Tin Mountain, Dry Mountain

April 1973

By: Doris Golden


It wasn't that we wanted to make a feminist assault on Tin and Dry in Death Valley National Monument or that we wanted to be a small elite unit. But, "elite" we were, in a sense. (For, who ever goes on a desert trip, even a carcamp, with a full-size boxspring and mattress? Gerry Berns has so equipped her GMC Rallywagon.) The two of us couldn't find an experienced man to go! There was one man...his initial enthusiasm on the telephone dove like a glissading SPSer as I unfolded the "plans" and he suddenly recalled that on our first day out he would have to be in LA to collect his unemployment check. That was really better because the booboos would have driven him right up a wall.

All this took place during the past Easter vacation. Leaving LA at 9:00 Thursday night (the first crazy move), we didn't arrive at the roadhead until 3:00 am. The next foul-up resulted from that: embarking on the Dry Mountain hike at 9:00 am, instead of very early as we had been advised. Gerry didn't cotton much to the hand-over-hand rock route I picked to reach the ridge. But, for the most part, we were appropriately challenged and enjoying good conversation. Halfway up the ridge, we stopped for lunch and a 45-minute nap. Attaining the top of the main north-south ridge early in the afternoon, we faced a frustrating situation. We could turn around and get down before dark without getting the peak at all or we could bivouac and bag the peak Saturday. Gerry had just completed BMTC and knew all about bivouacking, so we spent the last rays of daylight setting up housekeeping, far from theboxspring and mattress. We settled down between two small fires, melting snow, sharing a light supper of gorp, cheese, and a mini-can of potato salad. Time went pretty fast as we regaled each other with all of the really rotten things each had done during a lifetime. The waning moon rising about 10:30 amid ominous drifts of heavy clouds and the eastern light at 4:00 am marked the only milestones.

Saturday morning we traversed a steep, cruddy ridge (the height of masochism). but even so had to drop almost 1000' to reach the base of the Dry Mt. mass. In so doing, we got a fine view of a bighorn sheep. Peaks don't interest Gerry, who stopped here to sleep while I did my thing alone. On the summit, overcast weather obscured wide vistas, I suspected. Few people had signed the register, none in 1973; perhaps it was hidden under snow. Dropping down, I found Gerry and we headed up and out. The disagreeable ascent the day before forced us to search out an alternate route down; we found a lovely deep canyon to the south, lined with majestic gendarmes perched on high walls, all of this flanked by lush, full-blooming yuccas and smaller, colorful blooms. Pleasant but slow and far, this route got us back to the red bus at 6:00 pm.

Sunday, awakening at 6:00, we figured we could strike for Tin by 7:00. But, unlike true peakbaggers, we didn't get away until after 8:00. And then, the trip took until 6:00 that evening! This time I think we had the right route as a vague trail outline appeared from time to time, but the stops were frequent and too long for peakbagging. Gerry likes the pause that refreshes, refreshes, refreshes...

The summit offered up just about the best view I have ever seen in all directions: the sublime Sierra Nevada Range stood out boldly, heavily laden with snow, the Inyo Mountains in the foreground were lightly tinted, and the massive White-Dubois Montgomery block was imperial. It all looked like a Paramount backdrop. Gerry waited for me again, at the 7600' saddle, enjoying in leisure the good air and sunshine, the solitude and mountain vistas.

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