Hunter Canyon, Graig Canyon
By: Steve Smith
Hunter and Craig Canyons on the east side of the Inyo Mountains have old mining trails and some old mining areas which five us decided to explore. There is also the prominent unnamed 10,237' peak just east of the Inyo Crest between Keynot Peak and New York Butte which we wanted to climb. This unnamed peak sits on the ridgeline separating Beveridge and Hunter Canyons is very prominent from the Saline Valley end points along the east side of the range.
Driving up to the Burgess Mine roadbed, we started Friday morning and first climbed Slew York Butte. The good part of our route was visible from the summit - follow the crest to the unnamed peak, continue following the Beveridge-Hunter ridgeline down to 8.000' where a mining trail goes down into Hunter Canyon. The trail leads down to the Bighorn mine and then on down to the Bighorn spring at 5,000' in the bottom of Hunter Canyon. At that point, an old dozer road leads back up to the crest at Burgess mine. The main unknown was getting across the double summited unnamed peak - the prominent split end steep slopes between the twin summits looked imposing so we carried 165' of 9mm rope just in case.
The ridgeline up to the western and higher summit of Peak 10,237' went fine and we had a late lunch on top. Crossing the schism between the two summits with full packs was difficult and we did use the rope to lower packs on one 100' pitch. Dropping down 300' on the north side, we traversed around the side of the second summit and regained the ridge to the east of the eastern summit. From there it was an easy descent through pinyon trees to 8,000' where the old mining trail was encountered where it crosses a broad saddle. The trail continued descending down into Beveridge at that point and it seems that the trail probably goes all the way down to the Beveridge Canyon bottom.
Saturday morning, we followed the trail south, down into Hunter Canyon. At 7,000' we reached the Bighorn mine. An interesting quarter mile long series of old mining areas with a lot of historic equipment. The rotor blades and some pieces of a crashed B-47 helicopter were in evidence and we wondered about the circumstances of that accident. A collapsed cabin with a 1939 date in the cement foundation along with a lot of miscellaneous items made for fun exploring. We encountered a solitary biker who had climbed up to the site from Saline Valley end together we all followed the trail down to the Bighorn spring in the canyon bottom at 5,000'.
The old dozer road comes to within a half mile of the spring so we were soon onto the road and heading up towards the crest. We were soon high enough to be back into the pinyon forest directly below the east side of New York Butte and by early evening we were several miles up the road where we camped at about 6,000'. Next morning we followed the road up to the Craig/Hunter ridgeline and were soon back up to the crest at the Burgess Mine to complete the loop. The old dozer road provides a very interesting hiking route down the east side of the Inyos and intersects a scenic mining trail can be followed from the Bighorn spring on down to the mouth of Hunter Canyon in Saline Valley.
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