What?" Seems he selectively heard only the first part of the earlier conversation and genuinely thought I had offered him my breakfast fare. Tom was understandably incensed, Karl was confused, and I couldn't help finding it hilarious. This set off a chain of banana jokes and comments the rest of day, the unofficial naming of one of the summits, and all in all great fun to be had at the cost of a single banana.

Peak 8,980ft

Our first stop of the day was a short but steep hike to Peak 8,980ft north of Squaw Flat. It was 21F outside when we started just after 7:30a, but we would warm quickly with the steep ascent and the temperature would improve rapidly with the rising of the sun. We spent about 30min to reach the summit, warmer but still chilly, and left a register before heading back down. There's a fine view of Squaw Flat to the south, where we headed next.

Peak 8,180ft

This summit lies at the northern edge of Squaw Flat, detached from the surrounding hills. We drove down to Squaw Flat, parking on the western side of our peak, and headed off cross-country from there. We spent about 30min on the roundtrip effort, finding another good view of Squaw Flat.

Peak 8,540ft

Located on the west side of Squaw Flat, this summit required more effort than the last two, about 1.5mi roundtrip and taking just about an hour. Tom and I went up the drainage north of the summit through forest and mild brush while Karl followed the rocky East Ridge. He was able to circumvent the rocky outcrops that had deterred Tom and I, finding reasonable paths through them that made his route no longer than ours. We all went down the north side drainage on the return.

Banana Crags

This officially unnamed summit lies roughly halfway between Squaw Flat and Papoose Flat. The hike from the northwest side is about the same distance as the last peak, but the elevation gain is considerably more, over 1,000ft. In addition, there are lots of rocky outcrops in the upper half. Getting ahead of the others, I found my way to the top of one of the lower pinnacles, a rather stiff bit of class 3 work, only to find I was still a fifth of a mile from the highpoint, now clearly visible to the east. I had to climb back down from my tenuous perch before continuing on to the actual highpoint. With several points looking to be of similar height, it wasn't obvious which was the highest. I ended up climbing a lower point to the south, then traversed along the knife-edge ridgeline, some fun scrambling actually, to make my way to the highpoint. Tom and Karl appeared below me to the west as I was nearing the top. I directed them towards the north for the easier ascent line, though Karl came up a spicier route just behind me anyway. Guess he didn't want to leave me all the fun. It was the best peak we'd visited so far, though it was also the most work. With 640ft of prominence, it was also the most prominent peak we visited on the day.

I gave the name Banana Crags to the interesting summit in the register we left here, to commemorate the fun we were having with the misappropriated piece of fruit. Another summit, Peak 9,460ft lay about a mile to the southeast and I had hoped to convince my companions to continue on to it in a larger loop. Unfortunately there's a 1,000-foot drop between the two in a canyon which proved very dissuasive. They seemed happy to let me run off and do it on my own but that didn't seem like so much fun to me, so we left it for some other time.

Peak 9,481ft

After returning to the jeep, we continued west across Papoose Flat, then southeast on a rough road that climbs up and over a ridgeline before dropping down to Badger Flat near Mazourka Peak. Before going over the ridge, we stopped in a small meadow area to climb Peak 9,481ft from the south, a climb that took all of 18min. Though fairly easy, it was the highest summit of the day and had good views. Karl and Tom were able to get cell service on this one, so they frantically set about trying to log this and the earlier peaks on the peakbagger app before the other could - peakbagging in the 21st century.

Peak 8,900ft

We drove back down to Papoose Flat and then east for a peak we'd missed on our first pass through Papoose. This summit is a craggy beast unlike the others, that looks from a distance to be rather hard. Karl decided to sit this one out while Tom and I headed off on foot up an old road no longer open to vehicles. Our approach from the south followed up a shallow drainage along the road, then cross-country as we aimed for a side drainage rising to a saddle on the east side of the summit. We were greeted by huge granite boulders that had us thinking we might not make it to the top of this one. A short distance ahead of Tom, I had a few minutes to look around and found a class 3 way up through a weakness on the east side. It was a bit brushy at the crux, but it proved to be a very fine scramble indeed, one we both enjoyed. Tom got his hero shot atop the highest point before we reversed the moves back down the way we came. Later we would get a view of the north side of the peak and realized that side probably has a class 2-3 route to the summit.

Peak 9,060ft

This is an easy summit above Papoose Flat to the north, a short walk from the road. Karl skipped this one as well. A few trees stand at the otherwise uninteresting summit. It was from here that we got a good view of the north side of Peak 8,900ft.

Squaw BM

My companions were about done at this point though it wasn't yet 4p. To entice them, I offered Squaw BM with 500ft of prominence and the promise of a MacLeod register. This worked like a charm, even perking up Karl who decided to join us since it would be another short hike. We weren't able to drive as close as I had expected with the spur road now closed to vehicles. Still, it took but 20min to walk the road to the base of the mountain, then climb the steep and gravelly but thankfully short slope to the summit. There was some disappointment when I failed to deliver the MacLeod register, but we did find a busy one left by Rocky Rockwell in 1996, 13yrs after MacLeod's visit. It was 5p by the time we returned to the jeep, calling it a day. We left five other summits in the area untouched, not having enough time to tag them all. We had other places to visit the next two days, so these five will have to wait for a future date.


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