Waucoba Mountain


By: Fred Johnson


There were 11 of us on my first trip to a desert peak with the newly formed Desert Peaks Section: Chester Versteeg (leader), Niles Werner, Freda Walbrecht, Parker Severson, Jim Tow, Harry Paley, Martin Britt, Rhoda Goerz, Pat Carmical, my school friend Morris Vehon, and I. Harry picked me up about 6:45P on the 5th, and I rode in the back of his pickup truck with Niles to Red Rock Canyon to spend the night. Since this was going to be a backpack trip, I wanted to bring as little weight as possible; so instead of my 10pound sleeping bag, I brought just two blankets. I hardly slept because the blankets kept coming off and there was a cold wind blowing all night.

On Saturday the 5th we had a hearty breakfast at Olancha and stopped at Independence to fill up with a 24-hour water supply and obtain various provisions. Then we drove maybe 30 miles into the desert northeast on pretty good road to a miner's cabin near Waucoba Canyon. Before starting our five-mile hike in the very hot sun to a campsite above scenic Marble Gorge (7,800'), we ate lunch and then departed. Unfortunately, Pat's arthritis had flared up, and we had to leave him behind. When we got to the bed of a stream long since dried up, I was hot, tired, and thirsty. Instead of resting, I gulped down a large can of grapefruit juice, then dashed off with two others to the top of a nearby knoll. By the time we got back to camp, I was pretty tired and went to bed early with a bad headache, skipping dinner. I had trouble sleeping and for a while listened to Parker recite Edgar Allan Poe late into the chilly night by the blazing camp fire

We were all up at 2:00A on Sunday. A roaring fire soon warmed our spirits, and by 2:45A everyone was wolfing down the famous Sierra Club "slumgoo," a hot, stewlike potluck that was unbelievably tasty. But, with a violently upset stomach, I had to forego the pleasure. The moon was up by 3:30, and we were on our way on the sevenmile cross-country hike to the top of Waucoba, highest peak in the Inyos. After crossing a rocky expanse, we started up the side of a canyon, scrambling over large rocks as we went. We were about half way up to a saddle above the canyon, when the dawn started to break. It was so beautiful to watch the first rays of the sun strike the great Sierra peaks across the Owens Valley. After reaching the saddle at about 10,000', we started along a ridge that took us to the summit about two miles away. It seemed like we would never get there, but, of course, we did. This was the highest I had ever been, and I was happy to be there. It was a clear, sunny day, but very cold. We sat around a fire for about an hour. The views of the Sierra and toward the Saline Valley were magnificent.

The big event while we were on top was to congratulate Niles for becoming, after Chester, the second member of the Desert Peaks Section, having today climbed the last of the seven qualifying peaks. We started down from our broad perch about 9:30 and were back to our campsite by 1:00P. After lunching on the rest of the breakfast "slumgoo," we packed up and hightailed it for the cars, covering the five miles in under an hour and a half. We started the drive back about 3:00, stopping in Lone Pine for a giant malt and in Lancaster for dinner. What a great trip for me!

Fred Johnson, age 14

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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