Pyramid Peak and Tin Mountain Trip Report

Pyramid Peak (6,703 feet) and Tin Mountain (8,953 feet)

May 8-11, 2005

Andy Martin and I climbed these two Death Valley peaks in early May 2005. The original plan was for March, however, a washed-out road, as Highway 190, precluded approach to Pyramid until repaired.

Both Pyramid and Tin are on the California Fifty Finest list of prominent summits - hence the rationale for these selections.

I drove on Sunday afternoon, May 8, leaving I-15 at Baker and northbound on route 127 where I met Andy at Death Valley Junction at 4:55 p.m. . We caravaned to a campsite, as the trailer park on the south side of route 190, immediately south of Pyramid Peak.

I arose at 4:21 a.m., well before dawn, and we departed by first light from the approach road where Andy had re-parked his Honda Accord to shorten the effort by roughly one kilometer each-way.

We climbed DPS route "A". What a windy day! A weather system created a south-to-north flow in the desert, with gusts estimated at 40-50 MPH on all saddles encountered high on the mountain.

The early start was to avoid superhot conditions. This is, after all, Death Valley! Ironically it was cold in the wind - I added a layer for the final 500 vertical feet.

We were up and down within 7 hours 15 minutes, besting the DPS time of 8 hours by a good margin.

A pilot car led the caravan of vehicles west on route 190 through the construction zone. Andy and I stopped at Furnace Creek for refreshments; a phone call to my mother; and purchase of sandwich supplies in case my stove would not fire-up that evening due to wind.

We caravaned north through the park, with Tin Mountain looming large to the west prior to reaching the northern park entrance at Grapevine. There were hints of snow on the east and north slopes just near the summit.

We continued west to Ubehebe Crater, thence south some 9.5 miles on gravel to a campsite as a widening of the road and located in-between Dry Mountain to the west and Tin Mountain to the east.

The stove started well at suppertime, so I enjoyed macaroni and cheese with sardines inside - plus some tabasco sauce for extra zip. Watermelon was good - Andy liked it also - and I labored over the next few days to eat a good amount of it lest it spoil without refrigeration. The cooler than anticipated temperatures certainly helped.

We climbed Tin Mountain the following morning, returning to Andy's reparked vehicle after an elapsed time of 6 hours 56 minutes - again better than the 8 hour DPS time.

The summit views were spectacular because the day featured superb weather - very little wind and perfect temperatures. To the west was the crest of the Sierra Nevada, snowcapped, with several peaks identifiable along the range. To the north was White Mountain Peak; to the south was Telescope Peak; to the southeast was Charleston Peak (hidden in cloud); and to the east was Grapevine in Nevada.

I enjoyed a double-decker peanut butter and prune jam sandwich with wheat bread - plus a length of turkey sausage with some sandwich bites for variety. I had forgotten to bring salt for the V-8 juice. Darn.

After the climb I parted with Andy at Grapevine entrance station, and drove through the Panamint Valley, thence past Trona, for a room in Ridgecrest. The following day I met my parents at their home in Encino - and they both treated me to lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen and provided an enormous care package of food for stocking my kitchen for an entire month. How grand!

On returning home I received an E-mail late that evening from Andy. He had safely arrived in Tucson and had climbed Grapevine Peak while I was driving to my parents. I am suprised because I warned Andy that the approach road is quite sandy - and I await Andy's report as to how this difficulty was overcome.

The trip consumed 840.6 road miles and was thoroughly worth the effort.