Mt. Dubois P2K DPS / WSC
The Jumpoff

Mon, Aug 4, 2008

With: Mike Larkin

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

I had planned to spend the day on a long outing to Piute Mtn in Yosemite, but a few days before I was to head out I got an email from Mike who was looking to do some prominence peaks in Nevada around the same time. After kicking around the idea of doing Arc Dome, Mt. Jefferson, and Wheeler Peak, the reality of just how much driving was involved in such a venture began to sink in once I started looking at the road atlas in earnest. Being flexible on plans is one of Mike's strong traits, so it was not hard to get him to join me for peaks closer to the Sierra. We settled on Mt. Dubois in the White Mountains, both a P2K prominence peak in California as well as a peak on the DPS list. The easiest approach is from Nevada on the east side, up Middle Canyon to a trailhead about five miles from the summit. It seemed like a short, easy hike, but turned out to be a bit more involved once we got there than it had on paper.

We had some trouble finding the trailhead as directed in the DPS guide, but nothing serious. The driving is actually easier now since they've added a network of graded gravel roads on the Nevada side for what must have been excessive exuberance in the hot real estate market before the more recent bust. There are a few homes built along these roads by the early adopters, spanking new but looking awfully lonely. We drove along these gravel roads first to a dead end, then finding our way back and over towards Middle Creek Canyon. Luckily it was daylight as it would have been far more confusing at night. By 7:20a we had found our way to as far up the canyon as we could reasonably get Mike's jeep, pulled over, and began our quest for Mt. Dubois.

Our first order of business was to cross Middle Creek to the south side, something that ought to be an easy effort for a desert region in August. The banks were surprisingly thick with aspens and shrubs, growing over the creek in most places and making it hard to find an easy way across. Mike managed to dunk an entire foot into the creek before getting himself safely on the other side, not the best of starts. Almost immediately upon reaching the south bank we began a relentless climb up the north side of the East Ridge. Over 2,000ft in just over a mile made for a steep gradient indeed. Less than halfway up this low scrub-covered slope Mike began to slow down considerably, commenting that he was getting a little dizzy. He offered that I ought to go ahead and I took him up on it - this would give me a chance to tag The Jumpoff as well.

Once on the East Ridge the gradient eased some, but it was still a still climb all the way to the crest of the White Mtns. Though the skies were clear the views had little to recommend them - Middle Canyon to the north, similarly parched Chiatovich to the south. Somewhere along the ridge I crossed over the Nevada-California border, though saw no marker, sign or similar to mark the momentous event. For the most part the East Ridge was a collection of boulder fields punctuated by stretches of desert scrub and talus. Having taken nearly two hours to reach the East Ridge, it was a bit more than another two hours to reach the crest. Once at the crest I turned south and finished the last mile to the flattish summit in another half hour. In all it had taken 4.5hrs to go about 5mi - not much better than a mile an hour. The last hour in particular had been rather hard as the altitude had begun to affect me. Picking a 13,500-foot peak was probably not the best idea for a first day of acclimatization. I was pretty sure that Mike wasn't going to make it given how he seemed to be struggling lower down, and I suspected he had already turned back - all my efforts to spot him coming up the East Ridge went for naught.

The summit itself was a non-descript small pile of rocks on the broad Pellisier Flats that runs for miles along this part of the White Mtns. The register tucked in a small cairn was the only reassuring evidence that I had picked the correct pile of rocks among several close rivals. The entries went back only to 2005, with some of names of the usual desert peak folks found inside. The venerable Dick and Jill (in or around their 70s) had been to the summit three times in the last three years. Mantle, Dodge, Sumner, Langenbacher and other familiar names graced the handful of pages. Though the views from the summit are sweeping, the peak is too far from the Sierra to get more than a distant view of the many familiar peaks there. Of note was a fresh fire that could be seen in the vicinity of Rock Creek and Toms Place to the west.

After adding my own name to the register and a short stay to grab a snack, I headed north along the easily traveled summit ridge. I paused at the junction with the East Ridge, combing the landscape for any signs of Mike. All was still and quiet. I continued along the ridge, happy to find a large patch of snow to help refill my bottles, taking about an hour to reach The Jumpoff. Or what I thought was The Jumpoff. It wasn't clear from the map, so I looked under rocks along all the more obvious choices along the ridge, hoping to find a register of some kind. No luck on any of them. The ridgeline eventually drops to the north, more than a thousand feet to the saddle with Montgomery Peak at the northern terminus of the White Mountains. Though the drop to the notch would be unpleasant, the difficulty did not look more than class 2 between The Jumpoff and Montgomery. Since I was expecting Mike to be back at the Jeep by the time I got there, I did not think it prudent to continue with the traverse.

I looked off the east and southeast sides of The Jumpoff, choosing a steep class 2 slope off the southeast side for the descent. This allowed me to drop down to Middle Creek in fairly quick time. Halfway down the chute I paused where I had a good view of the East Ridge of Dubois in profile. After a minute or so, my steady gaze picked out an object near the last saddle below the crest slowly making its way to the top. It had to be Mike. Had I noticed him from the top of the The Jumpoff I probably would have continued to Montgomery and Boundary peaks just to keep myself busy since he was likely to be hours behind me in returning. I took a long look back up to The Jumpoff, but had not the desire nor energy to reclimb the last 1,000ft of sandy slopes I had just cruised down.

I made sure not to drop all the way to the creek lest I find myself enmeshed in a hellish bushwhack among the thick alder and other shrubbery that lined the creek. Immediately on either side of the creek were the steep, loose embankments rising in a V-shape to a height of about 100ft above the creekbed. I avoided this bit of nastiness as well, choosing to stay high on the south side of the canyon where the footing was better and the slope angle less disagreeable. I had only a little bushwhacking to fight through taking this approach, and about halfway down the canyon it opened up to broader, easier-to-travel bottomlands. Cattle paths had been worn in the scrub which from a distance looked like it might be difficult to penetrate, but upon closer inspection the various paths revealed themselves and made things almost trivial.

I crossed back over to the north side of Middle Creek not far from our starting point. I picked up a use trail that soon led back to the road, and eventually to where we had parked the Jeep, the whole descent from The Jumpoff taking little more than two hours. I had a long wait coming. I tried napping for much of the time with little success (ants kept me from sleeping comfortably). I dug holes in the sandy ground, messed around with the ants, took a rinse in the creek, built a fire in a nearby firering, and otherwise kept myself occupied for the three hours it took for Mike to return. Increasing clouds threatened to bring rain, but they held off nicely for the afternoon. Mike strolled in around 6:30p, smiling, but otherwise not giving Dubois high marks. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Dubois a zero," he stated unhesitatingly. I hadn't thought it that low on my own scale, but had to admit it wasn't much higher - a mediocre peak at best. The best thing Mike had to say about it was that he was glad he wouldn't have to be coming back to climb it again. He did relent slightly, saying that the one saving grace was an old Lilly-MacLeod register he found at the top of Pt. 13,120ft+ along the East Ridge, just before the last saddle. I had bypassed the highpoint on the south side of the ridge, missing it myself. Rats.

Continued...


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