New York Butte P1K DPS / WSC / DS / DPG

Fri, May 9, 2008
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
later climbed Sun, Apr 23, 2017

For a warm-up to the main event of the weekend, Carl Heller, I decided to hike up New York Butte, a DPS peak across the Owens Valley in the Inyo Range. The miles would be short, but with more than 6,000ft of gain it would not be a cakewalk. I briefly considered an easier outing to Pleasant Point, but dropped that idea as untastefully wimpy - better to save that for the day after Carl Heller.

Leaving San Jose around 8:30p, I made it across the Central Valley, over the Sierra via SR178, and up to Lone Pine in 6.5hrs. Knowing my van could not make the last distance to the trailhead on the west side of the range, I drove as far as I safely could, within about a mile of the end where the road deteriorates as it starts up a dry wash. Not bad. I had taken a wrong turn while looking for a sign indicated in the DPS guide that did not exist. It probably did at one time. Currently, the only sign past Lone Pine that I encountered was one labeled "Owenyo Rd" at a junction. One should veer right at this point, drive about 100 yards and then look for a left turn heading east almost immediately after joining the well-graded, NW-SE trending road. I hopped into the back of the van and went to sleep for almost three hours, waking shortly before 6a.

The hike was not as hard, and more enjoyable than I had expected. Route-finding is fairly trivial. I hiked up the remaining mile of what was now a 4WD road towards the end of the road at the mine in Long John Canyon. I think the road may go further to other points, but they are away from New York Butte. I left the road shortly after it started up Long John Canyon, crossing the wash and ascending the weakly defined ridgeline on the other side (higher up the ridge becomes more prominent). I found a few cairns along the way, maybe four or five in all, though they weren't necessary to find one's way.

The sun had risen about the same time as myself, though it was just making its appearance on the peaks of the High Sierra behind me. I hastened up the slopes in an effort to keep in the shade and try to beat the sun to the crest atop the ridge. It was a losing battle, but of little consequence as the weather was actually quite enjoyable. Gaining altitude helped keep the temperature near level, and it stayed in the 50s for most of the climb, warming to the 80s upon the descent.

Nearing the top, I tried to avoid climbing false summits, and ended up overshooting the correct one by some distance. Too bad in a way, because the best scrambling to be found was on that part of the ridge south of the summit, away from the approach direction. The wimpier route from the Burgess Mine to the south might make for better scrambling. It took four hours to reach the top, lying nearly 10,700ft above sea level. Not the highest in the range, but high enough for acclimatization purposes, and the views across to the Sierra were pretty good. They would have been even better if not for the hazy conditions that pervaded the area for the five days I was there. The summit register was ensconced in a nice aluminum box placed by the Sierra Club in 1946, though the book itself went back only half as far as that. Most of the usual names were to be found amongst its pages, including those of Matthew and Rick from several years earlier - it seems I am often following them up these DPS peaks of late. Only one other party had signed in this year, the ethereal pair known simply as Dick and Jill. I have met them only once despite their prolific outings, and with no online presence, the only way to track their wanderings is through reading the summit registers. They are both near 70yrs of age, but that hardly slows them down - the time I met them they were high above Red Lake doing Split Mountain as a dayhike.

Looking west (1 - 2 - 3), I could identify more than 20 summits in the Sierra from Langley to the north, until the haze got the better of the situation and obscured further recognition. Mts. Keynot and Inyo were clearly visible to the north, too far away to reach on an acclimatization day. With New York Butte, it would make for an ambitious dayhike indeed. The east side of the range drops down in deeply carved canyons for nearly 10,000ft to Saline Valley. Other ranges lined up behind them, the Cottonwoods and the Last Chance Range, but again the haze obscured most of their features. To the south were the lower peaks of Pleasant Point and Cerro Gordo, though at the time I could not recognize them.

After the usual short stay at the summit, I made my way back by much the same route. In the middle section, between Pts. 8,283ft & 6,666ft, I managed to find a particularly unpleasant section of talus further south of my ascent route. I tried to make the best of it by taking my time, stopping to photograph several varieties of flowers in bloom and even a small caterpillar that seemed out of place in this harsh landscape. I got back to the van by 1:30p, making for a 7.5hr outing. I drove back out to Lone Pine and then north Independence where I had reservations for the night in a local motel. I would have plenty of time to relax and rest up for the adventure to George Creek the following day, and my acclimatization day would give me a leg up on those who would be driving up later in the evening to join me for that trip.


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