By: John McCully
From Shorty's Well (-250') and Mahogany Flat (8200')
Left a car at Mahogany flat and drove 80 miles to Shorty's well, arriving at 7 Saturday night. Plan was to start up the road to Hanaupah spring at 1 AM. The company looked awful fast to me so stole a march by beginning at 7:30, reaching springs (9 miles and 4000 feet) at 11. Some cobblestones on road but had little trouble using flashlight in otherwise total darkness. Slept in an old sleeping bag that had failed to move for $5 at a garage sale. An ordinary car could probably make it to about 2400 feet on the road, and a high clearance 2 wheel drive might make it to the spring.
With the roar of the creek drowning out all noises I slept like a rock until the thundering herd arrived at 4:30, 45 minutes before dawn. Bugs and hot dry wind had kept some of them from getting a good nights sleep so the break while waiting for light was appreciated. The topo map shows the road ending at Hanaupah springs, but it now continues across the stream and up a ridge south of the springs for another 2000 feet or so. The contour lines between 8000 and 9000 feet on that ridge look quite wicked, so at dawn we left the road where it crosses the stream and side hilled to a point at 5600 feet - just above the bumps on the huge East-West ridge north of the springs. It might have been quicker to have gone straight north to the ridge line rather than side hilling. Four of us followed the ridge all the way up, joining the trail at about 10,000 feet. Ron, Don and Bob decided to make things more interesting by going to the south of the ridge around 8000 feet. Ron found water at 9000 feet in the intermittent creek which flows ENE of the peak and went up the ridge that comes out a couple of hundred feet north of the summit. The traverse of the creek was brushy but otherwise a nice route, putting him on the summit at 11:15 AM, an elapsed time of 10 hours and 15 minutes.
Ben, conditioning for his trip this summer to Russia, arrived fifteen minutes later; the rest of us drifting in over the next hour. Rosie and Suzanne drove up to the springs checking for stragglers and then followed Candy in doing the peak from Mahogany Flats - a seven mile trail. Rosie found my sleeping bag at the spring, forcing Igor to retract his accusation of pollution by sleeping bag. Left summit about one, cars before four, a couple of tailgate beers and home by a reasonable hour. A great day.
In an excess of bureaucratic caution the Ranger refused to express an opinion as to whether Hanaupah springs would be dry. It is hard to imagine these huge springs ever going dry. For maybe a mile they form a quite sizable creek. It's so big that I doubt all the burros in Death valley could make a dent in it. Frogs, chucker (quail like birds), and a water ouzel bird (the one that hangs around under water eating insects) were heard.
11000 feet of gain produces a lot of variety in the botany. Sparse salty vegetation at Shorty's giving way to an oasis bounding with growth, followed by pinyon juniper forest, avalanche scarred woodland and brush, and finally limber pines, alpine shrubs and magnificent old bristlecones
Most people used less then two quarts of water getting to the springs, and averaged about 4 quarts from there to Mahogany Flats. Ron noticed the following temperatures: 84 at 1 AM, 90 at 2, 75 at 4:30 and between 75 and 80 the rest of the day. Everybody wore shorts and light footgear. Ron had very light sneakers and felt that stiffer soles might work better.
People doing the hike from Shorty's Well were Bob Anglin, Ron Hudson, Igor Mamedalin, John McCully, Mitch Miller, Ben Preyer, Don Tidwell. From Mahogany Flat, Suzanne Thomas, Rosie Rybka, and Candy Yarnell.
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