Sun, Dec 8, 2019
We were in Nevada's Newberry Mtns near the border with AZ and CA for a second day. Yesterday had finished with a far longer outing to Iguana Peak than planned. We exhaustively searched much of the peak without finding a way up, scrambling over very difficult terrain for hours on end. Despite the disappointment in not reaching the summit, we had a grand time and were all for a second try first thing in the morning. Scott had not been with us the previous day, so of course he was all in. Afterwards, Scott headed home to Orange County while the rest of us went on a second hike nearby. All the peaks are found in Courtney Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles.
I had intended to have us continue up the canyon until nearly due south of Iguana before heading up, vaguely expecting to follow up a broad side wash running north that I'd remembered from the previous day. I started up a bit too early and this had us scrambling some class 3 slabs much sooner than expected. Heavy cloud cover obscured our peak and much of the surrounding terrain as we found ourselves among the low-lying clouds soon after starting up. We had to navigate by GPSr for most of it, continuing up steep terrain to the east of the intended wash. After about 45min of this business, we got to a few sketchy class 3-4 sections that though short, had Eric losing motivation to continue. At the second such section he called it quits, deciding to head back to the TH. Scott helped him down through the first sketchy section, then Eric disappeared off through the clouds, leaving three of us to continue. There was more class 3 above this, but nothing too difficult until we had reach the base of the summit blocks another 40min later. Steeped in clouds, we couldn't see more than about 100ft in front of us, but there was no mistaking the huge summit blocks when we reached them. The GPSr showed only about 400ft horizontally from the summit, but we still had several hundred vertical feet to overcome. Even with our limited visibility, it seemed clear that the left side of the Southeast Face we examined had no scrambling routes. We scrambled up a ramp and moved right through a large tunnel to look for a route in that direction. What looked like another hopeless deadend initially, brought us a hint of possibility if we could get up a six-foot class 4 section to reach a ramping crack.
This turned out to be the crux of the entire route. I went up first, followed by Scott. In the rear, Jim hesitated at the start and struggled some with his hand placements, but eventually got the hang of it and joined us, Scott offering some helpful suggestions from above. Above this, the ramp led to easier ground and then a second crux, a dry, partially polished waterfall section, perhaps 10ft in height. Without cracks or reasonable holds, Scott managed to stem his way up in a few seconds, some gymnastics I was unable to mimic. I tried a crumbly, rounded ridge to the left of this, but it felt terribly unsafe and I backed off. Jim and I waited below while Scott went to investigate if the route continued further. 30 seconds later, we could hear his voice penetrating faintly through the clouds - "I'm on top!" Curse him. I set about looking for another way up, finding it in a thin ledge to the left of the ridge I had tried. This ledge peters out onto a sloping face, but there's a good landing spot if one were to peal off. After this, it easily joined Scott's route. I waited for Jim to come across, but he had more hesitations where the ledge gives out. I helped by using my hands against his feet to hold them more securely to the granite, giving him better grip and more confidence. The two of us then followed Scott up through the fog to find our way to the summit. There are three points that seem to be vying for the honors, but only one of the other two were a serious contender to the first one to the south. We took a measurement with the GPSr and another after following an interesting knife-edge out to the other point, finding the original point (and easiest to reach) the highest. Without the clouds this might have been more obvious, but we had no horizon with which to help judge today.
We were elated with our success, but sorry that Eric wasn't able to share it. I suspect he may have balked at the summit block crux below, so maybe it was for the best. Not finding a register at this most deserving of summits, we left one that I had carried with me. Because there were no views and we found the summit quite chilly, we wasted no time in leaving after we had collected enough rocks to bury the register under. We reversed all the moves to get off the summit blocks, then headed more directly down to the side wash that we had originally intended to ascend. This was a much better route, mostly all class 2, and we would get back to the jeep in an hour and a half - far better than the time we took exploring all the wrong angles the previous day. Great fun, this one.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Conical Peak
This page last updated: Mon Apr 6 19:35:52 2020
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