Finger Peak (12,404'), Tunemah Peak (11,894'), Mount Reinstein (12,586')

3-6 Jul 2003 - by Mike Mcdermitt

Six strong climbers (Randall Danta, John and Chris Kerr, Wolfgang Schweigkofler, assistant leader Doug Mantle, leader the scribe) gathered early Thursday morning at the Rancheria trailhead (7600') located beyond Wishon Reservoir in Sierra National Forest for a four-day trip to climb some of the more remote peaks in the Sierra.

Our inbound route was based on that taken on a similar trip in 1995 led by Allan Conrad and Scott Sullivan (whose report is posted in the SPS archives), which in turn had been related to Allan by Gene Mauk. As compared to the alternatives it involves more cross-country navigation but is more direct and has less exposure to potentially troublesome stream crossings, plus some nice views along the way. Whereas the 1995 trip participants elected to return via a completely different route (which ultimately proved more difficult) we returned via very similar but slightly different route. This inbound and outbound route combination worked well and can be recommended for those wanting to reach and return from Crown Basin in one reasonable (i.e., less than 20 mile) day each way.

From the trailhead, we followed Rancheria trail east to the junction with offshoots leading to Duck Lake and Crown Valley, then continued on the Rancheria trail north to the saddle at 9040+ just past Round Corral Meadow. From here we turned east-northeast cross country to the meadow at Indian Springs where we picked up the Chuck Pass Trail. Randall and Doug had shared several bottles of wine the night before and at least one of them was feeling the aftereffects. Thus as we headed up the trail the question was whether there might be an upchuck going up Chuck, but the pass was attained at noon without incident, whereupon the group stopped for lunch. Afterwards, rather than continue on trail, we headed cross-country eastward on a level then contoured northeast slightly downward, ultimately intersecting the Crown Pass Trail at approximately the 9400' level. After a brief jaunt up the trail we again headed cross-country, first northeast upslope to approximately the 9700' - 9800' level then contouring southeast, crossing the saddle north of Point 9818'. Upon reaching easy slopes SSSE of the prominent peaklet at 10,600'+ immediately south of Peak 10,776' we ascended north to the ~10,200' level, contoured east beneath the peaklet to the next gully then ascended the gully to reach saddle 10,560+ east of Peak 10,776'/ west of bump 10,720'+. Mosquitos were plentiful as we stopped for a break enjoying dramatic views to the north and south. Continuing, we headed northeast along the ridge passing to the north bump 10,720'+, descended east to cross the flats where the 7.5' topo shows an intermittent stream, traveled northeast gaining slightly to cross a deep slot at its head, then descended east to camp among the group of small lakes just below 9960' in lower Crown Basin. An 11-hour day of approximately 15 miles and +3600' gain was completed at about 6.30pm. Virtually all of the cross country on the route was open forest with good footing and little sidehilling; talus was encountered only on two very short sections.

Friday the group split, with Chris and John heading to Mount Reinstein while Doug led the rest of us to Finger Peak. The route to Finger involved a straightforward ascent east to Mantle Pass above Hummingbird Lake, then up broken scree and talus to the Class 3 Southwest Couloir. Randall and Mike dodged a very large rock which came dislodged as we climbed in the couloir but Randall took a glancing blow from a smaller piece and sustained a small cut above his right eye, as well as broken sunglasses. Happily the cut was superficial and we were soon moving again. Having departed camp at 7am, the short steep ascent (3 - 3 1/2 miles, +2600') of Finger Peak was completed in less than four hours. On the climb we estimated the 'mosquito' line (analogous to the snow line in reverse) to be ~11,500'. Therefore we determined to delay our departure from the summit as long as possible, spending perhaps 90 minutes sleeping or identifying the many peaks visible. Eventually we descended, reaching camp at 4pm, after which several of us took a highly refreshing dip in one of the pools next to our campsite.

John and Chris returned from a successful climb of Reinstein at about 7.30pm after a roughly 12-hour day involving some 11-12 miles and ~3000' gain. Dinner was taken while dodging mosquitos; by their appetite it seemed the mosquitos had climbed even higher, more distant peaks than had any of us.

Saturday the entire group led by Mike was on its way to Tunemah by 6.20am. We hiked up to Mantle Pass and after a short pause descended, passing along the south shore of Lake 10,840+, crossing the outlet stream, then descending southeast. During the descent we met George Tucker on his way up Blue Canyon with full pack. He had hoped to meet us in our camp the night before but had encountered a delay. Soon we continued on, dropping southeast to cross Blue Canyon Creek just west of Lake 10,360+, crossing the outlet stream of the second Lake 10,360+, and then proceeding through up-and-down terrain to a rib or buttress which we climbed to reach Dykeman Pass from the south. From Dykeman Pass we descended east to approximately the 10,500' level then contoured, crossing Alpine Creek and then reaching the base of Tunemah Peak. It was about 11am and as we contemplated the 1500' slog up Tunemah Randall noted 'at times like this amino acid enriched protein bars, gore-tex boots and carbon fiber bear canisters don't help'. Suitably galvanized we began the ascent, which starts with a traverse across steep slopes composed of sharp, very loose scree. Once across this portion it is a long climb up sandy rocky slopes with intermittent to occasionally dense lodgepoles, but the footing is not bad. The peak was first gained at 12.30 by Randall and Wolfgang, with the rest of the group arriving shortly thereafter. In addition to the sight of numerous peaks, the summit offers daunting views into Goddard Creek Canyon. The stay was all too short, as we were descending by 1.30pm. We retraced our outward route without incident and returned in one group at 6.50pm for a 12 1/2 hour day of 13 - 14 miles and 4300+ gain.

Sunday everyone was ready for a return to civilization. We were packed and hiking by 6.30am. Our return route differed slightly, but importantly, from the inbound route: after ascending to the saddle west of bump 10,720+, we stayed on the ridge over the first bump west, contoured at 10,640+ to pass south of Peak 10,776', then continued west along south side of the ridge at the 10,600' - 10,700' level to a point southwest of bump 10,880+ south of Maxson Lake and just west of Peak 10,979' (aka 10,960+ on the 7.5' topo). Although not difficult, much of the last half-mile of this portion consisted of large talus. Fine views were enjoyed the entire way, and there was a surprise when a two pair of recent footprints were noted at the saddle west of Peak 10,776'. After a rest we descended south-southwest down a steep slope, pleasantly surprised that despite much talus and scree we were able to avoid same and pick our way down on easy sandy slopes to the 9800' level where we entered forest and angled slightly more to the west, finally reaching the Crown Pass Trail at about the 9200' level. We followed that trail south to the Chuck Pass Trail then followed the latter west over Chuck Pass and down to Indian Springs. From there we left the trail retracing our cross-country path west southwest to the reach the Rancheria Trail just south of the saddle north of Round Corral Meadow at about the 9000' level. Then it was down Rancheria Ttrail, hell bent for leather if not the trailhead, which was reached by all within a few minutes of 4.00pm, completing a 9 1/2 hour day of roughly 15 miles and +1400'.

The weather was warm, clear and calm throughout the four days and the near-constant mosquitos were perhaps the only opportunity for complaint. Successfully gaining these remote peaks made it feel almost like Christmas in July.

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