INYO RANGE BACKPACK
The Inyo Range is a rugged mountain range in California just east of Lone Pine and the hwy 395 corridor. It is quite an impressive range topping out at over 11,000', with numerous peaks over 10,000'. On May 14-15, Jodie and I climbed to the crest of the range in hopes of summitting Keynot Peak, the second-highest peak in the range at 11,101', and New York Butte (10,668').
I actually planned to do this same trip last June, but the weather was too hot. This year I scheduled it several weeks earlier, and the weather was nearly perfect. Friday night, we drove from Las Vegas to the trailhead. The last 1.5 miles of the drive were to be on the faint French Spring Road. To add to the road confusion, there were several roads leading in the same basic direction. We were hoping to get close to canyon entrance at 4400' or so. The first road we took stopped at about 3900', so we backtracked to the main road to try again. Our second road was much better, finally ending abruptly at a 20-foot deep gully at 4400'. We camped there for the night. The night was warmish, but very pleasant. Strangely, there was no wind except for a 15 minute period in the night, in which the wind blew like crazy, then suddenly stopped again!
The next morning our objective was to start early, and backpack the 5 miles (and 5200' elevation gain) to Forgotten Pass. Information was a bit vague, but there was supposed to be a decent trail most of the way. As it turned out, the trail was excellent and easy to follow the whole way. We made steady progress and enjoyed the shade in the early morning hours. Our packs were heavy (mine was 50 lbs), with all the water we would need for the weekend. I carried 13 liters, plus another 0.75 liters of wine!
Looking back at the Jeep (Note the gaping chasm just past where we parked!)
Who would have guessed a sign-in register in the middle of nowhere?
Jodie toting her water jug up the steep trail
Silhouette of Jodie against the majestic Sierras
Progressing up the warm canyon
Slogging up the trail with the Keynot ridgeline above us
Just before Forgotten Pass
Pass at last
Despite the heavy packs we worked our way up along a ridge, then back into the French Spring drainage at about 6600'. The trail avoids several huge dryfalls in the lower canyon. From 6600' to about 8000', the trail follows the drainage up, passing numerous fire rings and campsites. Keynot Peak was in view at this point many thousand feet above us. The trail then begins a long series of switchbacks and we finally reached the pass at 1:30 pm. After setting up camp and relaxing a bit, we headed out for Keynot Peak. I knew the peak was to be challenging as there were cliff bands along the ridge that needed to be avoided. The summit was less than 1.5 miles and 1600' from our camp, so I figured maybe 2.5 hours to the summit...Wrong!
We had more difficulties than expected. First of all we followed the ridge too far, and were forced to descend several hundred feet on steep, nasty terrain. Then came a seemingly interminable traverse on loose talus. It was two steps forward, one step back, and we were already tired from our backpack in. We considered turning back, because going for the summit would probably force us to descend the unfriendly terrain in the dark. But, we had headlamps (and much determination), so we kept going. Eventually, we were able regain the ridge, and after a couple of false summits, finally made it about 6:45. After signing the register, a quick snack and summit photos, we headed back.
En route to Keynot Peak (Note the jagged ridgeline; I think the summit is on the far left.)
Sidehilling on loose talus - lots of fun!
We finally arrive at the summit of Keynot at 6:45 pm.
Jodie enjoying a summit snack of Fruit by the Foot
We stayed low on the descent, but still had the unpleasant traverse to deal with, some of it in the dark. Fortunately, the moonlight was bright, and we arrived back at camp at 9 pm. I fell asleep almost immediately and slept like a baby. In the morning we discussed bailing on NY Butte, but being "hardcore" peakbaggers, we decided to go for it, since we didin't want to come back up there again!
We were slow from the previous day's adventures, but progressed steadily, following a good use trail over several "bonus peaks" toward the base of NY Butte. The final ascent up NY Butte was long and arduous, made more difficult by the disappearance of a good use trail. Near the summit, we did finally pick up the trail coming up from the Long John Canyon route.
The top was flattish, punctuated to numerous rocky outcrops. It was a bit difficult to determine which one was the true summit as there were a handful of these outcrops of similar elevation. Finally at 11 am, we reached the narrow, airy summit. I called home to report progress, and we spent about a half an hour up there enjoying the views and the beautiful morning. There were still a few small snow patches near the summit, but Jodie declined my challenge of a snowball fight!
Jodie climbs a "false summit" near NY Butte for the view
Joel on NY Butte with Keynot in the distance
Jodie on the narrow summit block of NY Butte
for a snowball fight?
We were excited to have reached our goal, but knew that we had a LONG way to go to get home. The descent was slow, but straightforward. We followed the use trail as best we could, resummitting only one of the three "bonus" peaks en route. When we finally arrived back at camp at just past 3, we were beat. We packed up, rested a bit, and hydrated (with water and wine).
A friendly collared lizard at camp
Descending as dusk approaches
Beautiful cactus blooms
Back at the Jeep as night falls
I was ready to roll a few minutes before Jodie, so I got a little head start figuring that Jodie would catch up quickly, but I made excellent time down the switchbacks, and Jodie didn't catch up until I took a break, almost halfway to the car. We hiked the rest of the way together, but it seemed farther than it did on the ascent! We finally reached the vehicle at 8:15, just as it was getting dark. From there, it was supposed to be an easy 1.5 mile drive back to the main road, but...
On the way out, somehow I drove off the faint road and began driving through the desert, which in my defense, looked about the same. Soon the "road" we were on ended at some boulders and we realized the problem. By this time, it was totally dark, so navigating by sight was tough. After several false starts, we finally rediscovered the road, and were on way home.
It was just after 1 am by the time we arrived back at Jodie's, tired but content.
Total stats for the trip were about 25 miles, 10,500' of gain, not to mention the heavy packs for half of it, and the difficult terrain on Keynot. Here is the stat that is most telling: total hiking time was about 27 hours, almost exactly half of the 55 hours I was gone from my house! So of the the other 28 hours, 10 of it was driving, and about 15 was sleeping...leaving only 3 hours of "extra" time! As Jodie pointed out, this itinerary probably would have better for 3 days/ 2 nights, but we did it without the extra day!
RENO PEAKBAGGING & BBQ
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Peaks Section Peaks
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Issues of High Altitude Climbing