Sat, Jan 8, 2022
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Peak 5,164ft later climbed Fri, Feb 25, 2022|
Day 3 in the Old Woman Mtns was planned for a trio of summits on the main crest of the range just north of Old Woman Statue. I failed to find a way up the first of these, but, feeling better than I had the previous two days, managed to add a few unplanned bonus peaks in the afternoon for the overall win. It was another fine weather day, with chill morning temps that settled into the low 60s for the afternoon.
I got an earlier start today, right around 7a and only a few minutes after sunrise. I would make use of just about all the available sunlight today. My starting point was inside the Old Woman Mtns Preserve, a short distance north from where I had started the previous day near Painted Rock. I chose this point so I could use an old road for the first 2/3mi, closed to vehicles, but good for foot traffic. It led me to an old corral and a guzzler before I turned off to traverse left into the larger drainage on that side. I found easy cross-country for a mile and a half, gaining elevation slowly until the base of the range was encountered. Both Old Woman Statue and Peak 5,164ft were in view for most of the initial hike. I then spent about 30min climbing the western slopes of a subsidiary ridge for about 1,200ft. Once atop this, Old Woman Statue and the higher summit are in closer view, but still another 45min away. I followed the rough terrain of the ridgeline to the northwest and west, eventually reaching the north side of Peak 5,164ft shortly after 9a. Things certainly did not look easy nor obvious on this one. Both John Vitz and Andy Smatko had recorded ascents on LoJ, so I expected there should be a scrambling route somewhere. I tried a slanted ramp on the northwest side to begin with, but didn't get very far. Looking up from the highest place I could reach safely, it seemed to grow only more difficult. I backed down and then began an hour-long circumnavigation of the huge summit blocks, trying four or five additional avenues on the south, southeast and east sides. It seemed hopeless. I eventually had to admit defeat, give props to Vitz and Smatko, and continue on my way.
When I got home a few days later, I was curious about the recorded ascents. I looked up Smatko's hand-written entries that I have in a binder, and in the far right-hand column of his entry for this peak, was the short note, "Didn't quite make top." An understatement, but that was making more sense. I then sent an email to Vitz inquiring about his ascent. He replied the same day with the admission that he hadn't either, most likely. So now I'm wondering if this might be the most prominent summit in the state without a first ascent, an intriguing idea.
Things got easier once I left Peak 5,164ft behind me. The ridge heading north is undulating with a number of obstacles along the way. I would bypass these smaller rock outcrops on the left or right as I deemed easier, none of them proving difficult, all class 2. The next summit was a mile to the north, and it would take an hour and a quarter to reach it. A Smatko party had left a register here in 1983, dubbing it South Soda. The next peak, only 1/3mi further north, I surmised would be called North Soda, the names a play on the higher Carbonate Peak in the area. There had been a few visitors later in 1983 and 1984, then no one for 38yrs - a neat find. It took only 30min to traverse the ridgeline north to the 3rd summit, which as expected, held another Smatko register naming it North Soda. It was the same party on the same date as South Soda, to no surprise. There was a second register left by Barbara and Gordon dated 1980, but this must be in error, because on page 2 they had transcribed the Smatko party entry from 1983. Later I confirmed that Barbara's notes had them climbing it in 1986, which would make more sense. There were half a dozen additional pages of entries, some of them repeats, some residences of Painted Rock before the Wilderness was created. The last entries were dated 2009.
I had planned to head back after this summit, but seeing as it was not yet 12:30p and I sufficient energy, I decided to continue north to Peak 5,049ft, another 3/4mi in that direction. The terrain on this next segment was a bit more complicated as the crest curves to the east and goes over some rougher terrain. I decided to drop off the crest on the west side to make a more direct route between the summits, with a larger drop, but easier terrain. This seemed to work nicely and I enjoyed this section, the best of day. Seemingly remote, it nonetheless held lots of surprises - old rusted tins, random cairns, wooden claim markers and the like, dating back many decades, no doubt. I reached the summit not long before 1:30p, finding a third Smatko register, calling it ByCarBonate Peak. This register was considerably older, dating to 1970. Andy had climbed it in conjunction with Carbonate Peak, about 0.8mi to the west. There were several other entries from the 1970s, including one by R.S. Fink, a notable Sierra Clubber from back in the day. Then no entries for 47yrs - not bad!
It was now time to head back, though I still hoped to get one more bonus on a lower summit near the Jeep. My next order of business was to get off the crest and back down to the desert flats below. I decided to follow the crest back to the southeast for about half a mile, then slipping off the ridgeline between Pt. 1,439m and Pt. 1433m, two rock outcrops along the crest. If I headed straight down, I'd land myself in a drainage heading north, so I had to traverse across the slope for a while to get me into the correct drainage heading southeast, called Azalea Wash. It was almost 2:30p by the time I got down to the flats, then some cross-country to pick up an old road within the Wilderness. The road goes to a pair of old homesteads at the base of the mountains to the west. I had seen one of them while I was atop North Soda, and thought I might pay it a visit, but now I was too far east of it to take the time to backtrack. I followed the old road east and southeast toward Sunflower Spring on the northwest side of Peak 3,795ft. There's another old homestead found there, but I turned off to head to the peak before reaching it.
The climb of Peak 3,795ft proved challenging. After climbing 2/3 of the elevation up a steep, sandy slope, the remainder is essentially a pile of granite rocks in all sizes and shapes. It's a challenging class 3 scramble from the west side, and probably much harder from the other directions, near as I could determine. I did not find a Smatko register atop it, so I ended up leaving one of mine. It was now almost 4p and time to finish up. I could see the Jeep about a mile to the southeast, so I didn't have all that far to go, but I still had to get off this diminuitive, but challenging summit. I reversed the upper part of the route that I had ascended before veering southwest and finding an equally challenging decent route off that side. The sun had slipped behind the crest to the west before I had gotten out of the boulders. Once on the flats, I made a beeline for the Jeep over very easy ground. It was 4:40p by the time I returned, happy to call it a day. I would return to the same wash outside the preserve where I'd camped the previous night. I had one more short day planned for the next morning, then the long drive back home...
This page last updated: Wed Feb 2 17:21:13 2022
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