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After spending the night sleeping cozily in the back of Evan's camper parked along Racetrack Rd in Death Valley, we were up early for a dawn start to Dry Mtn. Some very light rain had pattered down during the night just as we were going to bed, but there was no sign of it as we scrambled out of the camper before 6a. The desert floor was dry as one might expect, though the clouds hung around overhead to provide some color with the rising sun. The clouds were around for only a few hours, and by afternoon the skies would once again be clear.
It was not as cold in the morning as it had been the previous three days, the clouds providing some relief from the sub-freezing temperatures. Having reparked the camper at a better location to the north, we headed out across the valley floor in a general northwesterly direction. It was light enough shortly after 6a that we didn't make much use of the headlamps, stowing them away after only 15 minutes. Our ascent route up a broad gully followed the DPS guide for the most part, though it isn't really necessary to be so precise. Most of the gullies and ridges facing the valley floor can be climbed, or appeared so. The DPS gully was decent, narrowing in one place, some easy class 3 climbing on whitish rock further up, and even an old tin can used as duck, marking the route as one climbed. Just after 8a we climbed out of the shadows in the canyon and into the welcome sunshine. The last several hundred feet had many options on generally loose and crappy rock, though the climbing wasn't more than class 2. Evan and I split up to take different routes for the last ten minutes or so, regrouping as we reached the top of the front ridge.
The trick with Dry Mtn is that it is set back in the range, and one must first climb up to one ridge, then down about 700ft to a high valley before tackling the mountain itself. As we topped out on that first ridge and took a short break, we could easily pick out the mountain off to the west. It looked far, but was a bit less than three miles distance. We had gotten spoiled by the short distance to Tin Mtn the day before.
The way to Dry Mtn was fairly direct following the DPS route, though again there were several possibilities (which we would use for the return). It took about an hour to go from the front ridge to the summit of Dry Mtn, climbing the East Slopes for the final climb. Along with the USGS benchmark, we found a huge ammo can with several registers, the earliest dating to 1970. Andy Martin, Kathy Wing, and Corrine Newton, all familiar names in both the registers and online, had all been in the last few parties prior to our arrival. Considering the peak's remoteness, it would seem the DPS list is quite popular even among the non-Sierra Club peak baggers. Dry Mtn also has more than 2,000ft of prominence, so it draws from a list of folks interested in those highpoints, including Andy Martin and Bob Packard (notable county highpointers as well) who were the most recent visitors.
The weather being quite comfortable, we had a long break atop. I wandered over to a nearby lower point for the heck of it, hoping perhaps for different views or a hidden register, but no luck. Even the view back to Dry Mtn was so-so. But the views from atop Dry were quite nice, perhaps best to the west where we could peer into Saline Valley and beyond, the Saline, Inyo, and Sierra ranges in successive order from nearest to furthest.
Heading back down the east side, it didn't take long for Evan and I to get separated. He had taken a descending ridge further to the south (possibly unintentionally) with some intervening cliffs to split us. I waited for him on a small overlook further down, seeing him enter a small canyon that fed down and past my perch. I never saw him go by, and after waiting fifteen minutes I continued down, guessing he'd slipped by me unnoticed somehow (later he explained he had stopped in the canyon to attend to some private business). Down in the flats again, I kept to the south and ascended a gully I had spied during the ascent. With some rugged trees and shrubs, along with some short dry waterfalls to overcome, it was a more interesting route than the DPS one, imho. Back up on the front ridge, I waited again for Evan, but after another 15 minutes and no sign of him, I continued down. I took another alternative here, a long, south-trending ridge that Evan and I had seen early in the morning. Because it ran south and out of the way a bit, the route was longer by a half mile or so. The route was mostly talus and uninteresting compared to the ascent, though the views to the Cottonwoods off to the east were certainly better.
It was 2:40p when I finally returned to the camper along Racetrack Road. I was a little surprised to find that Evan had beaten me back, having arrived some 20 minutes ahead of me. He had talked about the ridge I used on descent as though he was going to use it himself, but he ended up returning down the same gully we had used for the ascent. Driving back out to Ubehebe Crater, we retrieved my van and headed out towards Nevada and the Grapevine Range, tomorrow's target. We stopped at Scotty's Castle and took the last tour of the day (not cheap, but worth it) before heading to Beatty for dinner and refueling. We spent the night not far from US95, just off the dirt road that we would use in the morning to drive out to the Grapevines. Wind and trucks would provide sounds to softly (sort of) rock the van and me to sleep.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Dry Mountain
This page last updated: Thu Feb 7 08:43:03 2008
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