Finger Peak, Tunemah Peak
By: Greg Gerlach
Thursday, August 5. I've had my eye on these peaks for several years. It seemed, however, that every time the peaks were led I had something else scheduled. I finally decided to set the dates and just go for it. I drove up to Fresno Wednesday evening and stayed at the Motel 6. The next morning I was up and on the road early, picked up my permit at 8:00 a.m. from the Sierra National Forest Ranger Station located in Prather, and was hiking up the Rancheria Trail by 9:35 a.m. I continued up the trail, passing Cabin Creek, Cow Meadows, Deer Meadow, Crown Valley and Crown Creek along the way. The trail disappeared just shortly after crossing Crown Creek in a jumbled mass of downed trees. I finally found the trail about 1/2 mile from the creek near the national park boundary. From there, I gained about 1,400' to the top of the ridge, then dropped down into beautiful Blue Canyon. I continued up the canyon for another 3 miles, finally stopping and making camp at 8:00 p.m. in Big Meadows just ahead of the descending darkness. The 18-1/2 mile hike in took me about 10 1/2 hours.
Friday, August 6. I was up at 6:30 a.m. and hiking along the trail at 7:30 a.m. towards Finger Peak. The trail in the canyon is indistinct and overgrown, particularly above Big Meadows, and it really saves time and effort to look for it. The trail finally disappeared altogether at the 9,300' elevation, but the route finding in the upper canyon was straightforward and the hiking relatively easy. Upon reaching Lake 10'400', I prepared my daypack, then headed north at 10:30 a.m. toward Finger Peak. I made my way up the canyon, passing several lakes along the way, then trudged 1,600' or so up the southeast slope to the summit, arriving on top at 1:00 p.m. The climbing was mostly class 1-2 with an easy class 3 section at the top. I read the entries in the peak register and was surprised to see that I was only the second person to climb the peak this year. Also, the peak register was placed on July 20, 1977 and is 2/3 full. After signing the summit register, I made my way back to Lake 10,400', arriving at 2:30 p.m. I gathered up my gear, then hiked over to Lake 10,401', which is just west of Dykeman Pass. I set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading.
Saturday, August 7. I was up at 6:00 a.m. and hiking at 7:00 a.m. towards the day's goal, Tunemah Peak. I ascended to 11,040' Dykeman Pass, then dropped down 800' to Alpine Creek. I contoured around the base of Tunemah's west ridge, then switchbacked up the sandy slope to the top of the ridge. I continued up the ridge, passing a false summit along the way. The climbing was class 1 up the sand and class 2 along the ridge. I reached the top of the peak at 9:30 a.m., then browsed through the summit register, which was placed on August 12, 1972 and is about 1/3 full. Also, I was the first person to climb Tunemah this year. After signing the register, I retraced my steps back to Alpine Creek and over Dykeman Pass to Lake 10,401'. I gathered up my gear, then started the long hike out at 12:30 p.m. From lower Blue Canyon it is a 1,400' grind up to the top of the ridge. Once at the ridge, the hiking is relatively easy to Crown Creek, and I had no trouble following the trail through the downed trees. I arrived at Crown Creek at 6:30 p.m., where I decided to call it a day.
Sunday, August 8. I was up at 6:00 a.m. and hiking toward the Rancheria Trailhead by 6:30 a.m. Upon crossing Crown Creek, I misplaced the trail and spent the next 15 minutes looking for it. I finally found the trail and quickly and uneventfully hiked pass Crown Valley and Cow Meadows, finally reaching the Rancheria Trailhead at 11:00 a.m. The 11-1/2 mile hike out took me about 4-1/2 hours.
Trip statistics: 53 miles and about 12,400 feet of elevation gain.
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