Tucki Mountain

16-Apr-94 (Private trip)

By: Campy Camphausen


We decided to climb Tucki by the shorter route suggested in 1970 by Andy Smatko and described by Abe Siemens (SAGE 131) and myself (SAGE 214). Five of us: Andy and Wynne Zdon, LeRoy Johnson, and Ski and I, drove to the start of the dirt road near Emigrant Cyn. This road, best driven by a truck, cuts the Tucki hiking time by about half.

LeRoy stopped us at the roadside at a flat bench. He summoned us to a trail that he had discovered earlier, an Indian trail which had been in use for centuries. Perhaps it was also followed by the Jayhawkers during their exit from Death Valley in 1849. Brush had by now grown over the trail but it was easily seen when viewed end-on as a strip of finer grained pebbles bordered by kicked-out larger stones. Leroy is a historian and author of the current authoritative book which traces the 1849 Death Valley escape epic. Underway again, we stopped briefly to study the rusted hulk of an abandoned Model T lying alongside the road.

I drove in 2WD and twice in 4WD over short rocky steps in the otherwise even road. The other drivers reported that staying in 4WD all the time smoothed out the washboard vibration. In an hour we came to the plateau at 4880' where the former route from Skidoo comes across. A steep road led to the top of P5532 where we parked. It goes down yet more steeply on the other side but a winch cable stretched out on the ground is a warning to the traction-impaired.

From our high vantage I pointed out the Tucki summit as being the one with the rock cairn on it. The others looked and I don't think they saw any cairn but they didn't say anything. It was there on prior climbs but now I couldn't see it either. I let it slide; they might have thought that I have superior vision. When we got to the summit we found that the cairn's rocks had been scattered by some deranged cairn robber.

We hiked down the steep road and crossed a flat. The morning was sunny but humidity made it hazy and there was a slight cooling breeze. The ridge that we took was fairly direct but each time we imagined to be closing in on the summit another saddle appeared. We could look back and see our parked vehicles but the summit ahead was always out of sight. The final saddle of the three was the longest. We had taken short rests along the way; time to the top was 3.5 hours, 3.6 miles and 2000'.

The clearly superior lunch on the summit was acknowledged to be the Braunschweiger burritos. The clearly superior rest stop snacks were Andy's and Wynne's cool strawberries and cantaloupe chunks. We perused the two register books; the first one went back to an even earlier time than Bob Greenawalt's 1968 entry. My earliest was in a snowstorm in 1973.

LeRoy chose our return route to follow part of the canyon north of our ascent. After driving back down we explored the main road to its end at the "Journigan's Tucki Mine". Later research showed this mine to have been worked at fair to poor profit which ended with the 1978 Death Valley mining claims moratorium. A cabin at the mine is furnished for overnight use and is managed by the Monument. Journigan also operated the small gold mill at Emigrant Spring.

We planned to explore the Skidoo area the next day so it was decided to camp in any pleasant location. We first tried a roadside camp with a "hermit's cave" but the hermit's ghost assailed us with tiny biting gnats. Andy and Wynne then led the way to a fine campsite low on our road where Telephone Canyon splits off. This is a suitable place for several vehicles and it is permitted to camp here.

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