Saline Peak


By: George Barnes


The Peak Climbing Section write-up in the Loma Prieta Chapter schedule had promised a climb in a desert range that had almost never been visited but little did the twelve know who gathered at the junction of the Saline Valley road with State 190 that they were about to set Sierra Club history. For right there in the schedule for thousands to read weeks in advance was the name of a peak never before climbed. Not just a bump on a ridge, either; this was a dominating main summit of an entire range.

Recent rains made the road a mud bath as the little caravan crossed the Nelson, Range and dropped down Grapevine Canyon onto the long fan into Saline Valley. The heaviest snow in memory shimmered on the crest of the Inyo Range towering to the west. Brief stops at the salt tram terminus and the Saline sand dunes and it was on to the warm springs. The lower one was mobbed as was expected, so we forged on to Palm Spring a half mile further on. Many people here too, but the best soaking tub was free so a lunch stop was called.

After rather awhile the procession embarked somewhat reluctantly for Upper Warm Spring and the start of the Saline-Eureka Traverse, the remotest jeep trail in California. The route proved in good shape as we crept up the valley between the Saline Range and the northern Panamints. Soon Saline Peak came in view tipped with snow. At an elevation of 3700 feet we decreed ourselves to be at the roadhead. We would try the peak via the east ridge the morning of the 18th.

That night came wind and rain and, as we found with morning light, a snow line of 4800 feet. A stiff, cold northerly blew as we started for the ridge. The route was easy as expected and the snow was melting fast. Tim Duffy reached the top followed by Melissa Duffy, Mark Toney, Mike Lee, Elliott Snyder (Desert Subcommittee, SCRCC), Al Campbell (Desert Subcom. and DPS), Bob Wallace, Bill Rausch, and George Barnes. There were no tracks on top, no cans, no stakes, no register, no cairn. Nothing left by man. Only a fantastic 360 view of the Panamints, Saline Valley, Inyos, Eureka Valley, the Last Chance Range, and of course the Saline Range. Nowhere in the last were any doings of man in evidence.

Many pictures were taken, a small cairn built, register placed and descent made to the vehicles. The day was drawing short as the smaller vehicles continued out through Eureka Valley and the larger ones returned through Saline.

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