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The day had been devoted to a climb of the remote Saline Peak, but we never made it. Knowing the drive to be a long one but thinking the road conditions not too bad, we chose to take Karl's Element rather than Tom's Jeep. The Element did just fine for much of the drive, getting us to Saline Valley Warm Springs around 8:30a. We stopped to check out the eclectic mix of desert, springs, art, and people that have made something of an alternate lifestyle out in the middle of nowhere for decades. We continued further east on the road to the hot springs where a large group of 4x4 enthusiasts had gathered and then went further still. The road deteriorated to the point where we were driving in a rocky wash and wondering if we were going to get ourselves into trouble. Still some seven miles from our destination we decided to cut our losses and return. Possibly the most hours any of us had driven without even setting eyes on our peak. It was noon before we got back to our camping spot near Hunter Mtn, by which time I had hatched an alternate plan to get us at least one peak on the day.
There was nothing tricky about the hike, more or less just pick a route going up. We started up the remnants of the road Tom had been driving, continuing up a gully when the road turned sharply to the left (it ends a quarter mile later at a mine site). The gully turned steep as we veered left, scrambling over slopes filled with rock that provided a fun workout. As we climbed higher we found ourselves pushing through the lowest cloud layer and soon had a not-so-shabby view overlooking the landscape. It took about an hour to go just over a mile while climbing some 1,700ft to reach the summit. A large, rough cairn had been erected there. A register placed in 2009 had 9 pages of entries. The summit was between cloud layers giving the place a Pacific Northwest feel with clouds rising from below and creeping over the ridgelines (of course the dense forests and green landscapes were entirely missing). On the return we took a somewhat different route, utilizing a miners' trail that ends at a shallow saddle northeast of the summit. We followed this down for almost half a mile, then diverting right so that we'd get into the proper drainage. It was in this drainage that we found yet another old road higher than the one we'd driven in on. This one looked to be in as good of shape, perhaps better. After following it down some, we had to skirt right once more into the next drainage to be in the correct one. We noted that this was where we'd turned left on the ascent - had we veered the other direction we'd have promptly found the road just above. It made little difference in the end because the route was short and not a difficult one.
We were back to the car in just under two hours. Almost immediately Tom realized we had a problem - he'd left the headlights on and the battery was dead. There was no serious alarm raised, panic held at bay since we were lucky to have a standard transmission that could be push-started. It wasn't easy with the three of us pushing the jeep over rough terrain to get enough speed to allow it to start. The first effort, with the transmission in 2nd gear, was a failure. We caught our breath for a second try, this one successful while in 1st gear. We managed to drive all the way back down to where we'd left the other vehicles near the pavement without further mishap. We made sure Tom could stop the engine and start it again before heading in separate directions. Tom needed to get home for work the next day while Karl and I planned another day in the area. In fact we decided we might have a bit of time for one more summit today.
After returning to the car I mentioned another small summit on our way back to the highway, Peak 5,680ft. Karl was all for hiking to that one as well despite the fact that we'd need headlamps. I on the other hand was less interested at this point and it was my turn to say no. But we decided to do it first thing in the morning and spent the night parked on a small hill where we'd be able to start from the next morning. After showering, we cooked dinner in the van while watching a movie I'd been saving. It was an old black and white Italian film with subtitles that I didn't think Tom would be interested in, but having found out that Karl was teaching himself Italian it seemed a good fit. Neither of us thought much of the movie plot, a slow-moving tale of the woes of an elderly gentleman, but we enjoyed the period scenes and picked up a few Italian phrases. It might have been the first premier of an Italian film in the Darwin Hills...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Zinc Hill
This page last updated: Wed Apr 27 14:49:38 2016
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