Paiute Monument


By: Tom Ferguson


Private Trip

Paiute Monument is a rock monolith on the west side of the Inyo Mountains, located approximately 10 miles ENE of the town of Independence. The Monument was considered sacred by the Paiute Indian medicine men. Paiute Monument is not a DPS "listed" peak. Although it seemed half of the DPS members I spoke to had heard of it and most of these were curious about it, very few had climbed it. Carl Byington had been on an unsuccessful DPS trip to the Monument seven years prior. He remembered its approximate location and estimated the summit block to be about half a rope's length of mid-class 5 climbing.

Some time well spent in the Pasadena Map Shop (an excellent source for desert topo maps) produced the correct topo, Independence Quad 15 min series.

Eight of us (Carl Byington, Karen Patterson, Rick Booth, Terry Rivera, Bruce Turner, Bob Ferguson, and the two of us) met late Friday night in Independence. From there we drove up the road shown on the topo as "Citrus" east out of town. This road is no longer named "Citrus", having been renamed "Mazourka." Many camping spots can be found between 4-1/2 and 7 miles up this road.

The next morning we continued up this dirt road past "Square Tunnel" west of peak 6809' (where the previous DPS trip had started), to the mine west of Barrel Spring, 11.7 miles from Independence. The topo shows a trail leaving the road here and ending at the pass between peaks 8174' and 7951' to the ESE. What we found was a rough road to Barrel Spring. This road continues on up Water Canyon, but is definitely a 4WD endeavor.

We parked at Barrel Spring. The spring has been "improved" and is very visible on the right side of the road about 1/2 mile off of Mazourka Rd. Parking here is available for four cars. From here our route should have been (why do we always find the correct route on the way down??) due east through the trees. Once through the trees the trail shown on the topo, faint in many places, can be followed. Arriving at the saddle between peaks 8174' and 7951', we came to an apparently opened dirt road. This road doesn't appear on either the topo or the current forest service map. I don't know where it originates, but it could cut the gain on the trip by more than half.

From the pass (although we, in error, didn't), hike a short ways down the road until a faint and occasionally ducked trail leads SW, basically towards the peak. DO NOT, as we did on the way in, climb onto the ridge to the NW. The correct trail crosses north of the monument, then turns south until arriving at the route on the east side of the monolith. The trail from the pass is quite faint and the terrain open enough that a cross country route would be easy.

The summit pitch turned out to be an excellent friction climb, although by this time the wind had become troublesome and threatened to blow some of us off the rock. The route is about 70' long and we rated it at class 5.4. There were two bolts on the route with a fixed "copperhead" above these. The bolts were in excellent shape, and were complete with hangers. The "copperhead" was as safe looking as any "bashy" type protection can be, which is to say Carl backed it up with a small wired stopper. The summit has two bolts for use as a rappel anchor. A long sling is useful in setting up the rappel.

Everyone made the summit and all considered it a fine climb and outing. The summit register can has no top and the register Itself has been long lost to the elements. This climb has a sense of history, an opportunity to climb where very few others have been, an extremely photogenic summit block, scenic desert terrain varying from open brush to shaded pine forests, and an excellent 5.4 friction route. Climbing it showed us what quality peaks are available "off the list", and what our current insurance problems have taken from the DPS.

As a last irony after a hard and windy day, we were able to follow the correct trail on the descent, cutting our time by a third and avoiding a lot of unpleasant third class scrambling. We felt rather silly when the trail landed us directly at our cars, realizing that we couldn't have parked closer to the trailhead had we tried.

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