Keynot Peak and Mount Inyo 02/13/2022

Keynot Peak (11101 feet) and Mount Inyo (10975 feet) are the 2nd and 3rd highest peaks in the Inyo Mountains. Waucoba Mountain, the highpoint of the range, is located about 20 miles north and is only 22 feet higher than Keynot. A month and a half of dry weather had melted most of the snow in the Inyos, and Santa Ana Winds had brought warm temperatures that set up this weekend for perfect conditions. I had climbed New York Butte the day before and then made the short drive to the trailhead that evening. From the intersection with Lone Pine Narrow Gauge Road, I drove north on Owenyo Lone Pine Road for 5 miles and then turned right onto a dirt road heading east. I followed this road for about a mile and a half, went right at a fork, and then parked at the end of the road at 4700 feet. Capable 4WD vehicles can apparently take the left fork to 5500 feet, but the road is washed out and I didn’t even see it in the dark while driving in the night before. I woke up early and began this hike at 5:55am from 4785 feet.

I hiked northeast across open desert and then picked up the left fork of the road.

The Eastern Sierra were breathtaking in the early morning light.

I reached the end of the road at 0.7 mile at 5472 feet. I then dropped into a large rocky wash known as Union Wash.

I made my way east up the wash. I turned around to admire the sunrise hitting Mount Williamson (2nd highest mountain in California).

I exited the wash at 1.5 miles. At this point there was a decent use trail that led up out of the wash to the southeast. 2 cairns marked the point where the trail started.

I climbed the switchbacks as they made their way steeply up the rocky slope. There were actually 2 trails here – the switchbacking one I was on and one that went straight up and down which would undoubtably be useful for the descent.

The sun finally rose above the Inyo Crest above me. It felt warm in the sunlight, and I was comfortable in short sleeves for most of the day.

At 2.6 miles I reached the top of the switchbacks around 7600 feet. The trail turned northeast here.

The next 1500 feet were the steepest part of the hike. The trail passed near some rocky features along the ridge.

I reached a saddle around 9100 feet. I continued east towards the Inyo Crest.

The grade leveled out beyond the saddle. I passed the first snow patches of the day.

At 3.6 miles I reached an informal backcountry campsite known as Bedsprings Camp (9500 feet). Hikers who climb the peaks as an overnight trip typically use this campsite to spend the night. I only saw a couple flat spots to pitch a tent. Note that there is no water here, but the area is shaded and likely holds snow until late spring. There was actually an old rusty bed frame located here.

I continued up past the campsite.

At 3.9 miles I left the trail and climbed up a steep slope to the north. I could have continued a short way on the trail to the crest, but this route was more direct towards Mount Inyo.

I reached the Inyo Crest at 4.2 miles at 10148 feet. I noticed some bristlecones pines growing along the crest. Bristlecone pines only grow in high desert mountains and can live for a few thousand years.

At this point I was directly in between Mount Inyo and Keynot Peak. They were each about 1.2 miles away in opposite directions. I first turned north towards Mount Inyo. I went over a small rise and then ascended a steep slope.

I reached the top of the steep part. Beyond that the terrain was rocky and brushy. I stayed to the left of the ridge to get around some rocky crags.

I then did some side hilling as I neared the summit.

I climbed directly up some boulders just below the top.

I reached the summit at 11:10am at 5.4 miles! I signed the register which had been placed in 2015. The previous entry was from December 29. The views were spectacular. To the south along the crest I could see Keynot Peak with New York Butte in the distance.

The view of the Eastern Sierra in winter was incredible. There is over 10000 feet of vertical relief in the picture below – multiple 14000 peaks rising above the Owens Valley at 4000 feet.

Olancha Peak:

Mount Langley and Mount LeConte:

Mount Whitney and Mount Russell:

Mount Barnard, Trojan Peak, and Mount Williamson:

Mount Bradley and University Peak:

Split Mountain and Birch Mountain:

To the north I could see White Mountain Peak and Waucoba Mountain:

I took a 15 minute break and then began hiking south the way I came. Shortly after leaving the summit, I came across a rock shelter along with some wood, shovels, and a few other items. I found out later that there is a plaque on a nearby tree commemorating Marion Howard, who was a local beekeeper in the 60s and 70s.

I made my way back towards the saddle between Inyo and Keynot.

I reached the saddle at 6.6 miles at just over 10000 feet. I then began climbing the ridge to Keynot.

The route to Keynot initially was pretty easy. I followed a decent use trail along the top of the ridge.

I encountered some crags along the ridge around 10800 feet. I dropped beneath the ridge on the east side to get around them.

I did some difficult side hilling on steep slopes on the east side of the ridge. The presence of snow made this a little sketchy.

I was able to avoid or kick steps in most of the snow patches. This part would be pretty scary with full snow coverage. The final push was very steep.

I reached the summit at 1:38pm at 8.3 miles! I found the benchmark which was labeled “Monarch”.

I signed the register which had been placed in 2016. I noted that a hiker from Bishop had already climbed the peak 4 times in 2022, most recently on January 26. The views were amazing but the same as on Inyo. This is looking north along the crest towards Mount Inyo:

Looking south along the crest towards New York Butte:

I also had a great view of the many ranges of Death Valley National Park, including Telescope Peak:

I didn’t linger long on the summit since it was nearly 2pm already and I had a long way down plus a long drive home. I made my way carefully through the snowy portion along the east side of the ridge.

Once I was through that part it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. I quickly hiked down the ridge to the saddle.

I rejoined the trail again just above Bedsprings Camp. Once below 9000 feet the terrain was conducive to plunge stepping so I really picked up speed here.

Once I reached 7600 feet, I was able to “scree surf” all the way down to Union Wash. It took me 13 minutes to descend a section that took me 1 hour 3 minutes to climb up.

Once I reached Union Wash it was an easy walk back to the car, which I reached at 4:16pm. Stats for this hike were 13.05 miles, 7425 feet elevation gain, and 10:21:06 total time.

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