Pinyon Mountain East DPG
Pinyon Mountain P300 DS
Juniper Mountain P300 DS / DPG

May 25, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


The howling wind that had swept down Leidy Canyon on the east side of the White Mountains had finally died down by morning, leaving very pleasant conditions. The evening before I had driven 5mi up the rough dirt road to park at a small irrigation inlet pond around 6,200ft. I was here to climb Pinyon Mountain, two of them in fact, separated by about 3/4mi. The lower east summit is marked on the topo map and can be found in Walt Wheelock's old desert guidebook while the higher west summit is found in Zdon's Desert Summits, both of which I've been slowly working to completion. After this outing I drove back out to the highway and south towards Dyer to tackle Juniper Mtn, 3-4mi south of Pinyon and also found in the guidebooks.

Pinyon Mountain East & West

Because I had done all the driving the evening before, I was able to start early directly from where I'd spent the night. It was just after 6a but the sun had been up for almost 45min - that darn orb comes up early this time of year. I walked the continuing road for 3/4mi, following Leidy Creek upstream. This section of road is worse than the one I had driven and would take a better vehicle to navigate it upstream. The topo map shows it continuing for many miles up to Perry Aiken Flat at over 10,000ft, but I'd be surprised if the road can be driven that far anymore. At the start of the steep ridgeline I had identified beforehand, I turned left and headed up. A bit loose to begin, the footing gets better past a minor cliff band. It climbs more than 1,000ft in about half a mile before the gradient relents some for the second thousand feet of gain to the east summit. This was a far better climb than the prior day's climb of Red Mountain further south - it probably helped a great deal that it was cooler today and I was starting fresh rather than in the 87F heat of the afternoon yesterday. It took an hour and forty minutes to reach Pinyon Mountain East, the summit covered in - you guessed it - pinyons, as well as some junipers and random shrubs. The views were open despite the trees, looking east down into Fish Lake Valley and west up to the snowy reaches of the crest of the White Mtns. A wooden survey tower can be found here still standing along with a register left by a MacLeod party in 1982. I was only the sixth party to sign in after them.

It would take about 30min to traverse the ridgeline west to the higher summit at just over 9,000ft. MacLeod had left another register here on that same day in May of 1982. Even fewer folks had visited this higher summit. The views were similar to those of the east summit, with closer views of the snow to the west and a slightly wider sweep of the 40mi-long Fish Lake Valley. While I had been climbing to the east summit I had been keeping an eye to the west for a descent ridge I could take down from the west summit. A nice one that I spied went down 2,500ft without any cliff bands or serious obstacles from near the summit down to Leidy Creek. Unfortunately I missed this one, taking the next subsidiary ridge to the west. I was far too along the descent before I realized the mistake. Though my ridge had no cliff bands either, it did not extend all the way to the main canyon at Leidy Creek. Instead, it dropped more steeply down to a side canyon about half a mile from the road in Leidy Canyon. I tried to stay optimistic, telling myself maybe the brush wouldn't be too bad and perhaps there'd be no dry waterfalls to halt progress or tangles of thickets to wallow in. The story would be much better if I then said I found none of this while descending into a bushwacking nightmare, but I got lucky. It turned out to be a very easy descent with a dry, sandy creekbed that dropped about 400ft over the course of half a mile to deliver me to Leidy Canyon without incident. Once back to the road, it was simply a matter of following it downstream for a mile and three quarters, returning to the van by 9:45a - a rather early finish.

Juniper Mountain

It took some time to drive back down the Leidy Creek road to the highway, then only a few minutes to find the other road heading up to the mouth of Busher Creek, separating Pinyon Mtn to the north from Juniper Mtn to the south. I had hoped to be able to drive this road also, but it was not even minimally maintained and was quite sandy to start. I got out the mountain bike which I'd brought for just such circumstances, hoping to ride it the first two miles to the start of the climb. Sadly, things did not work out so nicely. I nearly fell off the bike as it came to a grinding halt as soon as I hit the deep sand right off the highway. I then started pushing the bike up the road, hoping the sand would give way to more solid ground. After 3/4mi I was no closer to being able to ride the darn thing than when I started and I grudgingly abandoned it to the side of the road. Things still weren't so bad, I figured, since it was less than 4mi one-way from the highway. Somewhat inexplicably, I misjudged this mountain, thinking it was easier than Pinyon when it wasn't. I ignored the tree-covered mountain behind a lower foreground one that was covered in desert scrub. Later it would occur to me that something called "Juniper Mtn" is probably not covered in scrub. This misjudgement led me to abandon the route I had meticulously planned days in advance that would head up Busher Creek for several miles, instead opting to jump on the first reasonable ridgeline I could find off the road that would lead to the false summit. It wasn't a complete screw-up, however, since the foreground summit had little prominence and would connect via a continuing ridgeline to Juniper Mtn. It was with some mild shock when I got to the top of it that I noticed the GPSr showed I still had a mile and a half to go. Looking west I saw several candidates and it was only reluctantly that I acknowledged it was the furthest one, more than a thousand feet higher still.

Almost an hour later I had finally managed the ups and downs along the ridge and found myself at the summit of Junipier Mtn, proper. Finally, a summit that MacLeod had not beaten me to. Rich May of the USFS had left a single sheet of paper in 1979, supplemented by a small pad of paper by Bob Sumner who visited in 2005. As I had done earlier on Pinyon, I was keeping an eye out for an alternate descent route more directly from the summit down to Busher Creek. I backtracked along the ridge to the northeast for about 3/4mi before turning north to descend a steep, but good subsidiary ridge down to the creek. It had a few narrow sections and some minor gendarmes to negotiate, but overall an excellent route, much quicker than the meandering ascent route. Once in Busher Creek I found a wide, dry gravel creekbed that made for an easy return to the road and then back to the highway. It wasn't yet 2:30p, but I was done for the day. I decided to spend the next hour and half driving back around to the west side of the range and Bishop, to meet Tom, Karl and Laura for dinner there. Afterwards, we drove back up to near Montgomery Pass on the north side of the range to spend the night off US6 on Queen Mine Rd. We planned to drive this popular road the next day up to Queen Mine to do some hiking there. The temperatures would drop steadily through the night, reaching 38F by morning - Brrrr...


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