Pyramid Peak, Corkscrew Peak


By: Igor Mamedalin


The impressive desert summit, Pyramid Peak, visible from the road between Furnace Creek and Death Valley Junction has always beckoned us to climb it. Saturday morning fourteen desert rats congregated across the street from the opera house in Death Valley Junction in preparation for the climb. We headed west toward Death Valley Monument for 12.5 miles to a faint dirt road junction heading north, as described in the DPS Road and Peaks Guide. After leaving the cars about a mile from the main road, we proceeded up the broad wash to the low point on the northern horizon. Instead of taking a ridge, we followed the wash into a narrow canyon which, with a little scrambling over a few dry waterfalls, brought us to a saddle north east of the summit. From the saddle it was a steady ridge to the summit which all gained in due time. From the summit the views ranged from the snowy Sierra to the west all the way to the snowy Charleston Peak to the east. This was the first DPS summit for two people: Dave Lake and Scott, a veterinary intern from Virginia under the tutelage of Jay Holshuh; this was also the second DPS peak for Rheta Schoenman. If these new desert initiates return for more desert peaks, then this climb can be judged to be a definite success.

Bill Banks took the "standard" ridge route. Returning from the summit Suzanne led the group back along Bill's route. Arriving back at the cars we found Keats Hayden's VW van stuck in the gravelly wash. After Jay Holshuh towed the VW out of the pit, we headed across the road to camp at an abandoned trailer park site. The campsite being within sight of the main road prompted several passing vehicles to stop and ponder whether to join us for the night at the newly established campground (luckily no one was bold enough to approach our rowdy group). During the night Vic and Sue Henney arrived to join the group for the Sunday climb.

After loosing seven climbers to the sirens calling from Titus Canyon, the remaining group caravaned through Furnace Creek to the Hell's Gate scenic pullout for the climb of Corkscrew. Although one can save half a mile by parking near the "Corkscrew" sign on the road to Beatty, why encroach on the virgin desert by enlarging the road shoulder and risk getting a $50 fine. From Hell's Gate we followed the obvious wash toward Corkscrew in the heat of an unusually warm day. At the base of Corkscrew, Bill Banks again took an alternate ridge route while the rest of the group stayed primarily in the drainage until it was time to head up. Arriving at the summit for lunch we were able to see Titus Canyon but could not spot the defectors cruising through the canyon. The return route was via Bill's ridge. Near a spring along the route we encountered a large patch of 12 foot high grass through which we had to wade -- this added to our sense of adventure. Everybody made it back to the cars by around 3 PM and headed home. We wish to thank everyone for their great comradely through the weekend; we wish to thank Bill Banks and Rob Langdorf for their scouting and navigational assistance.

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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