Mount Inyo, Keynot Peak
6-Dec-92 (Pat Keyes To Union Wash)
By: Steve Smith
This trip was scheduled to try a new approach for climbing Mt. Inyo and Keynot Peak by coming down the crest from the north. The Pat Keyes trail ascends from 3,900' starting at Reward and crosses the Inyo Crest at 9,400' before dropping down into Pat Keyes canyon on the Saline Valley side. Our plan was use the trail, go south along the crest to reach the peaks and descend the traditional Onion Wash trail back down into Owens Valley. Ron Jones and I knew it would be a cold trip but weather conditions would be the key. Unfortunately, weather conditions were stormy and the forecast was for more rain and snow so Ron and most of the people canceled out. Paula Peterson, Eric Schumacher and Tom Budlong were willing to try it and go as far as the weather allowed so we started off as planned Friday morning. Everyone was well prepared with cold weather gear and Eric filled in for Ron to assist, As we headed for the cloud obscured, snow covered Inyo's we all anticipated a shortened trip.
Leaving a vehicle at the Union Wash trailhead, we caravaned 10 miles north to the Pat Keyes trailhead just north of Reward. This trail is shown on the see Springs 7.5 map and is generally easy to follow. By mid-afternoon, we reached the spring and a small ruin at 7,700' when a heavy snow began falling so we made camp. Next day, it was clear with several inches of snow on the ground so we continued on up the trail and reached Pat Keyes pass around noontime. It was really cold but remained clear so we left the trail and headed south for Mt. Inyo.
Distance wise it is not too bad traversing the crest south to Mt. Inyo. It is about four miles but there are four 500' high bumps to cross over, three with moderate brush cover. Working our backpacks through the brush made for several hours of slow climbing through the three stretches of mountain mahogany brush. By late afternoon, we were at 10,100' on the crest about one mile north of Mt. Inyo in a nice meadow area so we made camp. Getting water was our main difficulty and a fire was used each evening and morning to melt snow. During the trip, the temperature never got above freezing so our water bottles were always frozen until we could use a fire to melt the ice.
Sunday morning, the sky was clear above us but clouds covered the valleys on both sides - an impressive sight with the feeling of being on an island. We reached Mt. Inyo by 11:00a.m, as the clouds began periodically closing in and our views became obscured. The deteriorating weather and steep snow on the ridgeline on the north side of Keynot deterred us from going on over to Keynot Peak. Everyone was happy to be able to start the descent down the Union Wash trail and get on down to warmer conditions. We were back to the trailhead around 1:00p.m. to end an interesting winter trip and exploration of a different route for climbing Mt. Inyo.
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