Clark Mountain and Hayford Peak Trip Report

Clark Mountain (7,929 feet) and Hayford Peak (9,912 feet)

Dates: April 26-28, 2007
participants: Adam Helman, Gail Hanna, and Edward Earl

Gail requested assistance for reclimbing Clark Mountain as part of her bid to finish the DPS (Desert Peaks Section) peak list for a second time. Edward answered the call - but with the carrot of getting to climb Hayford Peak, the closest ultra prominence summit yet unclimbed out of (our) San Diego base.

I also learned that Gail wished to reclimb Mummy Mountain near Charleston Peak just northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada as a third ascent for the journey. However Edward was uninterested in that venue seeing as Mummy has little prominence owing to a high saddle connecting it with the slightly higher Charleston. I offered to join Gail for Mummy, transferring my gear and food to her car after Edward drove home.

I prefer not to reclimb a mountain (Clark) because there are too many peaks in the first place for this luxury. It is almost a waste of time (my opinion only, please) since the effort theoretically displaces another, unclimbed peak from one's to-do list. Time cannot be "made" - once used it is gone forever.

Edward departed Thursday evening to avoid the traffic snarl encountered every weekend as Angelenos head along Interstate 15 to Las Vegas. Gail was sleeping upon our late arrival at a campground off the Afton Exit on Interstate 15 some 40 miles east of Barstow. It was eleven at night.

Friday morning we stopped in Baker for breakfast. I would have voted against this plan - one should be climbing the peak instead of eating a full meal one hour down the road! Nonetheless I conceded to the group desire, and in Denny's enjoyed a slice of peanut butter chocolate cream pie with an endless cup of hot tea with lemon and honey. I had a cold with sore throat and so the hot beverage was made-to-order.

Several days earlier I had eaten supper with two members of the formative Denali team at a Denny's in Emoryville just south of Berkeley - and, given the late hour I wanted a dessert that would be complemented by strong coffee for the two hour drive back to Monterey - and with 8 year old Aaron, a nephew, in the backseat. My first choice, the peanut butter chocolate cream pie, was unavailable. Therefore I ordered this treat at breakfast as some form of "compensation".

When at Denny's I generally request that a slice of cream pie be frozen upon sitting down - so making it nice and solid, such as ice cream, an hour later as dessert. Cream pie is great because it does not necessarily "need" a beverage to complement it (at least for my sake). The waitress returned stating that the pie is frozen, so perhaps I should order something else. Voilà! - this "made my day" (and much to her surprise).

We did not start the Clark climb until 10:05 a.m. due to road navigation questions. We took the same south ridge route as the first time Edward and I climbed Clark Mountain in November 2001. The "crux" (for which Edward carried a short, 40 foot rope and Gail a seat harness and 'biners) is a Class 3+ rocky outcrop along the ridge.

We bypassed this short section quite amicably by sidehilling at its right (eastern) base. The ridge was regained afterwards, with only Class 2 scrambling to the summit.

This is the technically easiest route for Clark Mountain, being by all accounts simpler than the published DPS routes.

Gail was slow - often to the point that her pace was at best one-half that of Edward or myself. Nevertheless it was our collective responsibility to stay together, within ear shot at least, in-between every rest break.

It must be said that whatever Gail lacks in speed, she more than compensates for in her gracious and upbeat character. It is for this reason that I enjoy her company considerably on outings - and especially in the evening when nothing remains but to share food and stories. I did offer to take some pack weight to speed our collective effort, yet she politely declined, citing the desire to remain at all times with her equipment.

We returned to the vehicles just shy of 5 p.m. - a 6 3/4 hour round-trip effort. I estimate that 5 hours is adequate for a typical party.

Consequently we arrived at dark to the trailhead for Hayford Peak well north of Las Vegas. A "happy hour" ensued, despite the darkness, with everybody pitching in goodies for the collective enjoyment. Among items were a quart of beef stew from Edward - which when heated was our "main dish". I enjoyed it with added gorgonzola cheese and even some Marsala dessert wine! To avoid others catching my illness we poured my share into a bowl so that my utensils never touched the collective pot. THEN I added ingredients to-taste.

Other items included spicy hummus dip with lime-flavored tortilla chips; gorgonzola crackers with the eponymous cheese and the Marsala wine; and, later, some sweets - including a piece of Gails's very sticky and sweet baklava (which was best with coffee the next morning).

I slept on a tarp in my sleeping bag. The zipper soon broke, and I wrestled it upside-down so that the wind could not enter despite this mishap. The bag is currently being repaired and will be ready for my five-week southeast Asia trip in June.

We began the Hayford climb at 6:45 a.m., reaching the cabin five miles uptrail in 2 1/2 hours. After caching some water and a grapefruit we continued up a northwest-trending ridge that eventually found us at the 9,080+ foot saddle immediately southweast of the summit.

Gail again was slow, but not intolerably slow since the terrain was quite easy. Edward and I took an "official" break at the saddle, and waited for Gail prior to the final push. I reached the top at about 12:30 p.m. some 35-40 minutes after the saddle. Edward arrived perhaps five minutes later, and we waited for Gail to come for nearly one hour.

A mini snow patch on the shady side of a small summit building allowed me to melt nearly a quart of water by mixing it with the existing supply and letting the slush equilibrate in my bottles. This was good news since I was going to run low on water halfway through the descent.

I had a pepper beef sandwich with dijon mustard, and Edward got a small sandwich as well to augment his oatmeal raisin cookies.

Gail spent one-half hour on top, and we descended at 2:03 p.m. Once at the saddle and after a break, Edward and I forged ahead to the cabin, seeing as we descended a gully and there was no way that Gail could get lost by descending alone. We reconoitered at the cabin around 3:45 p.m.; split the retrieved grapefruit; and set out at 4:17 p.m.

I set a rapid pace, traveling perhaps two-thirds of the distance to the cars in just one hour. An endorphin rush kept me going since I otherwise cannot explain this burst of energy. I walked the final half hour with Edward, arriving exactly 6 p.m. at his auto.

The net elevation gain is 4,100 feet. The total gain was 4,300 feet due to climbing a hill southeast of the 9,080+ foot saddle prior to descending its backside; and on account of a roughly 50 foot drop in the trail immediately upon leaving the vehicles.

Gail had decided to cancel the Mummy climb, noting snow in all of the approach routes on the eastern face. Mummy was clearly visible, especially with binoculars, from our vantage point to the northeast. Therefore it made sense for me to remain with Edward rather than simply camp with Gail. I wanted to stay with Gail since the evening would be fun - but I could barely talk from my sore throat and would have made a poor conversation partner.

Edward drove into 'Vegas, meeting a friend from college days at his home for two hours. I remained in the car and took a nap. We eventually slept near Interstate 15 just inside Nevada after first passing through "Sin City" downtown with its ridiculous light show.

In the morning, Sunday, we stopped at Primm, on the state border, and I continued with a Starbuck's venta (large-size) java chip frappuccino in-hand instead of my habitual ice cream pint for having a day with at least 4,000 feet of vertical elevation gain. This decadent treat is every bit as filling, and, with the ubiquity of Starbuck's these days, is just as readily acquired. I shared a pair of maple brown sugar granola bars with Edward, along with some pepper beef jerky from the previous night's drive.

We returned to the Park & Ride along Interstate 15 with my waiting truck around 11:30 a.m. We continued our separate ways - myself simply heading west on the now (fully constructed) Route 56 into Del Mar.