Granite Mountain #1, Old Dad Mountain
By: Gary Craig
In addition to leaders Gary Craig and Sue Holloway, the participants on this outing were Ed Herrmann, Edna Erspamer, Diane Dunbar, Virgil Popescu, Robert Horvath, Christine Mitchell, Anne Rolls, Bob Hoeven, Ron Bartell, Don Cwik, George Wysup, Lloyd Johnson, Rich Gnagy, and John Gibba.
Most of the group was on hand Friday evening at the Granite trailhead and had some time for catching up on recent goings-on before turning in. The road in to the trailhead (about 2 miles long, after leaving the paved Kelbaker Road) is in decent condition but I would hesitate to take a normal passenger car all the way in due to several deep gullies cut across the dirt track... "fair", at best. The best spot to leave the Kelbaker Road was also a challenge to find in the dark, but the distances given in the Peaks Guide were ultimately pretty accurate. As mentioned elsewhere, there's no picnic table left at the trailhead.
We awoke to clear and calm weather on Saturday morning, and the whole group hit the trail (formerly a dirt road, for a while) prior to 8 AM. I seem to remember that my first ascent of Granite #1 was as part of a Chili Cook-off about ten years ago, my first such experience. The hiking route on Granite is longer than in days gone by, with wilderness boundaries now necessitating this 1.5 mile dirt road walk to the base of the peak itself. But this road can be followed without much effort, and the route from the point one leaves the deteriorated dirt road to the summit area is pretty easy to negotiate; just follow the main gully that is described in the Peaks Guide. We took a little longer than the recommended time due to the size of the group. The gully consists of occasional boulders, oak, puddles, and other minor obstacles, with nothing exceeding easy 2nd class. After lunch on the summit we returned to the trailhead via the same route. As we left the top, Ron Bartell led a few others to explore the 3rd class boulders of the west summit; they rejoined the main group just before reaching the valley flats.
After returning to the cars, we quickly stowed our gear and made for the Old Dad trailhead for camp. An unplanned diversion along the way was a stop at the Kelso Depot, which was having its grand re-opening ceremony that very day. Quite a crowd of rail history enthusiasts had gathered in the area for the ceremonies, which had mostly concluded by the time we approached. We paused briefly there to freshen up, but our group was moving again in a few minutes toward the Old Dad turnoff, accurately located in the Peaks Guide. The trailhead road is fine for any vehicle for 1.7 miles to the first junction, where we consolidated into high-clearance vehicles for the rest of the distance. The last couple of miles to the trailhead would be dicey for a standard car, as the road disappears into a wash for an extended distance and there are some sandy sections. However, the remaining vehicles negotiated this part with no difficulties and we camped just before the power lines mentioned in the Peaks Guide.
Our happy hour and potluck dinner followed and this group had really taken the "wine tasting" theme to heart. Except for the occasional List Finish party, I've never seen so much wine in the desert. Thankfully, no "two buck chuck" appeared; instead a fine variety of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts filled our tummies after a good day of exercise and adventure.
Old Dad mountain is one steep little sucker. I climbed this for my first time on Rich Gnagy's first list finisher, and was honored to have him participate on this outing in commemoration of that event. Rich decided to turn back before the top today however, but the remainder of the group clawed our way up the very steep and rough slope to the summit plateau. I had forgotten how deceiving and tricky this peak is; it is much more difficult than the statistics would have one believe. An occasionally-ducked route leads to the summit area generally as described in the Peaks Guide. Ducks aside, generally it seemed that the correct route was not that difficult to discern and we didn't have too many false starts or dead ends. One major difficulty was avoiding scrapes and bruises from the rough limestone surface, something which I'm sure any DPS'er who has had a misstep on this terrain can sympathize with.
More clear skies and nice temperatures greeted us on the summit where we had an early lunch. After a few photos and a brief session of "which peak is that?", we picked our way down the mountainside, keeping more or less to our ascent route, to the floor of the main wash on the peak's north side, where the walk back to the camp spot is easy. We rejoined Rich (and Edna, who had remained in camp) and had another short happy hour before heading back out to the highway and then home. Thanks to all; I hope to see you again soon.
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