Split Mountain and Mt. Tinemaha

29 Jun 1997 - by Debbie Bulger

A spectacular photograph of Split Mountain appears on page 174 of Secor. I first saw this California 14er from the summit of Cardinal last year. With my new 4WD truck, Split was at the top of my list for 1997. We summitted on June 29. Everything you have read about the difficulty of the road to the trailhead is true. Only worse. Be prepared.

Since Secor calls Split the easiest of the 14ers after Whitney, I was not prepared for the (easy) third class section. Apparently Secor was referring to the West approach or perhaps the approach from Red Lake without the snow. At any rate, the difficulty of the rock induced me to change our plans to cross to the west side with full packs. After a mixed climb on snow and rock, four of the participants summitted. Climbers were Robert Evans, Arun Mahajan, David Wright, Richard Stover and Debbie Bulger. Robert, Arun, and David hiked out after the climb and two did the PCS wee hour drive back to the Bay area.

Since Richard and I were staying to climb Tinemaha, we did not rush back to camp. At about 12,000' on the way down as we were filling our water bottles, we heard a clatter. To our horror we saw a four-foot-diameter boulder crashing toward us. Dropping everything, we dashed at right angles to the fall line. The surge of adrenaline was powerful. The block bounced and came to a crashing halt about 40' from where our packs lay.

The next day we left base camp at Red Lake to climb Tinemaha, but were blown off our feet twice by the fierce wind. We bailed and spent the day inside our tent. It was like a scene from the English Patient (the sand storm, not the love scene). Dust was everywhere--in our noses, in our hair, in our sleeping bags. It was the Sahara; It was Shasta in a winter storm; It was not fun.

What a difference a day makes. The next day we summitted Tinemaha. Windless, calm, placid. Beautiful red, green, white rocks. On top were bivy sites with smooth white river rocks larger than softballs. Definitely not from this mountain. Who carried the river rocks to the summit? Were they carried by Indian youths on their vision quests? Later, I stopped by the Piute Cultural Center in Bishop (on the Bishop Creek Road) and asked if they knew. The Indian woman I spoke with did not know about the rocks but said she would ask some of the tribal elders. I'll check on the answer another time.

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