New York Mountains HP P2K DPS
New York BM
Clark Mountain P2K DPS / WSC

Thu, Mar 15, 2007

With: Evan Rasmussen

Etymology
New York Mountains HP
Clark Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

What started out as an already long weekend at four days, managed to stretch into six days with the cooperation of my better half and some schedule arranging. I had never been to the Death Valley area and was eagerly anticipating my first visit, though weather reports were predicting warmer than usual temperatures for March. Evan Rasmussen, a participant in the Sierra Challenge the last few years, was going to drive from San Diego to meet me in the area. I couldn't leave San Jose until about 8p, and figured I might get half a day in on Thursday to climb Clark Mtn. Then it occurred to me to take a nap Wednesday afternoon (a luxury of the unemployed) and simply drive through the night to reach the desert regions of southeastern California. With the aid of caffeinated beverages and late night Christian radio (that's a whole other discussion, but it attracts me in a similar manner as a car wreck), I had no trouble making the eight hour drive with only a single stop for gas. I arrived at the New York Mtns TH (or as much of the road as I could manage) shortly after 4a and promptly set up camp in the back of the van and slept for a few hours.

I awoke just after 6:30a and the imminently approaching sunrise. It took me half an hour to get breakfast and the rest of my act together before I was ready to head out. The main dirt road had been excellent, but this side road heading to the east side of New York had deteriorated quickly. To be fair, my van has relatively poor clearance even for a passenger vehicle, but I think the DPS description of it as "good dirt" was overstated. I found a place to pull over and allow someone (God knows who it might be) else to get by, and figured I'd worry when I got back as to how I'd turn the van around.

I started off on bike and did the first mile and a half in quick fashion. The road wasn't that great for a bike either. I paused where the road was washed out, pushed it across the sand, road it a short distance further, then ditched it in the brush to head out on foot. My footwear was a new pair of tennis shoes, a change from the casual hiking boots I usually wear. I figured the warm weather and boots might conspire to cause me blistering issues, so I went with the lightweight alternative and they worked out quite well. Much better than I expected actually, and after six days there was very little wear damage to the shoes at all. And no blisters or other foot problems.

I hiked up Keystone Canyon following the DPS route description, but missed a turn and ended up hiking up the left-hand fork to the dry Keystone Spring. It seemed to be only a minor issue as the desert peaks appear to have many ways to get to their summits. I simply climbed the slopes leading SW out of Keystone Spring and rejoined the regular route after a hike up and over a few bumps along the adjoining ridgeline. I first reached the lower New York peak to the north after about two hours, or 9:30a. There was no register or benchmark that I could find, but a few cairns had been erected around the summit's vicinity. It took only another 15 minutes to climb the higher New York 2 to the south. The route is reported to be tricky class 3, but there was little tricky about the route. After navigating up and around a number of large boulders comprising the summit rocks, I found myself atop the highest point of the New York Mountains.

The register showed that Evan had been on the summit two days earlier. His note scrawled in the little booklet suggested he had made the same wrong turn as myself. The party before Evan was comprised of Matthew Holliman and Rick Kent who had spent a weekend tagging a number of the same peaks Evan and I would be doing in the next few days.

Returning via the standard route, I stopped part way down the canyon descent to investigate some interesting green colored rocks. I happened upon a small mine shaft whose opening was partially closed with rock. I could have climbed in to investigate further, but it didn't seem a good idea out there by myself. I noted a rusty tin can posted on a tree branch to mark the shaft, wondering how long it may have been there - perhaps 30yrs or more? Continuing down, I stopped at the main mine shaft as well. There was a pool of dirty water blocking the entrance and I did not explore it further. Old rails, long in disuse, ran from the opening out for about 30 or 40 yards before ending. The rest of the descent was uneventful as I made my way back to the road, resaddled my bike and road back to the van by 11:15a.

Next up was Clark Mtn. It took a bit more than an hour to navigate my way back to Interstate 15 and on to Mountain Pass where the regular TH to Clark is located. I found the roads to the electrical substation easy enough and in excellent condition. One deviance from the DPS directions was to not follow the road alongside the telephone poles. There is a much better one a short distance further east that any car can easily navigate. Going past the substation I took a wrong turn and began navigating a deteriorating road that followed the high steel towers to the west. Fortunately I only got about five minutes into it before I realized my mistake and returned. I didn't manage to get much further past the substation on the correct road - the last two miles of the road isn't so good. The undercarraige was getting hammered by rocks eonugh to make me wince, and since it was my wife's car I couldn't bear to put it through more misery than necessary (more than once I've returned from a trip needing to make car repairs after such roads). I parked. I had gotten to within about a mile and a half of the picnic area and would simply hoof it the rest of the way.

I hadn't gotten more than five minutes up the road before I spotted another vehicle lumbering down from the picnic area. The camper in the back of the large truck was bobbing to and fro as the truck lurched over the rock-studded roadway. I knew it was Evan instantly. We greeted each other warmly, not having seen the other since our last meal together in the back of the same camper after our hike to Mt. Pickering the previous summer. I had forgotten that I had arranged to meet Evan at the Clark TH at eight that morning and he had wondered what had happened to me. Evan had already been up Clark and was on his way back when he ran into me. Since the hike to Clark was so short, Evan decided to hang out where I had parked the van until I returned.

I didn't find the hike up Mt. Clark all that interesting. The picnic area seemed unusually large given the condition of the road to get there. Half a dozen picnic tables and a large BBQ grill suggested at times the place had dozens of visitors. Hard to imagine that many people heading up there these days. I found a use trail behind the BBQ grill and started following it up the wash, what I hoped was the one Evan had taken on his descent. I only managed to keep on the trail for a very short bit, eventually losing it as I continued up the wash to a saddle. After that, I made my way to the base of the cliffs high above where I knew the trail ought to resume. The hillside was steep and painfully loose, taking most of the charm out of the hike. Frankly, it was pretty crappy scree climbing. Once at the cliff I made my way along an upward traverse until I could find a break in the cliff that allowed me to climb to the short class 3 ridge above. Up and over one false summit, and I was at the top in about an hour and a half. On the way down I decided to take the alternate route (Route "B" in the DPS guide), the same Evan had used for the ascent. It proved to be even looser than the ascent route, and I was just happy to be going down instead of up. Overall I was unimpressed with Clark, though I have since heard that another route from the north is far better.

In what would become a daily ritual, I had the most delightful outdoor shower courtesy of Evan and his camper. Some soap and hot water, the desert sun, and a fresh set of clothes proved to have remarkable rejuvenating powers. Simply awesome - much better than a motel after yet more driving. After we got back to Mountain Pass and I-15, we drove west to the Cima exit and then headed north on an excellent dirt road to take us to the Kingston Range, the next day's objective. The road deteriorated some near the end, but I was able to drive the van the entire length without issue. Our DPS guide said the road was paved the whole way while the SP guide mentions a dirt road. It turned out to be a mix of both, pavement in the beginning, but breaking up and becoming mostly gravel before we'd made it to the pass on the north side of the range. We found three large parking areas instead of the one we expected, finally settling on the middle lot as the most expediate for starting the next day. Here we had dinner, poured over maps, and made plans. We had to wait until well after sunset for the temperatures to drop below 80F to allow comfortable sleep. This would be typical for the next few days.

The standard DPS route to New York is not hard to navigate. Follow the main road up the canyon until you have made a turn heading south. After some time you will come to a fork where the wider canyon bends to the right, but the better road goes straight. This road leads to Keystone Spring whereas the right fork up the wash heads to the abandoned Keystone Mine. The road from the mine has been partially washed out and not so obvious from the fork. Once you reach the mine another half a mile up, the road ends. Simply follow the slopes up behind and right of the main mine shaft. You will go up a loose slope past a few smaller shafts with interesting green-shaded rocks, some of which are used for ducks. When you top out at a ridge, head over to the south side (up and left from the saddle you will find a nice camp site if you're into that sort of thing) and traverse right (losing only a minimal amount of elevation) into the next gully, Caruthers Canyon. This leads to the summit ridge between New York and New York 2. The higher New York 2 is to the left or south, and is a fun, but short bit of class 3.

Continued...


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