Waucoba Mountain is the tallest peak in the Inyo Mountains. Naturally, it was on my to-do list. I have been coming to love the Inyos more and more over the past year for a number of reasons. The range is almost entirely untrammeled, and the likelihood of seeing anyone else while out there is almost nil. On top of this, in terms of desert ranges, these mountains offer a surprising amount of water in their various canyons, allowing for multi-day tramps deep into their circuitous depths. And as I mentioned in my Lonesome Traverse trip report, the range is a great place to be when the higher mountains are covered in snow or the lowlands prove too hot for one’s taste.
Since I was in the Owens Valley already, I decided to attempt Waucoba from the West. I quickly traced a route out that followed some OHV trails to Tamarack Canyon, and then onward to the summit’s southwest ridge. I could find no route beta for the climb. This is another beautiful feature of the range, any trip is sure to be a real adventure due to the lack of information that exists online about it.
Very desert-like approach
Less desert-like high country
I was climbing in Bishop that morning, so I didn’t get down south to start the route until around noon. I parked my car just a few miles east of Independence, not wanting to risk driving my new whip (a 2003 Toyota Sienna, that replaced my 1999 Toyota Sienna) on rough dirt roads. This meant that I had about twenty-five miles to hike each way in order to complete the route. After eating a quick lunch and haphazardly packing my backpack (I almost forgot to bring my sleeping bag), I was off around one in the afternoon. I had about fifteen miles and five thousand feet of climbing to do before sunset, so I hiked at a good clip and didn’t take any breaks. I really enjoyed the fact that most of this route was on old dirt roads; it allowed me to zone out, let my mind wander, and simply take in my surroundings. I had about six liters of water in tow, since there was none on this route, despite me lauding the plethora of water in the Inyos.
I took a wrong turn at some point, and so I had to scramble up a scree field to make it to Badger Flat, my destination for the day. I arrived right at sunset, perfect timing. Unlike my last trip a few days before this one, I decided to bring a tent and one sleeping bag, instead of no tent and two sleeping bags. This new strategy proved superior, and I was extraordinarily warm all night. I slept soundly for nearly twelve hours, waking up around six in the morning, at first light.
Tamarack Canyon, lots of snow
Winter has arrived in the Inyos
Upon entering Tamarack Canyon, I realized the day would be snowier than I had planned. The canyon was full of snow, due to its steep slopes that blocked the sun for a large part of the day. I trudged on about twelve inches of powder, and eventually made it to the OHV trails that would lead to the summit. These roads were even snowier than the canyon, making for slow travel. On top of this, eerie clouds filled the sky above, and I was worried that it would start snowing. I kept a quick pace, anxious about the weather. Eventually I made it to the summit ridge, which was largely snow-free due to its lack of vegetation and exposure to the sun for most of the day. The ridge was much longer than expected, and false summit after false summit eventually led to the true peak. Beautiful views of Death Valley stretched to my east, White Mountain towered over me to the north, and the Sierra greeted me to the west. I took in the spectacular views, ate some cheese, signed the summit register, and started descending. My freezing cold feet kept me from enjoying the summit for too long.
Waucoba's broad summit, deep in the Inyos
The walk down was uneventful, but quite pretty. By the time I hit the main dirt road, the skies had cleared a bit, and the mindless tramping ensued. Several pleasant hours later, I found myself at the van. I made a large pot of pasta, scarfed it down, and slept soundly once again. Another successful mission in the Inyos.