Fri, Mar 16, 2007
As would continue to be the case for the next five days, Evan and I did not get an early start, at least by my standards. Evan would be fairly vague about starting, no sharp call to arms in the hour before daylight. His vagueness was given in the "I'll get up at first light," which might mean anything from the time the eastern sky grows lighter or as late as sunrise. Mostly, he wanted to avoid getting up in the dark and wanted the option of taking sunrise photos should the sky prove favorable for it. My preference would have had us up by headlamp and returning in the dark after the second or third peak of the day, but I was with Evan on this outing, not Matthew. And compared to Matthew and myself, Evan is a bit older, a bit slower, and also a good deal wiser. So we rose about 6:30a and generally got going after sunrise around 7a.
We started off on bikes taking a road on the right side of the broad canyon found on the north side of the range. It was a lot harder riding our bikes on the rocky road up and over small hills than it would have been walking, but we convinced ourselves the real benefit would be on the return when we could have a quick ride back to the trailhead. For this day, however, we were only able to ride a bit more than a mile before the road turned up a side canyon and we had to start hoofing it on foot.
Leaving the bikes, we headed south to the head of the canyon, weaving our way through the surprisingly abundant amount of brush found on this side of the range. At the the end of the mostly flat canyon we found two branches heading up where we had expected only one, and having gotten a bit tired of the brushwhacking we decided to take the conjoining ridgeline up. This proved quite nice, with far less brush and better views looking into the adjacent canyon slopes on either side. We stuck pretty much to the ridgeline, left and right around obstacles as needed, but no great obstacles. At the end of this steep incline we found ourselves on a shelf area only a short ways below the main ridgeline running north-south through the range.
Up we went higher, now finding a few ducks and some scraggley pines at the higher elevations. We found a pine that had been cut clean at the base of its trunk, no more than five inches in diameter. Another had had some of its lower limbs lopped off, the cuttings still on the ground. We could figure no reason why this might have been done, and it seemed shameful given the pines' already desperate struggle for survival in the desert conditions found here.
Though our map clearly showed we had a long ways yet to go, we were surprised to find as much up and down as we did ahead of us. There are several braids of a use trail running most of the ridge, though it was no small matter to keep to it as we found. It wasn't at all necessary, but it was easier going and made us feel better that we weren't trampling the brush any more than needed. Nearing the summit, I managed to dislodge a microwave-size rock that had looked to be firmly planted in the ground. I watched with trepidation as hundreds of pounds of rock and dirt gave way beneath me, nearly trapping one leg as it collapsed. I ended up drawing blood, but the scratches were minor compared to what might have happened. Evan had been just ahead of me, but with the wind blowing he hadn't heard a thing. I was happy to escape as easily as I did.
It took us three hours to reach the summit, bringing us up to the range highpoint by 10a. There were many familiar names in the register dating back to the 1960's. As a DPS peak and also on the prominence list, the peak sees a fair number of visitors. Kathy Wing of SP had been the most recent visitor, with Rick K. and Matthew H. before her, and the prolific Doug Mantle before them (working on his eighth time around the DPS circuit it would appear). The views were muted some by haze, but otherwise we had a fine view in almost all directions.
Our return was via the same route we'd taken up, with almost no deviations, and by 12:40p we were back at our vehicles. The bike ride back wasn't all that easy and we wondered if it had saved us any time or effort at all. Back in our cars, we headed out on the road taking us to Tecopa and Shoshone. Those first five miles were painful on the van, but by taking it slow I managed to keep from bottoming out. After that the road continually improved until the last five miles from Tecopa to SR178 where we found some of the smoothest pavement tax money could buy. We stopped for lunch at the (semi-) famous Crowbar Cafe in Shoshone. Matthew had given a glowing report from his last visit, "surprisingly good fair in the middle of nowhere," or something to that effect. Giving the Oretega burgers a go, neither Evan nor I were impressed to the same degree. I suggested maybe we just picked the wrong menu item. Or perhaps Matthew stopped in after a far more arduous outing and as tends to be the case, the bar for judging food was far lower.
It was 3:30p before we had driven up SR178 to the trailhead for Stewart Point. Evan was a bit concerned that we might run out of daylight even though I assured him we had plenty of daylight (we got back just before dark). This peak hadn't been on Evan's interest list until I pointed out it was a range highpoint to a range he didn't have on his list (Evan had just started a new quest to tag all the California range highpoints). And so the Resting Springs Range was added to his list and off we went.
For the most part we followed the standard DPS route across the valley to a saddle and into the wash on the other side. We found ducks as expected and enjoyed the scrambling in the canyon a good deal. In fact it was so much fun that I suggested we ignore the DPS bypass for a section with "some rather difficult dry waterfalls." This was the best canyoneering of the route, climaxed at the end by two waterfalls that we could not surmount directly. The rock well to the left side was near vertical and precarious-looking, but it proved to have excellent holds and was no tougher than class 3. We probably could have climbed this bypass to the ridge above where it connects with the bypass, but we chose instead for an airy traverse back into the canyon just above the second waterfall.
With that bit of excitement behind us, we continued up the canyon until instructed to climb the final ridge to the summit. That final bit was quite steep and relentless, and we were ever so thankful that the late afternoon sun was blocked by the ridgeline now, allowing us to climb in shade. It had been warm at the start, around 90F, but it was starting to cool off nicely now with the shade and even a steady breeze.
It was 5:30p when we topped out on the summit where we enjoyed the late afternoon sun atop the range. We found a good view of the Nopah Range, particular of Pahrump Point directly across the valley from us. We signed into the register and after a short break started back down. This time we followed the bypass route around the waterfalls, more than adequately marked by ducks. We arrived back at the TH just before sunset around 7p. With some judicious reaarangement of the vehicles we were able to provide some privacy for the outdoor shower, facing away from the highway which had become somewhat busy (for Death Valley) with holiday traffic. Without the sun to dry us, the shower was far less inviting than it had been the previous day as we raced to dry ourselves and dress quickly once the water was turned off. The temperatures in the desert swing much more widely than they do elsewhere in the state it would seem. We drove to the next day's trailhead only a few miles south on SR178, from which we planned to tackle the Nopah Range. We enjoyed a light dinner (our lunch had been quite adequate as the large meal for the day) as we planned our efforts for Nopah the following day. More desert fun to come...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Kingston Peak - Stewart Point
This page last updated: Sat Apr 7 17:05:08 2007
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