Mount Inyo, Keynot Peak


By: Dennis Richards


Early in the week before this trip, I checked the weather forecast for this area and saw that showers were predicted for Saturday. I formulated a backup plan to day hike Sandy and Last Chance Mtns., just in case. I even considered day hiking Inyo only on Sunday so Patty Rambert could get her DPS Emblem. By Thursday night, I noted that there was a full fledged Sierra storm warning predicted for this area. I decided to do the trip anyway and at this late date it would have been impossible to contact everyone and let them know it was canceled. Shannon Scott and I drove to Lone Pine from San Diego after work on Friday night and crashed at the BLM campground at Tuttle Creek. I was surprised to see it almost full and later learned that there was a Marathon scheduled the same weekend in Lone Pine that actually started at Tuttle Creek Campground! I had mentioned in my participant write-up that I would be having breakfast at the Hi Sierra Café in Lone Pine (formerly named PJ’S ). Shannon and I got there about 5:30 AM and met Sara Wyrens. Soon we were joined by Patty Rambert and Ron Hudson. Ron was scheduled to do an SPS trip that weekend but it got canceled so it was an honor to have him join our trip. We discussed the weather situation and what gear we would take over breakfast. It was cold and blustery but one could see large patches of blue sky above. We decided to go, albeit with more gear and equipment because of the expected bad weather.

We five decided to caravan out to the trailhead. The L.P. Narrow Guage Road is 0.7 miles further north on HiWay 395 from the Whitney Portal Road turn off in the center of town. The DPS Guide has this as the “LP Nar Ga” Road and that is what the sign used to say. The new sign at the mentioned fork on the way to the trailhead says only “Owenyo Road.” On the way out we collected Chris Hanson and were joined by Bill Kells at the spot on the Owenyo Road where you turn East to drive up to the trailhead. We drove up to the Union Wash trailhead, leaving one sedan at the 2 WD parking spot. We continued in 4WD to a point where you cross a wide wash, about 0.3 miles from the actual trailhead. The wash turned out to be “washed out” and we left the vehicles and hiked the final bit to the trailhead, starting a 8:25 AM.. This upper part of the road was little used, judging from the flowers and vegetation growing over it. There was a Wilderness sign-in board at the trailhead but no tablet inside.

We hiked the ½ mile up Union Wash, as per the Guide, to a point where we saw a duck and climbed loose talus to the ridge line above. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to gain the ridge right at the trailhead. This would have been preferable to all of the energy we expended gaining the ridge further up. We plodded on up the ridge, taking several rest stops, until we reached Bedsprings Camp at about 1:30 PM. On the way up, it appeared that the High Sierra were getting the brunt of the stormy weather. We had occasional rain and strong wind flurries but they seemed to stop as quickly as they started. After setting up camp, eating and resting, we took off for Inyo at about 3:00 PM, expecting to be on the summit in two hours. It immediately started to snow but stopped after several minutes. Our group moved slowly and it took about three and a half hours to get six climbers onto the summit. Chris was feeling the effects of altitude and stayed at the saddle just below Inyo. We were all feeling the altitude, except Ron, who never seemed to tire. Patty had just flown in from the East Coast, arriving on the previous Thursday and had not done any hiking in over three weeks. She had a bad headache and was very tired but this was her DPS Emblem peak. It’s too bad that we did not have much time for a proper DPS Emblem celebration, just a quick hug and congratulations, a quick photo, some ibuprofen and a drink and we headed down. We collected Chris at the saddle and made our way back to camp. We hiked the last part down to camp in the dark. It was after 8:30 PM when we finally got back. Most of us made an attempt at dinner, but after melting some snow for water and a quick cup of tea, I opted to get into my tent and sleeping bag. Most did likewise. We were pretty “toasted” from the hard day’s work.

We slept in on Sunday morning, which means that I got up about 6:30 AM to melt snow After breakfast, we took off, hoping for an easy ascent and an early departure for the cars. It turned out not to be. We easily passed several lower snow patches on the way up to Keynot but were finally stopped at the large rock pinnacle just before the summit mass. We tried crossing a steep snow patch on the eastern side but only found steeper snow beyond. Ron, who was a little higher, found a way over the ridge. We dropped several hundred feet on the western side and continued across steep loose scree until we were just past the summit area. There were a few ducks here but they seemed to be of little use for navigation purposes. We finally found a chute that went up to the base of the summit area and, from there a ducked route to the summit. All seven arrived on top to great views all around. The cloud cover had lifted over the Sierra and we had fun picking out various peaks that we intended to climb later this summer. There was a lot of new snow on the White’s to the North and the High Sierra to the West. The route up had taken over three hours and we were tired. We spent about thirty minutes on the summit before heading down, after rest, food and photos.

On the descent, we met another couple from Inyokern heading up. They were following their own ducked trail to the top; they do this peak often. We found their nice ducked route along the western side of the ridge that took us back to the ridge below the pinnacle. This route is only a hundred or so feet from the base of the rock, on the western side, and was much easier going that the route we ascended. We got back to camp, packed up and were moving down by 3:00 PM, much later than I had planned. We took the scree descent from the 8000 foot level and dropped directly into Union Wash for the hike back to the cars. Somehow, this was not as much fun as I had remembered it, but “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” We got back out after 5:30 PM and everyone cleaned up, packed up and hit the road for the long ride home.

Driving out, I looked back up the ridge when we were on the Owenyo Road and was impressed with the rugged nature of the Inyos. I was satisfied with our efforts and pleased that we were able to ascend these peaks in the weather conditions that we found ourselves in. Thanks to all who made my second Angeles Chapter trip a safe and successful one.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section