Thursday, March 13, 2014

Owens Peak, Indian Wells Valley Trail

Driving north on the 395, in the vicinity of Ridgecrest, one is suddenly confronted with a conspicuous mass of granite ramparts forming the southern tip of the Sierras. The peak at the top of all this exposed granite is Owens Peak (8,453 feet). In March 2014, I finally got around to climbing it.

The ride to the trailhead was very rough and took longer than expected, so I was glad to have left my low clearance car at the beginning of the dirt road. And although it was early March, it was already warm enough that the hike up made me a little woozy.

View from the parking lot. That's the lower part of the east ridge, which rises all the way to the summit. 

 Cori heading up the trail. We lost the trail shortly thereafter.

Midway up, we somehow lost the trail and, perhaps unwisely, all scattered in different directions. Climbing out of a loose gully onto a solid rock buttress, I found myself needing to concentrate as I negotiated a hundred feet of third class scrambling with some attention-getting exposure below. But before long, we were all re-united and made our way merrily to the summit.

Off trail in a loose gully. I scrambled up the ridge on the left. 

The long East Ridge of Owens Peak, which culminates in the Five Fingers

Cori, Norma, and Patrick on top of Owens Peak

 Looking north from the summit of Owens Peak to the snowy High Sierra

Cori and Norma, who had been up there several times before, then led Patrick and I on a memorable off-the-beaten-path descent. Scrambling down ledges and gritty slabs, passing by photogenic rock formations, and skiing down hundreds of feet of scree, we were rewarded with a glimpse of simpler times: pictographs on the roof of a secluded cave.   

Scrambling down off the beaten path

A spectacular position on the off-trail descent

Cave art

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