High Desert Prominent Peaks Trip Report

Desert hiking over the long Thanksgiving weekend (2001) was quite eventful - with each day a new challenge. The goal was to get some more peaks on the "California 50 finest list", i.e. the 50 peaks in California with the highest prominence.

To this end on Thursday Edward Earl and myself summited Clark Mtn located near I-15 and near a mining operation that extracts rare earth metals (very difficult chemistry needed to accomplish that). It was quite windy on the final ridge walk with some class 2 portions and one class 3 move.

Beautiful views in all directions to the desert floor 3,000-4,000 feet below.

Then on Friday Edward Earl and myself summited the highpoint of the New York Range near the Nevada border in the "middle of nowhere".

Although the approach involved perhaps an 1,800 ft gain on 4WD road and cross-country, the top 150 vertical ft was high class 3 that challenged me to the limit of what I could stomach without a rope. The last 20 ft was particularly exhilerating with two-inch wide footholds on otherwise sheer 60 degree rock faces.

I had left my pack 100 feet below and so descended shortly after summiting to retrieve it and enjoy lunch in the saddle in-between the pinnacled summit and a more rounded summit immediately north. We had also climbed this hill since at first we were uncertain as to which was the highpoint of the New York Range. Only the range highpoint had the large prominence that brought us there in the first place.

On return along a creek bed I slipped in place and tore skin off my right palm. We sterilized the open wound and bandaged it. Upon driving through the town of Baker I fashioned a makeshift bandage formed of surgical tape wrapped around the wrist to prevent the wound from touching anything. Seems to be healing nicely.

Then there was Saturday. We made a successful ascent of Nopah Peak (1,946 meters). There was no benchmark. We noted that Nopah TP (Triangulation Point) some 1/2 mile SSW appeared to be as high, and that it's elevation is given as just 2 feet lower.

Concerned that Nopah Peak was not the highest point of the range, we descended some 700 feet to the saddle and climbed Nopah TP as well. We agreed that Nopah Pk appeared perhaps 10 feet lower than us while atop Nopah TP. This observation, together with the presence of both a summit register from the Desert Peak Section of the Sierra Club as well as a USGS benchmark, led us to believe that climbing both peaks had assured us of having stood atop the sought after most prominent point.

On descent the weather fouled up with a MAJOR rainstorm with much gusting wind. Unfortunately we were some 6 miles from our vehicle. The rain was heavy enough that it even soaked my gore-tex overalls, leather boots, gloves, and my daypack.

Fortunately the car heater plus a change of clothes made us feel better (my fingers were numb) ... but the approach road for Sunday's hike was washed out ... so we drove home a day early after 3 days of climbing instead of 4.

Anyhow, quite an interesting weekend with much compensation for the loss of a Thanksgiving feast.