Winnedumah Peak


By: Parker Severson


A cool breeze swept gently down the moonlit slopes of the Inyos as we "sacked " up for the night. A million crickets chirped a lullaby. No roaring Diesel trucks here to keep us awake.

An even dozen of us had spent a pleasant evening around the campfire at Barrel Springs in Mazourka Canyon, 12 miles east of Independence, on Sat, June 11. Paul and Mary DeDecker of independence were leaders of the trip sponsored by the Desert Peaks Section. Campfire discussion got around to Winnedumah or Paiute Monument, the 80' granite pinnacle which was our objective and located in a dip on the crest of the Inyo Range.

According to Chalfant's "The Story of Inyo", Indian legend has it that Winnedumah was the great medicine man of the Paiutes, whose principal stronghold was in the Black Rocks, a great field of tumbled lava in the middle of the Owens Valley. A band of Diggers invaded the valley from the passes of Pahbatoya in the Sierra to raid the hunting grounds of the Piutes. After days of bitter fighting, the Piutes were beaten and forced to flee. Among the fugitives was Winnedumah, whose medicine had been useless against the invaders. Alone and exhausted he gained the summit of the Inyos, where he stopped for a final view of his domain and to await the coming of his warrior brother, Tinnemaha, war chief of his people. While he was invoking the aid of the Great Spirit for his stricken people, a great convulsion of nature came and one of its effects was to transform him into a pillar of stone. So there he stands to this day for rock climbers to practice on.

Sunday morning we hiked the five mile trail to the old folillized medicine man, arriving at 10:30 AM. The elevation here is 8,354 feet. The view of the Sierra is superb. No serious attempt to climb the pinnacle was made, as we were not equipped for it. It was first climbed in March, 1941, by Paul Estes, Dave Lind and Bill Shand, all of the rock Climbing Section. Shand led the very steep friction route of some 35 feet on the east face. The west side drops off sheer with a slight overhang and one piton is still in place.

We made a long stop here for lunch and to enjoy the view. Some rock climbing technique was practiced on nearby rocks under the supervision of Charlie Gerkens.

The return trip to Barrel Springs was rather warm and we found the cool flow of water very refreshing. Many wild flowers were in bloom along the way, including several kinds of cacti. We are indebted to Paul and Mary DeDecker for planning and leading a very enjoyable desert climb.

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