Laura Molnar and I were camped in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, riding out a
small storm that had come in during the night. It brought a scary sky full of clouds
but only a modest amount of rain. It was still raining on and off in the morning when
we awoke, but it looked to be improving and I thought I would climb some of the
unnamed summits in this small range. Laura had other ideas, breakfast in Lone Pine
being at the top of her very short list, before she had to return to Bishop for work.
Uncharacteristically, I relented - breakfast was sounding pretty good. Afterwards, I
decided instead to head to the Talc City / Darwin area to do some stuff there, thinking
the weather would be a little better. It wasn't, but by 10a the storm was clearing out
of the entire region and save for some windy conditions, it was a pretty nice day.
Eagle Point / Skunk Stripe Peak
Located near Talc City at the southern end of the Inyo Mtns, these two summits appear
in Courtney Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. I had been to the area earlier in
the year for a couple of others, but had run out of time to tag these additional ones.
Located about half a mile apart, the two together can be done from the Talc City Rd in
less than 2mi roundtrip. With a better vehicle it can be made even shorter, but it's
an interesting area to wander around and I had an enjoyable time watching the
hectic weather patterns
changing. The area is rich in interesting geology with limestone and
other metamorphic rock, and it's understandable why it was such a draw to mining
interests. Skunk Stripe was so named for a wide, marble stripe going across its
with dark gray limestone on either side. Neither summit is difficult to
climb, class 2 from any direction. I approached from the southwest, first using a
sandy BLM road,
then cross-country which is quite easy here. There are lots of old
rusting tins and occasionally other junk left from the mining days, either adding to
the area's charm or detracting from it, depending on one's perspective.
From the summit one
can take in views of the Coso Range to the south and the Inyos to
the north. To the
west, the Sierra stood out in grand relief with a fresh dusting of snow at the highest
elevations and clouds piled up on the west side of the range. Neat little area.
Darwin Falls Wilderness HP
This small Wilderness region is found on the western edge of Death Valley NP, just
south of SR190, about six miles from Talc City. I had been to the area to climb
Darwin BM with Tom Becht a few years earlier, somehow not noticing the Wilderness HP
with little prominence was only a third of a mile away. Tom and I had been in his Jeep
on that previous visit, initially to climb Ophir Mtn.
On the way back from that more
impressive summit, I had talked him into the side visit to Darwin BM in fading light.
We had been able to drive within half a mile of the summit but I was not so lucky nor
well-equipped today. I would park along the paved Darwin Rd and walk the three miles
to the Wilderness HP from there. Over easy cross-country desert terrain, I walked
gently down to a drainage before starting up the other side, heading northeast. In
less than a mile I picked up the road used to access Ophir and Darwin BM, following
this and a spur road
to an old mine on the SW side of Darwin BM. Since it was so close
to the HP and practically in the way of getting to it, I first visited
Darwin BM before to scramble down the east side a few
hundred feet and then over to the broad plateau just inside the Wilderness
boundary. I found a small rock cairn near the center with a register
left by John Vitz a few years earlier with the comment, "This place is as good as any."
It was a fair assessment, because the plateau
is surprisingly flat with no discernable HP. A few others had signed in since then,
including Paul Garry and Richard Carey, among others. I noticed what looked like a
boundary marker about 100yds to the northeast and went over to check it out. It turned
out to be one of three green metal poles that had been erected to mark a claim b
oundary. The other two poles were lying on the ground nearby. A small piece of folded
paper attached to the standing pole showed it to a mining claim
dating to 2012. There
was no evidence that anyone had every dug even a small exploratory hole, so it seemed
odd that this guy from Chatsworth, CA (about 10mi from where I grew up) would bother
to make a claim. More oddly, it was located within the Wilderness boundary which
would have invalidated any claim after the Wilderness had been established in 1994.
On the return I made use of some very nice burro trails to traverse the east and south
side of Darwin BM, eventually returning to the BLM roads I had used earlier and then
back to the van at Darwin Rd. Overall, a fairly short day...