By: Wes Shelberg
(Inyo Mountains Summits)
VABM Brass and nearby Peak 6500 (Waucoba Spring Quadrangle, CA, 15-min.) are northern Inyo Mountains summits where superb Eureka Valley views, isolation and beauty make climbing worthwhile. It will be helpful to view the Waucoba Spring and the Waucoba Mtn. Quadrangle Maps (both CA and 15-mm.) in connection with the following description of peak location. The Inyo Mountains and the Saline Range join to form a broad, undulating plateau (upland) of roughly 5000-6000-ft. elevation just east of the Waucoba Mountain- Squaw Peak massif. Marble Canyon, a major drainage channel, descends easterly from higher Inyo Mountains west of the plateau as a steep impressive gorge roughly two miles north of Squaw Peak; intercepts the plateau region near the mouth of the gorge; and crosses the plateau easterly at first and northerly at last to exit into Eureka Valley as a major northerly trending wash and bajada. Marble Canyon descends about 2400-ft. over about eight miles as it crosses the plateau to its mouth at 4000-ft. elevation. It is reasonable to attribute to the Inyo Mountains that plateau region north of Marble Canyon and west of Jackass Flats, and to the Saline Range that region south of Marble Canyon and east of Jackass Flats. Thus., the Inyo Mountains and the Saline Range form the westerly side of Eureka Valley north and south, respectively, of the mouth of Marble Canyon. VABM Brass is an Inyo Mountains peak on the westerly wall of Eureka Valley about five miles north of the mouth of Marble Canyon. Peak 6500 is one mile southwest of VABM Brass and off the escarpment.
A day solo climb including both VABM Brass and Peak 6500 crossed an unspoiled and isolated land. The east face of VABM Brass drops rough and steep to Eureka Valley, and the granite summit overlooks that entire valley and the wavy plateau joining the Inyo Mountains and the Saline Range. Summit views from VABM Brass included the enormous, symmetrical alluvial fan exiting from the narrow canyon separating the Sylvania Mountains from the Last Chance Range; the Last Chance Range including Last Chance Mountain, VABM Sandy and VABM Marble; the great Eureka Valley Sand Dunes; Grapevine Peak and Mt. Palmer; Saline Range including Saline Peak and VABM Zinc; Inyo Mountains, with especially fine views of Waucoba Mountain, Squaw Peak, Mount Inyo (11107-ft.), Keynot Peak and New York Butte; the snowy tips of Split Mountain and (probably) Mt. Prator in the Sierra Nevada visible across the lowest Inyo Mountains elevation in the west; and the very snowy White Mountains. A segment of the Last Chance Range (from VABM Sandy south to Peak 6993) rises steeply just east of the great Eureka Valley Sand Dunes and exhibits a background of extensive, highly-visible color-banding that makes the dunes one of the most scenic in California. All high ranges were snowy.
Summit views from Peak 6500 were generally similar to the aforementioned except that VABM Brass shielded the central part of Eureka Valley and the Sierra Nevada peaks were almost obscured by the Inyo Mountains.
The climb originated in Eureka Valley which is easily reached by the road connecting Big Pine, CA and Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley. After entering. Eureka Valley from Big Pine, the road very soon makes a pronounced right bend, and then after about 1.2-1.4 miles makes another less-pronounced right bend at a major wash. This wash is shallow, broad, relatively flat, sandy, and with very few rocks. Follow the, middle of the wash south (four-wheel drive recommended; Volkswagen types use own judgement) for about 2.6 miles to the start of a readily visible mining road ascending the alluvial fan' west of the wash, and follow the relatively steep road for 1.4 miles to the "4-WD road-head" at 4000-ft. elevation. The main road through Eureka Valley provides a "2-WD road-head", but its use would result in a nzich longer day's outing.
The preceding road-head information is sketched and annotated on the accompanying topographic map. Jeep roads which are no longer discernable or practical have been removed from the map. The AAA map, Guide to Death Valley (10-78) incorrectly shows the Saline Range extending north of Marble Canyon. It also shows a 3.3 mile spur road of "poor or doubtful" category in Eureka Valley which is a road that was removed from the topographic map.
The climbing route taken to VABM Brass and Peak 6500 is traced on the accompanying topographic map which is a composite of the Waucoba Spring and the Soldier Pass Quadrangle Maps (both CA and 15-mm.). The one-way distance from the 4-WD road-head to both peaks as shown by the arrows was 5.5 miles as measured on the map, the total elevation gain to climb both was 3267-ft., and the route was Class 2. A register was left on each summit.
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