Ski Mountaineering

Tunemah, Finger, Reinstein and Henry

August 24-28, 2001

Reiner Stenzel

This trip report describes a loop through the White Divide and LeConte Divide to climb four remote Sierra peaks. It was a solo trip done spontaneously at the end of the summer and went very well. Here are the details:

On Thur. 8/23, I left L.A. at noon to get a wilderness permit in Clovis 15min before closing time (4:30pm). This allowed me to get an early start on Fri, 8/24. I left at 6am from the Rancheria trailhead south of Wishon Res., reached Crown Valley by 9am, Tehipite/ Kettle Dome by noon, and then dropped into beautiful Blue Cyn. The lower part has a nice trail and is very lush. Unfortunately, the air was bad from wild fires in Kings Cyn. N.P. Found lots of berries to eat. Saw the cutest teddy bear, about a foot long, followed soon by a snorting mama bear which told me to keep distance. Above 8,000' the Blue Cyn trail is at times difficult to find, but it pays off to search for it, otherwise it is slow bush whacking. After the 2,500' ascent of Blue Cyn and a 19 mi day I called it quits at 6pm and camped at Lke 9,700' (UTM 4096700N, 11 345600E). In order to go light I had left my bear canister behind, slept with my food, but luckily had no four-legged visitors at night. Not a soul around, just an owl was circling above my bivvy in the moonlight and nearby some deer were digging and blowing air.

On Sat, 8/25, I was up at 5:30am and hiked out an hour later. Went XC due east to the 10,400' plateau just north of Lke 10,401', then ascended Dykeman Pass (11,040') where I hung up my pack and continued with light daypack toward Tunemah. After dropping 800' into Alpine Creek Cyn it is a 1,600' climb on talus to the summit of Tunemah (11,894'). I climbed the first chute up to the ridge which avoids the sandy terrain but on the ridge I encountered a false high point prior to the real summit which was reached by 9:20am. Not much traffic on this peak, only one party in 2000, I was the second in 2001. Below me several forest fires were burning on inaccessible slopes above the Kings River. To the east one could see the Enchanted Gorge, the Black Divide with Devils Crag on which I stood exactly one month earlier, Mt Woodworth and the distant Palisades Range. By 10am, I retraced my steps, retrieved my pack, then dropped down to Lke 10,400' 1 mi south of Finger, a fine place for lunch and a dip into the lake. Then I climbed up the cl2 southeast slopes of Finger, left my pack at the 11,600' level, and reached the 12,404' summit by 3:30pm. The last section is an enjoyable cl3 climb and the summit block has space for just one person. The north face is an impressive vertical wall. After enjoying the views, taking pictures and signing the book, I headed down to the 11,600' pass 0.5 mi east of Finger and dropped down into the Goddard Creek drainage. Staying above the 10,000' level I hiked up the beautiful open valley to Lke 10,232' where I set up camp at 6:30pm. Not a soul in sight. Felt the exercise of climbing two SPS peaks in a day (+-5,900').

On Sun, 8/26, the goal was to climb Mt Reinstein and to head for the base of Mt Henry. Left by 6:45am, dropped the pack at Reinstein Pass, climbed the c12-3 NE ridge, and summited by 9:20am. Splendid views of black Mt Goddard, blue Martha Lke, wide Goddard Creek to the south and Goddard Cyn to the north.

Took pics from the 12,586' summit, called home for reassurance, signed and read the register of this peak which seems rather popular with Outward Bound groups. From Reinstein Pass I dropped 1,000' down to Martha Lke, contoured around its SW side and, after a lunch break and swim, headed down Goddard Canyon. In the afternoon I had another 1,200' workout over Hell for Sure Pass (11,300') before dropping down the west side of the LeConte Divide. Lakes and scenery in the Red Mtn Basin were very pretty. By 7:15pm I arrived at the Lower Indian Lake which was my destination for camping. On this fourth day I saw humans again.

On Mon, 8/27, I had again a 6:30am start, but with light daypack up the west ridge of Mt Henry. This is not the best choice since near the 11,500' saddle the ridge is a roller coaster due to various chutes from the south. It is better to climb one of these chutes from the Turf Lks which I did for the return. By 8:20am I sat on the summit (12,196'), signed the register and enjoyed the fine views in the relatively clear morning air of a late summer day. I enjoyed every moment since this was the last summit for this trip and now I had to start my long return trip through three topo maps. By 11am I was packed, dry from a dip into the lake, and headed down south. I passed Fleming Lke, headed down to the Post Corral Creek, up the North Fork of the Kings River to Big Maxson Mdw. Most enjoyable were the gentle waterslides, green pools and warm granite slabs on the Kings River below the Gauging Station. I arrived at the deserted Maxson Mdw by 5:30pm and decided to stay instead of climbing another 1,000' to Halfmoon Lke. My freeze-dried dinner was supplemented by a dessert of freshly picked blueberries. Although hot by day the temps at night dipped below freezing in the 8,400' valley.

Tue. 8/28, by 6:30am I headed up the switchbacks to beautiful Halfmoon Lke, climbed over Crown Pass (10,188') down to Crown Lke where I had a snack and swim. The lake has a long sandy beach like Benson Lke in northern Yosemite. The next few hours were spent on dusty trails: South along the Scepter Creek, west over Chuck Pass along Woodchuck Creek, again south along the Rancheria Creek, finally arriving at 4:30pm at the Rancheria trailhead south of Wishon Reservoir. After another 5 hour drive I was home.

In retrospect the trip went very well. The weather was excellent, there were no problems with bears, no mosquitoes, easy stream crossings, easy peaks, no crowds, no trailhead quota; I feasted on blueberries, thimbleberries, goose berries, Sierra currant and could have caught lots of trout if I had brought my fishing gear. But it was not exactly a leisure trip with four 12-hour-days in a row. And then there is always some risk of going solo into remote XC terrain (not good to break a leg on Tunemah where the handy does not work and next help may come in 6-12 months). But otherwise it's a wonderful late summer trip.

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