17 May 2015

Five Fingers

Owens Peak Wilderness




After heading up Scodie Mountain on an official Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section trip, we join our leader, her carpool companion, and one of the Bills to climb Five Fingers unofficially. A dirt road off to the left just north of the brewery at Indian Wells is our starting point. We park at a thing marked "powers well" on the map and whatever it is, the ruins remain. The Bureau of Land Management has an information sign and a lot of fences as we are on a 4x4 road surrounded by the Owens Peak Wilderness. There are fewer fences to the north where we are headed as the rugged land is expected to protect itself. The HPS groups usually start off a little further up the road, but it is a short and wide open, if steep, expanse we are about to go up and it can hardly matter where we park.

up on the scree slope looking along the road
Climbing the scree slope on the south side of Five Fingers, looking up the road along Indian Wells Canyon.

We start up the hill where a small path winds briefly along it and vanishes. The slope is hard and we often sink into the scree. Rock outcroppings look attractive at first, but they just have their own pitfalls. Rocks that look like the tops of boulders turn out to be just so much more scree, just in large pieces ready to slide over the smaller ones. I am briefly distracted by a metal post sticking out of the hillside apparently at random and it takes a moment to process what I am looking at. Kristen's (our leader) piece of map showed two corners in the area, none of them up on this hillside, but it is a quarter section corner. I feel like I have won a little prize I did not even work at getting when I stumble over one of these.

quarter section corner
The U.S. General Land Office Survey was out here marking the area for homesteads and mining claims in 1940. (R38E T26S MDM+B)

I think it looks like there is a line just under the face of the fingers above us and climb to cross near it. Bill seems to be thinking the same. Once we get there, the land just seems to laugh at us. We are wrong about the line. We work our way across anyway, sinking into the soft areas, sliding along the hard areas, and dealing with the boulders as we go.

tiny blue flowers
Nature provides some little things to notice on this hillside as well.


Eventually we are near the usual HPS route up. We take note of the trail, but continue to make our own way as it looks loose and difficult while we might find some better traction elsewhere. Slowly, the slope lessens as we work our way to the top of a notch between the tallest finger and the one east of it.

hole in a nearby rock
Sculpted rocks in the cliffs of the nearby finger as we look out over the old mining roads of the area.

top of the notch
At the top of the notch, taking in the view on either side.

Once at the top of the notch, we still are not done working our way around to a good route. We drop down again as we keep on going around the tallest finger to the easier climbing route up it. Below us, there is a trail coming up from a road to the north that looks more popular than what we have just climbed. The slope on this side seems less, which should make for better footing overall.

pink lanterns crowned with blue flowers
One flower like a stick of pink lanterns topped with blue flowers.

canyon and mountains
Looking over Short Canyon to the north.

We start to climb again and cross around one more crest of rock to something that looks like an easier route. The easiest routes on this rock are simple to identify because someone cut steps into them to make them even easier. We get to the route we have identified and find the steps as advertised. Kristen is disappointed that they are real, but the rest of us are quite happy to put them to use. She turns out to be quite a bit better at leading this sort of stuff than wandering in the bottom of indistinguishable canyons and we work our way to the top, the register, and the views.

stick in the summit block
Someone has stuck a stick in the summit block, which may well help those up in a bit of snow find the register.

Eventually, we head back down retracing our steps around the side of the finger and through the notch. Once on the usual HPS trail, we keep to it this time. Dropping down it feels a lot like roller skating to me.

following use trail
Heading down the HPS use trail to a turnaround on the road below.

long sprig of ping flowers
The seed pods below the flowers on this one are like thorns.

We drop down to an old earthen dam and cross it to a turnaround just off the road. The dam is undoubtedly from mining in the area. Water has cut it through so it no longer holds any, but the plants are still a bit more green behind it. We follow the road back to our cars on a much easier traverse than we used on the way up.

Five Fingers above
Five Fingers now above us again. There are really a few more than five.




©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 May 2015

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