Kennedy Point
Horseshoe Rock
Mustang Mountain P500 DS / DPG
Mustang Point
Trail Canyon Peak P500 DS / DPG
Buffalo Point

Fri, May 26, 2017

With: Tom Becht
Laura Molnar
Karl Fieberling

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

Continued...

It was the first of four days with Tom and Karl, Laura also joining us for the day. We'd spent the night just off US6 on the Queen Mine Rd at the north end of the White Mountains. We were here for a moderate day tagging Mustang Mtn and a few surrounding bonus points, plus Trail Canyon Peak, two summits that appear in Andy Zdon's Desert Summits. I've been slowly working my way through all the peaks in this guidebook and planned to tag a number of others before the long Memorial Weekend was through. We ended up getting more than we bargained for by changing plans on the fly, not all that unusual when one is hiking with me...

Having slept at home in Bishop, Laura showed up at 6:15a and by 6:30a we had loaded up Tom's Jeep with the four of us and our gear. The previous summer, Laura and I had driven up the Queen Mine Rd in her Element, planning to do a similar outing as today. We blew a tire on the drive in and never made the hike that day. Today we had no such issues and the Jeep was easily able to make it to the Queen Mine Saddle at almost 9,800ft in half an hour. The road is rutted in places and no longer seems to be maintained, but probably most high-clearance vehicles can make it to the saddle when there is no snow on the road. The air was crisp and quite chilly compared to the last few days, and we all wore jackets or fleeces when we started out. We would warm quickly and soon shed our jackets for the rest of the day. The temperatures at the summits was in the 50s and 60s, quite pleasant all day. We started by heading northeast up to Kennedy Point, less than 1/3mi from the saddle. There is much mountain Mahogany on the right side of this slope, so we favored the left side where rocks kept most of it bare.

It took but fifteen minutes to reach Kennedy Point, a small outcrop on the ridgeline heading higher to Mustang Mtn. A register here had been placed by Sue & Vic Henney in 2011 with 5 pages filled in the interim, not all that busy considering how close it is to the saddle. After we'd all had a chance to rest, we continued upwards, heading , just below the summit of Mustang Mtn. There was a lot more mahogany enroute, and we found ourselves in a maze of the stuff, bobbing and weaving to avoid the worst of it. Karl was in front with an almost clairvoyant way of finding paths through it, so I did my best to follow his footprints in the sandy soils that characterize most of the mountainsides here. He was the first to reach the summit just after 8a, and the rest of us followed in succession. Tom had actually continued higher to Mustang Mtns' HP, yelling over to us that he'd found the register. When we conveyed he had reached it out-of-order, he dropped his pack and walked down to Horseshoe Rock to join Karl and I. Laura was not far behind, her bright orange shirt easily giving her away in the mahogany maze.

After another short break, we continued on our quest, next up - Mustang Mtn. Though it has decent prominence, it is far too rounded to make an impressive summit, the views lost due to the flatness and the intervening trees. Laura found it so unassuming that she bypassed it completely, heading on to Mustang Point more than a mile away while we wondered what had become of her. We would catch up with her soon enough. Zdon himself had left the register we found here in 1997. This was a more popular summit, with 19 pages of entries over the past 20yrs. More mahogany maze eventually gave way to more open scrub, leading to a small antenna tower 1/3mi north of the highpoint. Here we picked up a decent dirt road leading north towards Mustang Point, reeling in Laura along the way. This road can be reached from the ghost town of Mt. Montgomery, a longish drive from the north. With a late start back in the fall, Patrick O'Neil and I had tried to drive it but took a wrong turn and ran out of daylight. The four of us followed the road downhill for about 3/4mi before turning off for the short cross-country jaunt over to Mustang Point. We were surprised to find a register here, and more surprised that we were only the second party to sign in since MacLeod & Lilley had left it in 1983. Bob Sumner was the other entry, dated 2014. We took a longish break here before Laura left us to head downhill back to the road. Having already been to Trail Canyon Peak twice, she wasn't so interested in a return visit with the extra work it would entail. She wanted to hike the road we drove in on and photograph some of the flowers we had seen on the way. We planned to pick her up after we returned from Trail Canyon Peak, but she would get back to the highway hours before any of us would return. She left a note on my van thanking us for the outing, and then drove home to Bishop.

Karl, Tom and I returned back to Queen Mine Saddle via pretty much the same route (except that I mistakenly took the crappy mahogany side of the slope down from Kennedy Point), arriving by 11a. We added more fluids to our daypacks, along with crampons, and after another longish break we started up the Boundary Peak Trail. This good trail switchbacks up the initial steep slopes before mellowing out as the ridgeline becomes more benign. The distance to Trail Canyon Peak is a little over two miles and we managed this in about an hour. The trail skirts the southeast side of the peak to reach Trail Canyon Saddle, leaving the last 400ft or so a cross-country effort, steep but no brush. We spent almost half an hour at the summit, photographing the many register pages (there was one left by John Vitz in 1989 and another loose-page one from 1995) and deciding on what to do next.

As we had been hiking up the trail to Trail Canyon Peak, I was thinking about Boundary and Montgomery. Having been to both, I wasn't so interested in them, but Karl had been to neither and Tom had failed to reach Montgomery twice after summiting Boundary. It occurred to me that the freezing overnight temperatures would probably keep the snow firm all day, and maybe it wasn't out of the question as we had assumed earlier. Tom was interested in the idea, but didn't want to go alone. Karl wanted to reach Boundary (the NV state highpoint) but didn't feel he'd have the energy to go to Montgomery. Tom was OK with that, at least having someone to join him for the harder first leg. We did some rough calculations (Tom even pulled up a few trip reports on his cellphone to see how long others had taken) and figured that Tom ought to be able to get back to the Jeep by 7p. If he managed that, they'd be able to drive back to the highway before sunset. Meanwhile, I took an interest in Buffalo Point, about a mile north and 1,700ft below Trail Canyon Peak. From there I simply planned to continue downslope, eventually reaching the Queen Mine Rd and walking that back to the van at the highway, about six air miles from Trail Canyon Peak. So I bid them goodbye as they headed off the south side of the summit to Trail Canyon Saddle, while I started down the north side.

The upper slopes were steep with snow on the northeast faces, but the ridgeline I followed was clear of both snow and brush. I stopped near the last snow patch to refill my Gatorade bottle, giving me plenty to drink for the remaining few hours. I spent about 50min descending the ridgeline, finding more brush than I would have liked, but overall not too bad. Just as I was thinking no one may have ever descended this obscure ridgeline, I found a small plastic Zip-Loc with three granola bars in it, not looking more than a few months old. So much for my illusion of remoteness. Buffalo Point is an exceedingly small rise along the ridge, sporting maybe 40ft of prominence, but a named point, nonetheless. Finding no register here, I left one of my own, guessing it may be a very long time before someone stumbles upon it. I continued downslope, the mahogany slowly thinning, turning to more open scrub slopes before changing to pinyon forest as I was descending into Queen Canyon. With only 1/3mi to go to the road which was easily visible below, I found myself descending into an aspen quagmire downstream from a spring that can be seen depicted on the topo map. I feared this could be a most troublesome section, and was dismayed upon entering it to find no shortage of thorny wild rose bushes to complement the tangle of aspens. After some initial thrashing, I was happy to find light at the end of the tunnel (and a most fortuitous deer trail traversing the talus on the opposite side of the creek) and get out of it with only a few minor scratches and bloodletting.

Upon landing on the road just past this, I put away my gloves and settled in for the next hour and a half I expected it would take me to ply the remaining four miles back to the highway. The temperature was no longer comfortable here and I was quickly going through my remaining drink, but the walking was easy, at least. I took a picture of the indian paintbrush that Laura had wanted to visit and followed her footprints in the dust down the road and down to Queen Valley. With a mile to go, a dusty white Suburu came bouncing down the road in my direction. Jill and Kim, two young 20-somethings from Boulder, CO, were happy to give me a ride back to the van, apologizing for the jumble of stuff in the back where I literally had to lie on top of a pile. They had just summited Boundary and Montgomery and were in the middle of a 4-week peakbagging trip through the Southwest. Next up was Great Basin National Park on the other side of the state. They had run into Tom and Karl and expected them to have little trouble with the snow - the ladies hadn't even brought (or needed, apparently) crampons or axes. Our ride was too short to find out what other places they'd been to, but I liked them immensely when they dropped me off back near the highway. These were a couple of youngsters I'd be happy to hang with. Having returned by 3:45p, it would 7p before I was reunited with Tom and Karl. They had been successful in their quest, tired but happy. We spent the night camped off US6 on the east side of Montgomery Pass, on a stretch of the old highway no longer used since a bridge was put in. We had little time after showering and dinner for much before bedtime...

Continued...


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