By: David Hammond
Over the Thanksgiving holiday Don Hudson and I thought we would try Dry Mtn. from the Saline Valley, and while there also climb Waucoba Mtn.
We left Thursday morning in Dons camper truck, and entered this remote desert valley between Owens Valley and Death Valley on the dirt road over the south pass. Most visitors to the valley camp by the warm springs where they can enjoy bathing in the specially constructed pools.
The road leading to the west side of Dry Mtn. turned out to be too rough, so we stayed at the springs where we enjoyed the evening fire and camaraderie. Late that night, after Don had slipped into one of the pools and I had taken perhaps one too many drinks, Don drove up to the pass at the northern end of the valley to try for Waucoba the next day. There was snow on the road the last mile and chains had to be used.
Next morning we got a late start under gathering clouds. By the time we reached the top it was snowing. It continued snowing all the way down. It was getting dark and we still had not reached the road. Don used his altimeter, which had been set that morning by the truck, to find out where we were. It showed the elevation was slightly below the truck, so we went up the slope northwards and continued into the cold snowy night. After a very long hour or so we could just make out a ribbon of white in the valley below, and we dropped down to the road. We continued north until the road started going downhill. Then we realized we were going the wrong way. The truck was below the pass to the south of it. We went back south for about two miles until we found the truck. Don checked his altimeter and found it to be reading 300 feet lower than when set.
It snowed most of the night, so we decided to leave early Saturday morning. Back down on the valley floor we were joined by others on their way out from the springs. On the way up to the south pass the snow soon reappeared. It got deeper and deeper until we got bogged down. The only vehicles we saw continue were three 4.whèel drives. We were soon joined by others who bogged down. Even two jeeps could not make it. Three vehicles were left by our truck, the rest returned to the valley floor.
Sunday morning dawned clear. We spent the time clearing the snow from around the truck, and listening to some tapes of music by Mozart. Late that afternoon a snow plow appeared followed by a ranger in a 4 WD truck. He checked with us, and told us we had to stay until next day when the road would be cleared some more. Monday morning was clear so we walked up the road to the pass. Prom there we could see that the Saline Valley was fogged in below, quite a sight. The snow plow came by and started down. When we got back to the truck we started out. Unfortunately they had not finished plowing part of the road beyond the pass, and we got stuck again. A 4 wheel drive soon appeared and gave us a short pull past the bad part. We made the main road but ran out of gas about 4 miles short of Olancha. Fortunately we got a ride in and the garage man took us back. So ended the last of many hurdles of the 3 day trip out from the one day climb!
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