Distance: 2.1 miles round trip cross country
Summit Elevation: 5174'
Elevation Gain: 1700'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.36
Round trip time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
The last vestiges of the southern Sierras melt into the high desert. Five Fingers is on the edge of the melt zone, an artifact with a striking profile visible from highway 395 near Ridgecrest, CA. I became interested in Five Fingers on my way back from Mt. Whitney in 2013 and finally got around to climbing it. The standard route from the south starts at a turnout on Indian Wells Canyon Road. It is a dirt road that a low clearance vehicle can navigate with some caution. From the turnout, I headed for the saddle between finger #4 and #5 on the far left. About half way up, I ran into a use trail that was not obvious at the start. The slope was very steep sand and gravel, and gained about 1500' in 0.8 miles. My hiking pole was sinking 6-12" deep every time I put it down. It was slow going up to the saddle.
Once at the saddle, I proceeded to the north side and down to the spiny ridge, then back up. I soon reached two class 3 chutes and chose the one on the left. It was a fun climb to the top, where I turned right and scrambled about 100' to the summit. There I found an ammo box with a couple of registers. The newest one was placed in 2013 and had hundreds of names. This is a popular HPS destination, though I was alone on the mountain today. On the way back, I detoured on the north side to the base of finger #4 to get a photo of the fingers from the north. It would have been fun to do more exploring, but I had limited time and a long drive home. Coming down, I was able to plunge step as if in deep snow, making it down from the saddle in about 1/3 of the time it took to go up. The hike was short, sweet, and big fun.
To get to Indian Wells Canyon Road going north on hwy 395, take a left on Anthel Ave, then left going south on hwy 14, then the 1st dirt road on the right. It is not signed along the highway, but a sign says Indian Wells Canyon Road in about 1/4 mile.