Pyramid Peak, Eagle Mountain #2, Corkscrew Peak
By: Phil Bruce
DEATH VALLEY SPECIAL, Thanksgiving Weekend Phil Bruce & Henry Heusinkveld Does Death Valley intrigue you, or appall you? You, as a desert rat peak bagger absolutely must sample those D.V. peaks. The Schedule called for Kingston, Grapevine, Corkscrew and Eagle #2, but because Kingston and Grapevine were encrusted with snow, the leader scratched these and substituted Pyramid.
A group of 18 gathered at Tecopa Hot Springs bath, and caravaned 15 miles out to Eagle #2. This mountain rises dramatically out of the desert floor, and is especially sheer on the east side. The group hiked one-half mile across the alluvial fan, and then rock scrambled up the steep canyon. One newcomer young lady who claimed to be in tip-top physical condition found the climbing to be a new and awesome experience. She paled and quaked on the high angle rock, making it necessary for the leader topark her in a safe place awaiting our return. The party then moved on to the craggy summit, which offered a small challenge. On descent, a belay was offered and three accepted. The leader had committed himself, and the group, to camping at Sunset Camp at Furnace Creek, since his trailer with wife and daughter were there. On approaching this campground, the DPSers were appalled to see a sea of campers and trailers sprinkled with 4WD's and trail bikes. Each car wheeled up and down the aisles looking for a parking spot, and eventually wound up in widely separated areas. Hopes for an idyllic wilderness experience with kindred spirits were smashed. A reported 30,000 souls were camped at the several Furnace Creek grounds. Enormous leviathans such as the 28 Winnebagos lined up side by side complete with motor generators, radios, trail bikes, dogs, cats and kids enabled these dudes to bring the city noises, smoke and smog with them. No wonder the DPS mutiny, with the oath that they would find a happier spot the following night.
Day 2 saw a group of 28 speed out to corkscrew Corkscrew. This peak has a clockwise parapet spiraling up to the peak which looked like the Master Baker had squeezed out and cinched off the batter for yet another peak. We set off on a two-mile long alluvial fan with a fair upward slope. Four people tired of the pace being set, and were probably awed by the fortress-like appearance of the peak, and so signed out. The group zoomed up to a man-made bath tub sized catch basin for a spring located immediately below the parapet, and here rested and studied the plant life of the oasis. Back on your feet to do the long upward spiral scree traverse parallel to and just below the parapet. This was a bit spooky, but thanks to those in the lead, steps in the scree had been cut giving safety to those in the rear. At last the saddle, this one boasting a six-foot diameter window. Then another ten minutes to the very peak. The view was spectacular, being ringed on 360° with range after range. Would you believe that from this one location one can see Telescope, Olancha, Whitney, White Mtn., Grapevine, Charleston and lessers.
A cloud of historical fantasy descends on you. The clock rolls back 123 years to December 1849. Right at the base of this very peak you see the desert weathered Jayhawkers wheel by in their score of covered wagons with a motley group of loose animals. They proceed past the very spot the Winnebagos are parked and refresh themselves from the clear, flowing waters of Travertine Springs, but are stopped by the precipitous mountain range called Panamint in which Telescope Peak is crowned with snow. They have reached the devil's own end of the world, and are crushed with the dim prospects of ever surmounting mountains and vast deserts to find the promised land. Manly and Rogers are sent out to scout a route and bring relief if possible. After enduring 26 days, having walked 600 miles, they return to rescue the party. So we see the bedraggled, starving party wending their way over the Panamints. Then we see prospectors, desert rats wandering all over the Panamints and other ranges searching for, finding, going back to report rich finds, only to return to a changed mountain and their bonanza forever lost. The DPS'ers scoot down the mountain, but this evening choose a secluded campsite up in Echo Canyon, so have an enjoyable evening complete with camp fire and chatter.
Day 3 the party proceeds to Pyramid Mountain. This is a long tramp in, and then many long class 2 slopes, but nothing very unusual about the peak. For all three peaks the route was a counter-clockwise approach to follow the drainage pattern. This is characteristic, and a law of nature. The tranquillity of the group was shaken at the time the peak was reached as Dave Burdette had lost his camera on the way up. A group of six fanned-out to visually cover a large amount of real estate. The camera was found, to Dave's great relief. So endeth the formal hikes. A number of persons were still peak hungry and were looking to do one of Smith, Grapevine or Avawatz for the following day. Several journeyed to Mitchell Caverns, and several of us zoomed back to Smogville.
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