Southern Sierra Rock
Seen from Highway 14, Five Fingers has a “come-hither” look for anyone who likes scrambling and climbing on fine rock. Five Fingers is a unique cluster of five rock outcroppings near Owen Peaks in the Southern Sierra Nevada.
Five Fingers from base of southern approach
Tom had done two of the five fingers and wanted closure. After my scheduled canyoneering outing in the San Gabriels was cancelled due to recent fire activity there, I wasn’t hard to convince to join Tom to check out Five Fingers. Attrition took its toll on a contemplated group of five or six and we ended up a trio.
Tom and Gordon picked me up in Sylmar at 6:30 Sunday morning and it took us a little under 2 hours to drive to the Indian Wells area. Tom whipped his Honda Element onto a dirt road off Highway 14 and we headed for the north side of the Fingers. We eye-balled an approach up a moderately sloping gully. It would take us around a ridge that separated us from more sloping terrain that led to the base of the Fingers. We found a parking spot off the road and headed out across the quasi-desert terrain.
View of Five Fingers on our approach from the north
Approach: Beautiful and Brief
At beginning of our approach from the north
It was a beautiful day. The landscape displayed flowers in bloom and cacti with light green pods protruding from their tops. The sole inconvenience was deep sand in certain places adding to the effort of upslope movement. Still, the hike to the base of the Fingers took only 50 minutes, not enough time for anyone to complain about anything.
Cactus springing pods (and Tom's car in the distance)
Tom and Gordon heading up at the start
We had no plan as far as order of peaks or routes. The only objective was to do all five and to have fun. We knew most of it would be 3d class scrambling but we brought a rope and some protection just in case.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
When we got to the base of the Fingers, we decided to do No. 5 first and then move left to right for the others. No. 5
is the highest of the five at 5,174 feet. We spied a nice-looking 3d class chute. It was just to the left of a chute that has steps cut into the rock for easy ascent. Our chute was the more interesting but entirely too short. At the ridge top we turned right to get to the high point. No. 5 being a Sierra Club HPS peak, we found a register, signed in, and spent 15 minutes or so enjoying the views.
Our chute to No. 5
We descended the chute with the steps cut into the slope and traversed to the base of No. 4
. Again, our destiny was a quick easy ascent. We sat at the top of No.4 for a bit and gawked back at the higher No. 5.
Gordon moves up 4th class chute to middle finger
Tom moves under some cool looking rock formations
Moving over to the base of No. 3
, we traversed a little and spotted some 4th class routes. We picked one that led to a ledge and from there to the summit. We put on our rock shoes and moved confidently up the chute to the ledge. The ledge was a comfortable width. We then found a route to the top. At the top, we got a little lazy and decided to rap the 60 feet or so straight back down to the ledge at a touch-down point near our 4th class chute.
The fine rock of one of the Five Fingers
After descending the chute, we dropped further down the slope and traversed to the base of the last two fingers. We had no idea at this point which was No. 1
and which was No. 2
, but of course it didn’t matter. These two fingers are much lower than No. 5 and there were no new summit vistas to be had. But we had bagged all five.
Five Fingers is an easy recommendation. All five have 3d class ascent routes, but with 4th and 5th class routes also available. With the short approach from either the south or north sides, an enjoyable visit here need only take a few hours. What’s not to like?
[img:401495:aligncenter:medium:The fine rock of one of the Five Fingers]
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