Driving north on Highway 395 through the town of Independence, most of us have noticed the historic Winnedumah Hotel opposite the Inyo County Court House.
However, those of us, who know where to look, can readily pick out the other (hikers and climbers might say far more interesting) Winnedumah, The Paiute Monument, high on the distant eastern skyline.
This Winnedumah Paiute Monument, an 80-foot rock monolith is all the more spectacular because of its location-at the top of the Inyo Crest, at the low point of a long saddle, about half way between Mt. Inyo and Waucoba Mountain.
If you stop your vehicle at the southern end of Independence at the intersection of Hwy 395 and Mazourka Canyon Road, you can spot this incredible blade of rock, some 12 miles to the east. It towers above the peaks and crags surrounding it.
The Monument is named for Winnedumah, a Paiute medicine man (whose brother was the great Paiute Chief Tinnemaha). According to Paiute legend, he was transformed into this rock while invoking the help of the "great spirit" during the battle with the Digger Indians.
Winnedumah is best approached (with high clearance vehicle) from Independence via Mazourka Canyon Road, which heads east off Highway 395 just south of town. Drive on the Mazourka Canyon Road for 8.4 miles. Turn RIGHT onto a very reasonable dirt road which has a gate (always open). Drive on this dirt road for about 1.9 miles uphill until you find a large (2-3 cars) flat spot on your RIGHT(See Photo).
This parking spot is also a great camping site with the most incredible views of the Whitney and Williamson Massifs.
Accross the road from this parking spot is an old mining dirt track going steeply uphill. The track is blocked by small boulders and includes a wilderness area sign prohibiting motorized access(See Photo). To reach the Monument, follow this old mining track for about 1.6 miles uphill just past a large flat spot on the RIGHT side.
From this flat spot head EAST, crossing several ravines and minor gullies. Soon the Monument becomes visible and you can go straight for it. The distance to it is approximately 2.0 miles.
One ancounters less of a large-boulder scramble if the monolith is finally reached from its SW side. The total distance from the camping spot is about 3.5 miles one way.
The existing 5.4 or 5.5 route is on the NE side of the formation. It consists of about 100 feet of fairly steep face climbing with 2 beefy bolts and a wired piece placement(small to medium (#6?) BD Stopper) some 20 feet above the second bolt. There are no other protection possibilities. The rock is solid and provides for an enjoyable friction climb.
There are two large bolts on the top to assist with descending. Our 60m rope was plenty long to reach the ground via a pleasant rappel.
60 meter rope. A few small to mid sized wired pieces to make a placement above the second bolt, three slings with two biners each to clip the two bolts and the placement above. Don't forget your harness,rock shoes and belay/rappel device.
The Monument is at elevation of 8,369'. The hike is most enjoyable in late fall and early spring to avoid the innevitable heat of the Owens Valley in mid summer and snow in the winter.
Please note that even though the route is short, the approach, climb and return to your vehicle will/might take most of a day!