Mount Inyo


By: Scot Jamison


Hopefully, we will have a cloudy, slightly breezy day with varied gusts of fine mists cooling us off most of the day in preparation for the tall, cool, refreshing beverages that may await us back at the cars-but I'm not counting on it! There is no water on the trail, other than possible snow banks at higher elevations, and in most cases, there is no real trail-it's just up!

I wrote this blurb in the trip sheet for participants for our Inyo-Keynot trip. Los Angeles had been enduring rolling black-out, 90-degree plus weather for a couple of weeks, and the heat appeared to be on for the duration of the DPS season. The forecast for our weekend had been for heat with a possibility of scattered clouds. When we got into 4WD vehicles at 5: 1 0 a.m. Saturday for the drive to the trailhead, stars were still out and the air was still.

We started hiking at 5:50, leaving 3 vehicles at the trailhead, 3 at our camp near the diminished pile (2) of truck tires at the turnoff from Owenyo Lone Pine Road, and I at a sticky spot 1/2way up the 4wd part of the drive. By then we had a slight breeze, and we joked about the "varied gusts of fine mists" for the anticipated steep climb ahead of us. The not-so-faint trail up the south side of the canyon thru the scree slope was wonderful compared to the ridge I had taken previously in '92 on a backpack. At that time we carried several gallons of water and no trail, now we all had 3 quarts minimum and a good path to follow.

As we neared the top of the steep wall leading to the never-ending slope toward Bedsprings Camp, the breeze picked up again, and we realized that the sun was not just hiding behind the Inyo Mts, it was hiding, period. Andwe were getting varied gusts and blasts of fine and notso-fine mists. We put on our wind gear-even parkas with hoods up! Well, a little rain would be fine for the hike up. There would be plenty of sun soon enough. So it did rain, and blow, and sleet, and we passed Bedsprings Camp, (where we could have stashed 2 quarts each if we weren't all so much into conditioning), and we took the Inyo side of the saddle at 10,800'. It was COLD up there! We started up the "undulating" ridge toward Inyo, trying to keep our balance in the high winds, and by the time we got on the summit around noon, we had some decent snow flurries, indecent sleet, and 9 fairly miserable hikers. We looked over toward Keynot, two+ miles south, and tried not to decide that we weren't going to climb it, even though we couldn't see it. The sun would probably be dazzling when we reached the saddle.

Penelope led the way back through the wind, snow, brush, rain, clouds, and other fine mists to the slope above the saddle that divides the two peaks. Three, then one, then no climbers were interested in doing Keynot, depending on how hard the wind was gusting at the time each was asked. The sky looked as if it might clear, but billowy white clouds racing over and below New York Butte with promises of more to come shrieking in from, Pleasant and other southerly originations made it easy. Damon Vincent and Corinne 4 e@ interested when the peak was in view, which wasn't that often. A decision was made to go down, amid very little grumbling. Brian Smith wanted that peak, but not that bad! He can probably pick it up later in September during the NY Butte/Cerro Gordo trip. The totally soaked group descended, into more rain, wind, and weather. We took a break at Bedsprings, but it turned even nastier, so we went into "scree mode", and descended in earnest. Stephanie Murdock and Mariel Garza are WTC students, and had not experienced much scree. Once they got into that wonderful slope, with just-the-rightsized rocks piled just deep enough, they added yet another skill to their recently learned bags of tricks-the knowledge of how to get down in a hurry!

I realized that my watch was no longer on wrist once I reached the canyon floor. At one point in the mad scree rush, I wedged a ski pole into a crack, and the strap must have twisted the watch off my wrist. When Mariel reached the bottom of the slope, she asked if anyone had lost a watch! She earned an extra Margarita!

We marched out of the canyon and were at the cars by 4 pm. Penelope picked up her car l/2way down, and once again we were at the pile of tires, having happy hour in varied gusts of fine and coarse mists. Our plans had been to camp there and hit Darwin Falls and wildflowers on Sunday. We had no idea where all this weather had come from, but we did know that camping in it wasn't that great, since no one had tents, some had only ground cloths, some had cots, and those who slept in their vehicles were going to have soaked gear that had to be taken out of the vehicles in order to make sleeping room. Again, a decision was made-it was adios! Thanks to Penelope May for being a wonderful sweep and being of good cheer. Also appreciated was Glenn Lougee, who came from Flagstaff and showed us that seniors can still stomp up the trail quickly, bad weather or not. Jack Wickel and I found ourselves standing in the rain by a pile of tires with just our two vehicles. We loaded up and wandered south on 395, looking for a dry place to camp, and eventually just went back to the home fronts.

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