A trip to the top of Inyan Kara
Inyan Kara is a Black Hills mountain that few people have seen up close. The main reason is that the mountain in the northwest corner of the Black Hills is surrounded by private land. You need to get landowner permission to climb it.
However, it is a worthwhile hike.
When my friend John and I hiked to the top a couple of years ago, the landowner he contacted was very nice. (John baked her a fresh rhubarb pie, which couldn’t have hurt.)
You can see Inyan Kara, elevation 6,348 feet, from Interstate 90 going through Wyoming. It looks like a large, pine-covered flat-topped mesa rising above the high plains. But when we hiked it, I was surprised that it’s much different than it looks from a distance.
Inyan Kara is actually a granite uplift rising from the middle of what appears to be a three-sided crater.The fractured granite columns look a lot like those you see on Devil’s Tower just to the north. (I shot the above photo from the eastern rim of the crater.)
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Inyan Kara, however, is the name carved on its rocky summit. It says: “74 G Custer.” Legend has it that the Lieutenant Colonel himself carved his name there during the 1874 expeditition through the Black Hills.
We do know that Custer ascended Inyan Kara during the 1874 Expedition. I read a complete account of the climb in a journal kept by one of Custer’s men. There was no mention of any name-carving. (My wife, Nancy, looked at the photo and said, “It’s probably the Custer High School Class of 1974.)
Of course, Custer (who didn’t get landowner permission) and his Seventh Cavalry soldiers went on to discover gold in the Black Hills near present-day — which led the U.S. goverment to break the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty that reserved the Black Hills for the Lakota and other native tribes — and perish two years later at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
To me, however, the best part of Inyan Kara is the sweeping view of the high plains and the rest of the Black Hills. You can see Sundance Mountain, Devils Tower and Cement Ridge. I’m sure Custer was as enthralled as I was. Below is a Google Earth view of Inyan Kara.