Canyon Point, Eagle Mountain #2, Nelson Range, New York Mountains, Panamint Butte
By: Erik Siering
Bob and I set out the morning after Christmas for a round of peaks in and around Death Valley. Starting from the Panamint Butte valley trailhead (4wd section badly eroded) at 9:30 under threatening skies, we ascended the primary ridge above the mining activities to reach the nondescript summit by noon. Our brief repast and descent were accompanied by light snow flurries. It was early yet for a socially acceptable happy hour, so we proceeded on to the Nelson Range trailhead cabin (4wd stretches). We labored up the loose ridge, passing scattered patches of snow on the forested rocky summit area. The gully adjoining the ridge up provided an excellent return down to the road before dusk. The Stovepipe Wells bar then supplied tall cold ones (great!) followed by dinner(weak!). The cool night was spent at the nearby campground/tarmac, serenaded by ranging coyotes coveting the RV-bound poodles.
The sunny early morning drive through Marble Canyon was beautiful (high-clearance 2wd), marred only by climbing insipid Canyon Point. Our trek then led to Eagle Mtn #2. Here Bob had anticipated (complete with wading tools) the treacherous Amargossa River crossing, which was now only dried mud flats. Bob led the route up perfectly, omitting creative variations, upon which I likened this fun peak to "East Ord Mtn on steroids." We continued to Baker in search of Mad Creek food and firewood, and made camp in the open north of Hwy 15, planning on climbing both Clark and New York Mtns the next day. The campfire consumed the wood and all other combustibles scavenged nearby as the night grew increasingly colder. At this point, we resorted to the high-energy, low-valued approach of adding cow chips to fuel the fire ("a smoldering dungheap") as we exhausted our wine cache.
The morning found all heavily encrusted with ice from the freezing night. Slowly thawing out, we scrubbed on Clark, and drove the undulating road into the New York Mtns. Bob lazed and listened to bawdy limericks from the family in the adjacent trailhead camp, while I climbed the peak from the Keystone Canyon mine. One route variation is not recommended: circling high north of the peak from the saddle merely added icy c13 scrambling to reach the summit pitch. We thereafter headed back to Baker, the Mad Greek and fresh strawberry shakes.
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