Blue Dick Peak P2K DS / DPG / RS
Peak 7,083ft P300
Peak 7,848ft P500
Peak 7,275ft P300

Mon, May 29, 2017

With: Tom Becht
Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profile


On our last day in Nevada we were looking for a half day's effort to allow time for the long drive home. Blue Dick, a P2K, was expected to be mostly a drive-up so we had further plans to tackle Mt. Nunn in the Inyo Mtns later. We didn't make the 12p finish time that Tom was hoping for, nor did we make it to Mt. Nunn, but we had good fun nonetheless.

Blue Dick

Blue Dick is the highpoint of the Palmetto Mtns, a subrange of the Silver Peak Range. A dirt series of dirt roads off SR266 wind there way for more than eight miles up to Blue Dick from the southwest. I had expected there would be at least a short hike but Tom's Jeep had other ideas. It found the roads easily managed and refused to quit before it had driven all the roads it could find. This left us with only a 50-foot walk to the highpoint of this impressive summit with expansive views in all directions. I enjoyed the views but couldn't help feeling a little dirty - this wasn't really a hike, let alone a climb. Gordon had left a register here in 1998 and there were 26 pages with entries attesting to its moderate popularity. It was only 7a and it seemed we had plenty of time to tackle Mt. Nunn.

Cowhorn Valley

We drove back into California on SR168, up and over Westgard Pass, and nearly down into Big Pine. We left two vehicles at the junction with paved Saline Valley Rd and drove the Jeep into the northern Inyo Mtns. We intended to follow a dirt road shown on the topo map about half the distance of the 5mi from the pavement to the summit of Mt. Nunn, overlooking Deep Spring Valley. We didn't know until we arrived at the junction that the entirety of this long-unused road lies within the Piper Mtn Wilderness area and has been closed to vehicles for several decades. Karl and I left it to Tom to decide whether we should do the hike or skip it. As it was already after 9a, there was no chance we'd get back by noon. Karl and I weren't too concerned about the timing of our finish, but Tom was hoping to get back for dinner with his wife. To that end, he chose that we leave it for another time. Hardly a skipping a beat, I turned to the GPSr and found a pair of summits almost directly south of the road from where we stood and suggested them as an easier alternative. These were a continuation of a hike I did a week earlier when the roadtrip began, taking in a handful of summits around Cowhorn and Little Cowhorn Valleys. I recalled seeing other summits northeast of those I had climbed and these were the ones I had just identified off the GPSr.

We reparked the Jeep along the road between the two peaks and started up from there. The slopes are steep but fairly open and we picked a likely looking line, though almost any would do. We were impressed with the variety of flowers and the brilliance of several of them, including the Mariposa lilies and a cactus with a bright fushia bloom. It took about 30min to climb the 600ft to the first summit, Peak 7,083ft, about 2/3mi away. While waiting for the others to arrive I took note of a third peak, two miles to the southeast, more impressive than the two I had identified and sporting almost 750ft of prominence. Karl noted my look of longing as did Tom when they joined me. Karl, of course, would be easy to convince, Tom less so. There was nothing difficult about it, just the matter of when we would get back. I guessed that it would be about 7mi all told by the time we returned, still less than the outing to Nunn would have been, but not all that much. Ever accommodating, Tom acquiesced and off we went. We had to first drop down into the upper reaches of Cowhorn Valley before starting the climb up towards Peak 7,848ft. It was a somewhat longish effort, taking us an hour and a half to get between the two summits. We found the top of the second peak to be large and flat, with trees and and multiple rocky outcrops making it difficult to indentify a highpoint. We knew that MacLeod and Sumner had both been to the summit previously and expected to find a register somewhere. We made a more thorough search than usual but still came up empty, eventually choosing to leave one ourselves. Still not satisfied, I was looking to what we believed to be the lower east summit about half a mile away and wondered if that wasn't the point MacLeod might have visited. I used the hand level I carried with me to check the height and found it to be definitely lower even though it looks to be similar from just eyeballing it. We decided to pay it a visit, particularly since it was a fairly easy stroll between the two.

This turned out to be a worthwhile move for multiple reasons. First, we did indeed find the MacLeod register we had expected. It had been left in 1984 and contained far more entries, 10 pages worth, than we might have expected. Secondly, there is a much better view overlooking Death Valley NP, and Eureka Dunes in particular. Lastly, and certainly not the least of the reasons, Karl had stumbled upon an old indian campsite on the way over. We paused to inspect it more carefully on the way back and were all taken by the antiquity of the site. Medium-sized rocks had been collected over the years and arranged in a circle about the site, flat sides up and well-suited for sitting and meeting. Scattered about the site were hundreds of obsidian flakes, making it obvious that at least one use of the site was to craft arrowheads and other tools for hunting. This was the first time any of us had seen something like this and it was clearly moving, as though finding a small window in time to allow us a connection with another culture from the past. We left the place as we found it and continued our route back towards Cowhorn Valley.

We skirted Peak 7,848ft to the north on the return before Tom and I found ourselves at odds over the best return way to the last summit. I was all for following a drainage heading west directly down to Cowhorn Valley while Tom thought it would be better to reclimb some of the rolling hills we'd come over on our way to Peak 7,848ft initially. Unable to convince the other of the superiority of our own choice, we chose to go separate ways, Karl deciding to follow me. It was a silly dispute, of course, as either route would work undoubtedly, but we were after the most optimal route and would not give in so easily. After Tom was out of sight, Karl and I joked that we should start running down to ensure ours was the "best" route. The gully we followed wouldn't exactly allow for that safely, but we wasted no time in the descent and found the gully much to our liking with little brush and no real difficulties. Upon reaching Cowhorn Valley we kept an eye out for Tom to our right but caught no sight of him. After crossing the valley and starting up the other side to Peak 7,275ft, we became puzzled that we could see no sign of Tom. Surely he could not be ahead of us, but we saw no movements anywhere across the valley to give away his position. Unexpectedly, we heard his voice coming from behind us, a little out of breath in trying to catch up. Seems he had started on the route he intended but then forked left to follow a gully that led back into the one Karl and I had descended. Rather than the satisifaction of hearing Tom tell us we were right, we were treated to his complaining that he should have stuck with his original plan rather than the sudden change of plans. He insisted this would still have been a better route. There would be no honorable submission on this one by Tom.

Peak 7,275ft, lying between the two Cowhorn Valleys, was much like the first summit we visited - open, decent views, no register. Because we were already running late, we hardly paused at the summit before continuing down to the saddle between the first and last summits, then dropping steeply to the road below. We walked the last half mile down the middle of the pavement, not having seen another vehicle go by the entire time we had been viewing the road - this was one lonely stretch of pavement, especially as the warming of the season has made visiting Death Valley less appealing. It was 1:30p by the time we returned to the Jeep and it would be after 2p before we got to Big Pine where we filled up on gas and said our goodbyes. My day was not yet done with adventure as I found myself with a flat on the drive back across the Central Valley. The puncture occurred at the edge of the tread when I hit a nasty pothole and would prove difficult to fix. I made a roadside repair with the kit I carried, but the air would slowly leak out on the remaining 3hrs of driving, requiring me to stop several times to reinflate the tire. Still, it worked well enough to get me home and $50 the next day would have a replacement used tire installed in its place - all ready for the next adventure...

Anonymous comments on 06/13/17:
Please provide GPS coordinates for the indian campsite.
Mammoth Dr.
Nathan comments on 06/13/17:
Please do not provide GPS coordinates for the Indian campsite.
I won't provide them, but the previous post was a subtle joke. You have to know about the bow-in-the-glacier saga to get it.
Nathan comments on 06/15/17:
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