Thimble Peak, Grapevine Peak
By: Bob Michael
Thimble is one of the more photographed peaks in the Desert Southwest; it is prominent in the background of most of the classic shots of the Stovepipe Wells Dunes, a very pointy thorn of rock crowning the crest of the Grapevines. In February 1996, this peak was scheduled as part of a DPS Exploratory. It was about the coldest weekend I've ever spent in the desert. As we headed up the Titus Canyon road towards Red Pass, the scudding steel-gray clouds lowered and thickened - by the time we reached the Pass, the temperature was 30' and snow flurries were blowing horizontally. Here the group split into the true damn-the torpedoes, never-say-die peakbaggers, and those who (including myself) prefer to answer the challenge of the heights in a little more comfort - this latter group piled into Rich Gnagy's cavernous Grand Cherokee, ate snacks and told jokes until the frostbitten survivors staggered back. Through clenched teeth, they stammered that it was a neat peak.
On the first weekend of February, "Vegas George" and I returned to Red Pass in vastly mellower conditions. Route-finding couldn't be easier to the base of the peak; simply climb up from the road on the SW side of the pass and follow the broad ridge S and W one mile. There is a 300'drop before the peak; this is essentially impossible to avoid. The summit tower is quite spectacular, and compares in aesthetic quality with most any peak on the List; it looks like an oversteepened Egyptian steppyramid. Any straight-ahead route looked pretty dicey and completely exposed to the sheer SE face. I led to a little saddle at 6000' on the N buttress of the peak, thinking perhaps we could contour from there around to the W face, where the contours on the topo look a little more relaxed. When we got to the saddle - dreading the steep, tedious contouring ahead - I looked up and saw a route, almost a divine revelation. One rubbly cl 2 ramp and chute split the cliffs on the NW side of the peak, exiting high up on the W ridge. Once we got on the W ridge, we climbed a faint use trail that threads below a cliff that forms the crest of the ridge. The trail ends at a broken, easy cl 3 face about 25 feet high - loaded with loose junk that puts you right on the airy summit. Great views of the northern Death Valley ranges, far east into Nevada and the garden of peaks around Beatty, and down the vertiginous SE face to the deep trackless wilderness of Titanothere Canyon (love that name). This is quite a challenging impressive, and satisfying summit I'm glad I did it on a day when we could savor it for an hour. It's a shame the route is too short for it to be on the List. (Of course, one could always do it in the manner of a certain Gary Craig and friend who wrote in the register that they had climbed it from Titanothere Canyon, gaining 6000 feet!).
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