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On our last day in Nevada we were looking for a half day's effort to allow time for the long drive home. Blue Dick, a P2K, was expected to be mostly a drive-up so we had further plans to tackle Mt. Nunn in the Inyo Mtns later. We didn't make the 12p finish time that Tom was hoping for, nor did we make it to Mt. Nunn, but we had good fun nonetheless.
We reparked the Jeep along the road between the two peaks and started up from there. The slopes are steep but fairly open and we picked a likely looking line, though almost any would do. We were impressed with the variety of flowers and the brilliance of several of them, including the Mariposa lilies and a cactus with a bright fushia bloom. It took about 30min to climb the 600ft to the first summit, Peak 7,083ft, about 2/3mi away. While waiting for the others to arrive I took note of a third peak, two miles to the southeast, more impressive than the two I had identified and sporting almost 750ft of prominence. Karl noted my look of longing as did Tom when they joined me. Karl, of course, would be easy to convince, Tom less so. There was nothing difficult about it, just the matter of when we would get back. I guessed that it would be about 7mi all told by the time we returned, still less than the outing to Nunn would have been, but not all that much. Ever accommodating, Tom acquiesced and off we went. We had to first drop down into the upper reaches of Cowhorn Valley before starting the climb up towards Peak 7,848ft. It was a somewhat longish effort, taking us an hour and a half to get between the two summits. We found the top of the second peak to be large and flat, with trees and and multiple rocky outcrops making it difficult to indentify a highpoint. We knew that MacLeod and Sumner had both been to the summit previously and expected to find a register somewhere. We made a more thorough search than usual but still came up empty, eventually choosing to leave one ourselves. Still not satisfied, I was looking to what we believed to be the lower east summit about half a mile away and wondered if that wasn't the point MacLeod might have visited. I used the hand level I carried with me to check the height and found it to be definitely lower even though it looks to be similar from just eyeballing it. We decided to pay it a visit, particularly since it was a fairly easy stroll between the two.
This turned out to be a worthwhile move for multiple reasons. First, we did indeed find the MacLeod register we had expected. It had been left in 1984 and contained far more entries, 10 pages worth, than we might have expected. Secondly, there is a much better view overlooking Death Valley NP, and Eureka Dunes in particular. Lastly, and certainly not the least of the reasons, Karl had stumbled upon an old indian campsite on the way over. We paused to inspect it more carefully on the way back and were all taken by the antiquity of the site. Medium-sized rocks had been collected over the years and arranged in a circle about the site, flat sides up and well-suited for sitting and meeting. Scattered about the site were hundreds of obsidian flakes, making it obvious that at least one use of the site was to craft arrowheads and other tools for hunting. This was the first time any of us had seen something like this and it was clearly moving, as though finding a small window in time to allow us a connection with another culture from the past. We left the place as we found it and continued our route back towards Cowhorn Valley.
We skirted Peak 7,848ft to the north on the return before Tom and I found ourselves at odds over the best return way to the last summit. I was all for following a drainage heading west directly down to Cowhorn Valley while Tom thought it would be better to reclimb some of the rolling hills we'd come over on our way to Peak 7,848ft initially. Unable to convince the other of the superiority of our own choice, we chose to go separate ways, Karl deciding to follow me. It was a silly dispute, of course, as either route would work undoubtedly, but we were after the most optimal route and would not give in so easily. After Tom was out of sight, Karl and I joked that we should start running down to ensure ours was the "best" route. The gully we followed wouldn't exactly allow for that safely, but we wasted no time in the descent and found the gully much to our liking with little brush and no real difficulties. Upon reaching Cowhorn Valley we kept an eye out for Tom to our right but caught no sight of him. After crossing the valley and starting up the other side to Peak 7,275ft, we became puzzled that we could see no sign of Tom. Surely he could not be ahead of us, but we saw no movements anywhere across the valley to give away his position. Unexpectedly, we heard his voice coming from behind us, a little out of breath in trying to catch up. Seems he had started on the route he intended but then forked left to follow a gully that led back into the one Karl and I had descended. Rather than the satisifaction of hearing Tom tell us we were right, we were treated to his complaining that he should have stuck with his original plan rather than the sudden change of plans. He insisted this would still have been a better route. There would be no honorable submission on this one by Tom.
Peak 7,275ft, lying between the two Cowhorn Valleys, was much like the first summit we visited - open, decent views, no register. Because we were already running late, we hardly paused at the summit before continuing down to the saddle between the first and last summits, then dropping steeply to the road below. We walked the last half mile down the middle of the pavement, not having seen another vehicle go by the entire time we had been viewing the road - this was one lonely stretch of pavement, especially as the warming of the season has made visiting Death Valley less appealing. It was 1:30p by the time we returned to the Jeep and it would be after 2p before we got to Big Pine where we filled up on gas and said our goodbyes. My day was not yet done with adventure as I found myself with a flat on the drive back across the Central Valley. The puncture occurred at the edge of the tread when I hit a nasty pothole and would prove difficult to fix. I made a roadside repair with the kit I carried, but the air would slowly leak out on the remaining 3hrs of driving, requiring me to stop several times to reinflate the tire. Still, it worked well enough to get me home and $50 the next day would have a replacement used tire installed in its place - all ready for the next adventure...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Blue Dick Peak
This page last updated: Fri Jun 16 07:48:29 2017
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