Dry Mountain


By: Eric Beck


Lori and I were 0 for 2 on Dry Mountain. For attempt 3, we invited Joe Kelsey and Toby to accompany us. Joe is innocent of desert peaks, knowing neither of their charms or other attributes. We had a 4.5 hour drive down through Lone Pine to the now familiar spot on the Racetrack road. We camped at a larger turnout 0.8 miles down from the parking spot where we could get farther off the road. Off at 5:40 am Saturday up the enormous alluvial fan toward the canyon and then saddle at 280 degrees. This bearing had caused us an enormous difficulty on a previous attempt. We are used to magnet bearings; all bearings in the desert peak guide are absolute. As we reached the mouth of the canyon, we recalled the words of Dennis Richards ( who had also graciously loaned us a real map ) describing it as filled with shifting mounds of "grapefruit" sized rocks. This proved to be accurate and we did our best to avoid them. At one point I was side hilling on one side and Joe and Toby were on the other, with Lori struggling in the fruit. From here on, there were very isolated and small patches of snow in shady spots. Eventually the fruit gave way to bedrock, small waterfalls, talus, and finally the headwall. We had been following a good line of ducks, but these suddenly gave out. We wasted almost an hour here looking for a route up through the friable, fractured and extremely loose limestone. Eventually we found a feasible, though very unpleasant chute. A large duck revealed itself upon exiting the chute. We though that this was the most unpleasant section we had done on any DPS peak. Gradually easier terrain led to the saddle where it was much windier and colder. We put on all our clothes and had them on the rest of the day. Following Dennis's marks on the map, we went over point 7934 and down the very easy broad ridge to the flat before the final summit pyramid. Here we left two packs and all but one quart of water. Three hundred feet below the top, we declared as Chick Hearn would, "Dry Mountain is in the refrigerator, the eggs are coolin' and the butter's getting hard." There was a solo entry from March 3 ( bold we think ). We also found the poignant 97 entry of Dave and Elain Baldwin with its dedication to Myrna Roach. She had been hit by a rock and suffered a badly bruised rock. We all went back to the hot springs, Dave and Elaine continued bravely on alone. The descent back to the flat and the packs went quickly. A raven led us back toward the saddle, flying up to his next perch as we got to within twenty feet. Halfway up, I realized that I had made a major blunder. My binoculars ( good ones ) were still down where we had left the packs. Joe, Lori and Toby would continue on; I would go back and then try to catch them. This adrenalized me and I only lost 23 minutes here.

We had discussed our displeasure at descending the headwall and then through the fruit. The map showed that if one continued SE from the saddle to point 7947, a ridge led east a bit and then south at a very gentle angle, all the way to the alluvial fan. We decided to try this, thinking that it couldn't be worse.

I spotted them just before 7947; we continued on to where we could seen down our ridge which looked very good. As we continued, it stayed very easy, with good footing. There was no sign of previous human activity; we did see a single bighorn print. At the toe of the ridge direct progress to the south steepened, so we turned right ( west ) and dropped 100 feet down an easy slope into the large canyon which curls around the toe of the ridge. This is at 6300 feet, UTM 507815. We rounded the toe of our ridge and soon exited the canyon. From here it was very easy hiking, mostly on excellent terraces between the braided washes to the road. Joe got back 20 minutes before us. Lori and I made it just before we would have had to get out the headlamps. This was our first peak of the year ( besides WIMP peaks ) and it showed in our time, 12 hours 30 minutes. Probably not smart to pick one of the three hardest DPS peaks to start on, but we don't have that many choices at this point.

We thought our descent route, entirely class one was vastly superior to the route up through the fruit and the hideous headwall. Our ridge adds one mile and one hundred feet each way, but is so much easier and more fun, being on an airy ridge that we unequivocally recommend it to all parties climbing Dry from the east.

For variety on Sunday, we drove home through Crankshaft junction and Big Pine. Although this route is 100 miles shorter, we only saved 30 minutes.

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