Kearsarge Peak

Day 2 of the trip also involved a last-minute change of plans. I drove south from Bishop, Ca to Independence, Ca, and from there to the Onion Valley trailhead. I loaded up my pack and set off up the Robinson Lake trail around 0740, with the intention of climbing University and/or Independence peaks.

I knew to expect snow, but I also knew there was a chance the snow would be too much to manage without snowshoes. So I had a low threshold for bailing out. About 20 minutes up the trail, I was able to gain a viewpoint of the lower slopes of Independence peak and didn’t like what I saw. Since it was still early in the day, I turned around and headed back to the car.

Parked at the base of Kearsarge Peak

Parked at the base of Kearsarge Peak, with Onion Valley in the background

I had already prepared a backup plan (Mt. Inyo and Keynot Peak, a short drive to the south). However, as I descended back into Onion Valley, the pyramid-shaped Kearsarge Peak (12,598′) could be seen almost entirely free of snow (despite being significantly higher than Independence Peak at 11,744′). Since I was already here, and since my pre-printed maps already included Kearsarge, I decided to go for it.

My route (ascent in red, descent in blue)

My route (ascent in red, descent in blue)

The USGS maps of the area depict a trail going from the southeast most of the way to the summit. As it turns out, no such trail exists. I did find a few cairns and short sections of what might have previously been a trail about 3/4 the way to the top, but that’s it.

Looking across the valley toward Independence Peak (left) and University Peak (right)

Looking across the valley toward Independence Peak (left) and University Peak (right)

From the car, I headed up a large wash on the southeast side of the mountain. The route started off brushy, but quickly transitioned to loose, rotten scree. I’ll be honest, it was not a pleasant climb. As soon as it became feasible I headed further north onto a ridge to avoid the worst of the loose stuff, and the footing became marginally better after that.

Someone paragliding over the Owens Valley

Someone paragliding over the Owens Valley

The climb was a pretty mindless class 2 walk-up. I did spot the remnants of an old mining camp on one of the ridges, but didn’t take the time to check it out.

Makeshift shelter near the summit

Makeshift shelter near the summit

There was still a fair amount of snow along the summit ridge, but it was almost entirely avoidable.

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

View to the west, into the Sierras

View to the west, into the Sierras

University Peak to the southwest

University Peak to the southwest

The return trip was more enjoyable than the initial climb. A good mix of downhill hiking and scree-skiing on the looser terrain.

I planned to check out Death Valley the following day, so after making it back to the car I continued driving south to Ridgecrest (passing Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, on the way).

Kearsarge Peak (view from the town of Independence)

Kearsarge Peak (view from the town of Independence)

Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney (view from the town of Lone Pine)

Recap: 0840 start, 1202 summit, 1402 finish

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Published in: on June 5, 2016 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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