Smith Mountain, Epaulet Peak
By: Jim Farkas
Seven hardened, sun battered hikers drank coffee in the early morning heat at the only Cafe in Shoshone. The air was thick with dust, desperation, and maple syrup. Barely an eyebrow raised as the Cafe door shuddered and then banged open Letting in a thousand desert ghosts and a guy named Ralph from Lorain, Ohio. "I suppose your from the Sierra Club", he said.
"Yup " we said.
The road and peaks guide turned out to be right on when it came to Smith. From the parking spot on a dirt road suitable for passenger cars although a little rough, we flat country'd for 3/4 mile and started up the right side of the prominent canyon. Hot at the beginning, the weather cooled as some clouds moved in. Up the canyon to the saddle, left and then straight up a rib of the main ridge running parallel to Death Valley, turn right following the ridge and up the final 500 ft. Everybody got there.
We camped at the mud cliffs in Shoshone. A small fire was prepared with the usual smattering of small talk that comes when people have been together too long. Darkness fell and as the conversation faded we eyed each other suspiciously. Seven heads turned as Ralph grabbed suddenly, desperately, at a bundle at his side. A harmonica. I had never seen a harmonica on a DPS trip. None of us had. Ralph began playing, not too good but with heart. I liked it. Maris began laughing. Ralph had won many a woman around an Ohio campfire with the harmonica and his designs on all three women that day were, well, anyway he started blowing hard. By now we were all Laughing, the sort of laugh born of too much sun and tire fire smoke. More passionate lips never sucked a harmonica than that night. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and I don't know how things wound up.
Sunday dawned hot and we lost some folks to tourism on the drive in to Keith Springs. We parked at the old cabin and walked along the road going to the right (east) of the hills behind the cabin till we were on their far side looking up a canyon splitting into the main complex of the Epaulet massif. Some really weird stone circles along the way. We took the right hand fork of the canyon and scrambled up slot of loose stuff to the ridge. Sort of a mistake as it turns out, we were left with a long up and down ridge run to the peak. A lot of loose cruddy stuff in the summit area and there is at least one bad attituded rattlesnake. The left gully would have gotten us closer but there is probably a better approach to the peak. Very hot weather. Five hours (240 ft) R/T for Smith and Eight (30000 ft)
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