Mount Inyo, Keynot Peak
By: George Wysup
Leaders: Sue Holloway and George Wysup
~ When Sue and I decided to lead this trip we expected cool weather with snow at the "Bedsprings" campsite. We failed to foresee the hot and dry spring weather which turned out to melt all the snow on these peaks, except for some sparse patches in the shade near the summit of Keynot.
12 hikers materialized on Saturday morning at 8:30 am at the 2WD trailhead after spending Friday night at sundry spots. Participants, other than the leaders, were Gene Mauk, Paul Menkes, Lynne Buckner, John Strauch, David Beymer, Maura Raffensperger, Spencer Berman, Bob Hoeven, Brent Costello, and Wayne Vollaire. The group noted on the drive in that the "pile of truck tires" at the junction with the "poor dirt road" mentioned in the DPS guide now consists of a pile of precisely two tires.
We combined into the 4WD vehicles and set off for the 4WD trailhead at the register box. The plan was slightly thwarted by some recently carved gullies in the road at the 5200' elevation, sufficient to high center the vehicles. So we hiked an extra 1/3 mile, not a major chore compared to the total effort. We followed the route in the DPS guide, hiking up Union Wash from the register at 5500' elevation to a refreshing waterfall at 6200' [note that the DPS map shows the route to go immediately up the ridge]. Paul and Lynne had carried in their water the day before. They verified that there was nary a flake of snow at Bedsprings campsite, and that the trail up the slope to the ridge was in decent condition. We switch backed up this trail, gaining the ridge at 7800', each carrying the burden of 8 to 10 liters of liquid. We mounted the 33% slope of point 9155' excruciatingly and took a long break in some shade at the saddle, even though we were not far from camp.
In a few minutes (about 4:30 pm) we spotted the bedsprings which convey the designation of this campsite at 9350' elevation. Flat spots for 2-person tents are at a premium, but there are ample good places for solo campers. The excellent happy hour served to revive our tired bodies and flagging spirits, and we were eager to get those peaks. We decided to go for Keynot first since this was John Strauch's orphan.
We set forth at 7:30 in already warm temperatures. Most of us had never visited these peaks, and we seriously underestimated the time and effort required. After 9 hours to hike these 6 miles we acquired respect and understood why lnyo has DPS emblem status.
We pranced along the ridge toward Keynot, often keeping slightly to the right. Upon reaching the reddish brown crags (varnished limestone) near the summit we opted to follow the route along the slopes to the left (NE) side, which went quite nicely. It was obvious that this route would have been very tricky with significant snow. We didn't see any indication of an "obvious ducked route" (mentioned in the DPS guide) around the sunny (SW) side. Returning from Keynot to the saddle we spied a single specimen of California Primrose with showy white flowers.
After a brief lunch we headed for Mt Inyo. We skirted the first bump (10120+) slightly on the left, went to saddle 10000, then scurried up the slope to the NW, keeping slight left, to a flat area at about 10700'. We noticed a number of small obsidian flakes here, presumably left over from Native American arrowheadchiseling operations. The natural science along the route consisted of one 3-foot long gopher snake, which we decided not to eat.
Per the DPS guide we skirted bumps 10920+ and 10880+ low on the west side, gaining the saddle at 10800. Between several of us we found 2 or more class 2 routes to the summit. The better route, in my opinion, goes just to the left (SW) of the ridge from the saddle.
As we were in no particular hurry and some of us were, frankly, a bit tired and knee sore, we spent another night at Bedsprings. The night was, as the previous night, rather warm at about 45 deg F. Feeling greatly refreshed the next morning we descended briskly, along the same trail route, to the vehicles, arriving after about 2-3/4 hours. We avoided the "lightning fast" scree descent route mentioned in the DPS guide, opting instead to avoid obliterating the use trail. In any case, the scree is limestone rubble and the slope is steep, not very well suited for screeing with heavy backpacks.
One advantage of climbing these summits in spring (as opposed to autumn) is that some desert plants are still in bloom, though generally past their prime on Memorial Day. We hiked past blooming Desert Plume, Desert Mallow, some sort of very showy penstemon, (what I believe to be) an Eaton Firecracker, and a vast array of more mundane flowers such as Indian Paintbrush and Popcorn.
Statistics for the trip differ somewhat from those given in the DPS guide, in part because the 4WD trailhead is moved down a bit. These stats include undulations along the routes between the saddle and the peaks.
ROUND TRIP/BOTH PEAKS/2WD:
ROUND TRIP/BOTH PEAKS/4WD:
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