Peak 6,207ft P300
Twin Towers CS
Peak 6,512ft
Peak 5,757ft P500

Thu, Apr 13, 2023
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On my second day in the New York Mtns, I planned a 3-peak tour around Keystone Canyon. Most folks to the same area are heading to the DPS summit (also the range highpoint), while my summits were the neglected cousins around the canyon. I thought the outing would be about 5mi and take half a day, but it turned out to be a much more involved effort thanks to Peak 7,224ft (later I named this as Twin Towers). I had seen in the satellite view that it was a pretty rugged area, but I vainly hoped it would be easier than it looked. Ha!

Peak 6,207ft - Twin Towers - Peak 6,542ft

I had camped on the north side of the range off Ivanpah Rd, driving into the Keystone Canyon area in the morning. I got started before 7:15a on foot, thinking this was going to be a chill tour. The Park Service sign that said "Keystone Canyon Trail" fooled me when I pulled in and parked. I didn't know I could have driven further, and by the time I realized it, I was already on my way (I'd have only driven about half a mile further for the loop I had in mind).

The first summit, Peak 6,207ft was pretty tame, much like the summits the previous afternoon. It took only 45min to find my way to the summit, having climbed fairly directly from the south, once I'd left the road. Smatko and Lilley had climbed this peak together in 1977, but if they left a register, I found no sign of it. I used one of mine, adding their names to it. From the summit, I had a good view of Peak 7,224ft and could see that the rocky towers looked tough. I knew that Smatko and MacLeod had climbed it, so figured there must be a scramble route up it somewhere. I spent about half an hour following the connecting ridgeline, my planned route between the first two summits. This worked well for a while, but I began to think this might not be the easiest course, and started traversing off on the east side of the ridge where it looked to get harder. I went in and out of several gullies and gradually concluded this didn't seem much easier. The higher elevations had pinyon and juniper trees crowding the slopes, along with a good deal of large granite rocks to slow things down. I rolled a rock onto my shin which drew first blood, but it would hardly be the last. I managed to bleed from about a dozen wounds on my arms, head, and legs. I bonked my head on rocks and tree branches throughout the morning, struggling across the slopes. It was 10a by the time I worked my way across the slopes and and was looking up at my objective. LoJ had the southern of two points as the highpoint, so I worked my way around the first one, not realizing the two are of nearly equal height. I made two efforts to climb steep gullies on the southeast side of the south tower, getting in over my head on both attempts. I eventually had to come up with another plan, which was to traverse around the towers to the southwest so I could see if there were easier routes on the backside.

Upon reaching a saddle on the main ridge, I was at first dismayed by the sight of imposing walls in the direction of the towers. After descending a short distance on the other side of the ridge, I could see there were various chutes that might offer a way up. My route was not the easiest, because I was uncertain exactly where the two towers were at this point, but I eventually worked my way up to the notch between the two, having found one class 4 section along the way, and some challenging brush/class 3 combos. From the notch, reaching either summit seemed improbable. But I was having great fun, despite being nearly exhausted, bloodied, and short on water (I had brought only 20oz of Gatorade), thinking this was some of the best scrambling and route-finding I'd had in a long while. Still thinking the south tower was the highpoint because LoJ had it listed as so, I tackled that first, with a great deal more class 3 and class 4 scrambling up the North Face and across an airy ledge and exposed corner to get myself to the summit by 11:45a. To my surprise, the north tower seemed higher. I looked around for a MacLeod register, but not finding one, guessed he'd gone to the north tower. I left a register on the south tower and headed back down to the notch.

Once at the notch, I went around to the east side of the north tower, finding no reasonable way up there. I settled on the south side, with a short class 4 move and much more exposed class 3 that eventually saw me to the summit by 12:15p. Almost 45min between the two towers separated by maybe a hundred yards. Tough going. I found the MacLeod register from 1983 on the north tower, noting that a party from Idaho had found there way up in 2006. I took a few photos and beat a retreat, because I was still nervous about reversing all the class 4 sections. It was after 1p before I returned to the saddle on the main ridge and retrieved my poles. Boy, was I tired. I still wanted to get to the third summit, so I headed off in that direction.

I had to traverse more difficult slopes with brush, large granite blocks, small cliffs and various obstacles, but I finally got through this tough stretch after about 40min. I landed on some light-colored rock on the ridge that leads to Peak 6,512ft, and from here to the summit it was much easier travel. I landed on this last summit around 2:45p, finding the remains of a wooden pole from the surveyors doing the spot elevation, but no register. I left the last one I carried with me before starting down to the north. I followed the ridge a short distance before dropping into the drainage on the north side of the summit. This led into a steep gully with lots of short dryfalls and more unexpected scrambling. I eventually popped out onto the old mining road that I could follow down to Keystone Canyon and out to the Jeep. It was after 3:30p by the time I was finished, hours longer than I expected. I still had about 4hrs of daylight, so figured I should try to get in another peak or two.

Peak 5,757ft

This summit is found 2mi northeast of Peak 6,207ft, along the crest of the range. A spur road leads to within a mile of the summit on its southeast side. This was a much easier effort, much like Peak 6,207ft, the main challenge being to not step on the abundant cacti hiding in the tall, dry grasses that covered most of the route. It took less than 40min to reach the summit, a welcome change. I found a pink pill bottle with a Smatko register from 1980, but it was hard to read, having been exposed to moisture. I decided to leave one of my registers with it, since there was no pencil anymore in the Smatko one, and the paper was too brittle to write on. I got back by 5:20p, still with plenty of daylight, but I was too tired to try another. Instead, I spent the next hour plying various NPS roads to position myself for Drum Peak, the first summit on the agenda for the next day...


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