Ha-Kuna Ma-Ko-ip: 4 Peaks Around Eastern Yosemite

Originally posted on the WPSMB on 8-18-08

It took me 30 minutes to hoof it out to the road. The Mono Craters rose overhead to the east, and dark clouds hovered over Yosemite’s eastern boundary as the sun showered rays through their edges. Having the TOF stuck in the sand below the craters was not exactly how I had planned on starting the weekend, but after an expensive tow and an awesome dinner with Sooz, Chip, and Robyn at Whoa Nellie, I was ready for a good night’s sleep.

Koip Peak (12,962ft)
Kuna Peak (13,002ft)
Parker Peak (12,850ft)
Mt. Wood (12,657ft)

It’s always nice to have a few easy-ish hikes in your back pocket for when you need to go solo. The route to Koip Peak Pass is a lonely trail following the Sierra Crest from Tioga to June Lake and further into the Devil’s Postpile Area. I was RTG at the Mono Pass trailhead off Tioga Road by 0630 Saturday morning, a slight chill in the air as the sun crept over Mt. Dana and Gibbs. Cruising up and down to the south, the trail passed through dense forest and green meadows still full of flowers. Clear skies above offered no indication of immediate weather, but the warm breeze filtering through the trees and the feel of humidity in the air served as a reminder to keep one eye on the skies. A few deer skipped away at my approach, but otherwise I had the trail to myself.

Above the Mono Pass junction, there is a gentle walk across a huge meadow to Parker Pass , which serves as the border between INF and Yosemite NP. Small ground squirrels chirped and barked at my crossing, dashing between their holes in all directions. Once over the Pass, there was a short descent along a string of tarns to the north beneath Mt. Lewis, cascades from the snowfields above emptying glacial milk to Parker Lake nearly 3000 vertical feet below. At the final creek crossing, I met Greg , a guide with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides , who was out for a four day loop of his own around the Kuna Crest. After a nice break and watering up, we cruised together up the switchers on the shoulder of Mt. Parker, finally traversing to the Pass at about 12,3K. Large snow fields on the northern slopes of the pass necessitated travel in this direction, although I would have loved to simply head straight up!

From Koip Peak Pass , it was a boulder-hop along multi-colored and sparkling rock to the summit of Koip , with expansive views into the Ritter-Banner region, and SW towards Lyell and MacClure . The latter two peaks I think will have to wait for next year: the glacier looked quite harsh, even from this distance, the permanent ice showing clearly. Puffer clouds were beginning to accumulate, so we clambered down to the saddle and then back up Kuna Peak, which, at 13,002ft is the third highest point in Yosemite. Greg had wanted to check out the possibilities of scrambling down the Kuna Crest, so I took my leave of him there, stepping carefully down, then back up to Koip, and finally down to the Pass.

The approach to Parker Peak was rather dull looking, but the looming clouds and rain to the west gave me the impetus I needed to push up the loose rock to the summit. I hadn’t heard any booming yet, so I took off towards Mt. Wood to the east , striding quickly across the rock of the rolling ridge. The drop to the north into Parker Canyon was dramatic and steep, a single motorboat cruised across Grant Lake, and Mono Lake reflected a few clouds. Upon reaching Wood, looking down to June Lake and the ski resort , I realized the wind had stopped, but the clouds were starting to swing around in front of me to the east. Not just time to go: time to MOVE. I knew I had to regain at least the northern shoulder of Parker Peak before dropping straight down to the trail and the switchers, so I headed as fast as I could manage (breathing wise!) across the north side of the ridge, trying to stay low. I did a bit of jogging upon reaching the trail, but only found two spots of scree loose enough to ski down, and the rest of the rock was packed solid.

Still no boomers, but the skies finally greyed overhead as I reached the cascades and tarns below Parker Pass. One meadow screamed for a short visit (which I happily obliged) for a brief moment of bliss before pushing on to the Pass. Small wildflowers did their best to distract me with bright color and their stand-alone style, but the first grumble of thunder from behind me pressed me onward to treeline. The winds calmed somewhat now, and I could see an opening to the north around Mt. Conness where the sun beamed through the dark clouds and rain. Above, a bird of prey circled on the currents, adjusting only once with a quick snap of its wings. Back in the trees, a few more rumbles echoed between the Kuna Crest and the slopes of Mt. Gibbs, and the trail dust was dimpled where rain had penetrated earlier.

All told, somewhere around 20-25 miles and 6K of gain. Sierra weather at its finest, and dinner at the Tioga Pass Resort. As I drove home, I wondered what Sunday would bring…

A few more moments from the day:

Rest of the pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard. Be Safe.



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