Grapevine Peak, Mount Palmer


By: Campy Camphausen


In Memory of Dale Van Dalsem

Dale and I had scheduled this trip and one other. On that Saturday in January when Tom Scott called with news of Dale's death, I passed the word to people in Bishop, Ridgecrest, and Mammoth Lakes who knew him. Steve Smith kindly agreed to take Dale's place in leading this climb. The other "Dale & Campy" climb was for Needle, Manly, and Porter in early May, and this trip was released for others to lead. Trip descriptions were modified just before they got printed in the Schedule.

A dozen people wrote in for Palmer and Grapevine. We were to meet at a likely road that I had seen from Highway 95 on trips to Las Vegas. Ski and I checked out the road when we arrived on Friday but it was the wrong one. So we spent the night there at a solitary saddle and enjoyed a fine view and sunset. Stephen Bork drove in later that night and slept on the hilltop. We returned to the highway in the morning and saw people still sacked out just five minutes before our announced meeting time.

Steve and Shane Smith arrived, also Bill Gray and Judy Ware, and Stephen Bork drove down soon after. Terry Moore, Carol Snyder, and Xavier Alderette were the ones still sacked out and we watched them throw sleeping bags and gear into their cars--they looked like a time-motion study played back at twice normal speed. After moving south to the proper road, we drove the 20 miles to our camp in Phinney Canyon. The 4WD vehicles were then used to get us up the steep canyon to the saddle. Ski stayed behind in camp to study for her BSN program. From the saddle we climbed toward the ridge leading to Mr. Palmer (7958'). Judy had done this peak within the past year while Steve and I couldn't recall many of its details after our 20 year absence.

Judy said that her earlier climb had involved some side-hilling. We tried to follow in Dale's footsteps, navigating partly by Steve's hand-drawn map published in a 1974 SAGE. Palmer appeared at an impressively awesome distance when we first saw it from the ridge. The day was clear and with a slight cooling breeze. We stopped for snacks a couple times--the climb went well until just short of the peak when my legs started cramping up. The others climbed to the summit and I struggled up to join them. We spent almost an hour on the summit and enjoyed the warm sun and magnificent views.

Leg cramps returned--it was going to take me awhile to get back. The others pitched in with painkillers and extra fruit and I gladly took a loading dose of ibuprofen while Steve took off with the others. Shane stayed with me and I slowly limped along. Later I recovered sufficiently to almost catch up with everybody before reaching the cars.

We had a nice evening campfire. Bill Gray set up a table to hold all the goodies. Dale would have approved of the snacks and libations. Some of us told stories about Dale while others who were younger and didn't know him very well listened intently. Dale and I were close in age and on our last climb he bragged about being "a whole month older than me". I felt that he was always in better climbing shape but I noticed recently that he appeared very fatigued after the second day's climb. As the night progressed some good discussions got going. How Dale handled a trip in which there was in injury requiring stitches. Dale's way of getting across his position at the Desert Bill hearing. "Resolved that climbers pay for their own rescue costs." That wasn't his argument; something a couple of us got going! Most of the people just sat and listened to us bellow. We decided that it was all in keeping with Dale's spirit because we could remember some good debates going at his campfires too!

My legs were still wiped out so Steve left with a now-smaller group for the Sunday climb of Grapevine Pk. (8738'). Steve reported later that they did it in just 3 hours. A car broke down on the drive out which required the collective mechanics skills of those present. Its left front wheel assembly lost a bolt and the whole thing threatened to fall off. A makeshift bolt was commandeered from another car and bailing wire wrapped it all together to avoid a long and expensive tow.

The thing I remember most about Dale was his care and compassion for anyone who got scraped or bruised on his climbs. This didn't happen very often as he always seemed to find the best routes for injury avoidance and he didn't make any mistakes about the route or where the summit ought to be. Our climbs together go way back--back when it was Dale and Jackie. Our company sold them the gear they took to Mt. McKinley where Jackie had her fatal fall. Take it easy Dale and Jackie, we'll all see you again sometime.

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