Manly & Needle Mustache Mosey

  • Updated: November 07, 2011
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

When:  November 5th & 6th, 2011
Where:  Mojave National Preserve, CA
Who:  Matthew Hengst, Jack Kieffer, Adrienne Benedict, Anne Kircher, Mark Peterson, James Barlow, Laurent Hoffman, Ann Shields, Virgil Shields, Keith Christenson, Angelo Lopez, Bob Meyers, Mark Butski, Becky Cummings, Lisa Miyake
GPS Track:  

This trip came about because Adrienne Benedict and I wanted to lead something together after the depressingly uncomplicated Hengst & White Chief trip this summer.  As Jack was free also this particular weekend we happily roped him in to the trip and then went about finding some peaks.

The time of year meant we were looking out to the desert so I offered a few different pairs that had reasonably mild stats.

I mentioned Manly and Needle only to have Adrienne ask if there was anything interesting about them.  Not knowing a damn thing about the peaks I went for the obvious, we’d throw a theme trip!

November 5th - 6th, Saturday – Sunday, Desert Peaks Section I: Manly Peak (7,195), Needle Peak (5,801’)
Join us for the most fun you can have with a fake mustache.  Saturday we'll climb Manly Peak (7 mi, 2900') to the west of Death Valley.  Bring your manliest accessories for the group picture up top then return to the cars for a DPS potluck complete with mustache wearing cupcakes.  Sunday we'll strut up nearby Needle Peak (6 mi, 2800') before returning home.  4WD required.  Leader:  Mighty Matthew Hengst Co-Leaders:  Adrienne “Don’t Call Her a Man or She’ll Kick Your Butt” Benedict & Macho Jack Kieffer

A week later we had 18 people signed up.

Friday:  And We’re Off

The trip was off to an interesting start when I got a call from the first vehicle out that the western approach to Manly was impassable even by jeep.   Apparently they’d hit a foot and a half high granite step that resisted every effort to build a ramp and brute force over.

So time for Plan B.  I quickly called the three other vehicles and told them to reroute to the eastern approach through Shoshone.  Longer drive, longer dirt road approach, but we could hopefully make our trailhead this way.

We made good time to Shoshone and turned off the pavement onto a series of dirt roads.  Along the way I noticed a sign marking the road as a jeep road.  This was going to be fun…

The next two plus hours and 20 some miles were a long sequence of easing around and over nasty looking rocks with the occasional scrape along the bottom of my Rav4. 

At long last sometime after 3 am we saw lights ahead.

We pulled up to find Jack’s truck and Bob’s jeep off to the side of the road.  This was great because now we just had two more vehicles to account for and I was hoping we could use the jeep for a car shuttle if necessary.

Well, turns out the jeep had two blown tires and was dead in the water.  As we were talking over our options Laurent showed up in his Element and pulled in next to us.  He said the last vehicle had pulled over near the start of the bad section so they could get a few hours of sleep.

The two blown tires were a problem as we’d have to get replacements before that vehicle could go anywhere.  Jack was nice enough to volunteer to run out to Parump with Bob while Adrienne and I took the rest of the group to climb Needle.  The hope was that by swapping the order of the peaks everyone could participate with the theme peak the following day.

We went to sleep sometime after 4 am and slept for a few short hours before the sun came up at 7.

Saturday:  Well, let’s make the best of things…

Camp Middle of F'ing Nowhere
We woke up as the sun was starting to make its appearance letting us see our surroundings for the first time.  Bob had mentioned they changed one of the tires in the middle of some snow flurries the night before and sure enough there was a dusting of snow on the hills around us and it was quite cold.  Everyone started moving with some reluctance.

Some with a bit more reluctance than others…   


Once the sun hit full force it warmed up significantly and we got moving in earnest.  Due to the fact we had a vehicle down and two people headed out to get new tires we decided to hike Needle from where we were and hopefully move camp to the nearby Geologists Cabin that night.

So slightly reduced we set off across the desert.

We saw several groups of wild donkeys around us.  They watched us warily and took off if we wandered too close.

We meandered east then swung south, crossed Anvil Spring Canyon, and eventually climbed a ridge directly across from Needle itself.

Needle Peak from North
I’d had thoughts of climbing to the north eastern ridge and making a loop across the top of Needle.  While there did appear to be a break in the cliff bands that would have worked it was readily apparent we weren't moving fast enough for this to be feasible. 

So instead we swung around to the south and hooked up with the standard DPS route.  Here Adrienne, Ann, and Becky decided it was turning in to a bit of a long day and headed for the vehicles while the rest of us double-timed it up the ridge.

(A note for future climbers:  we had two people sign out so they could run ahead.  They climbed the ridge starting at point 1353’ and arguably had an easier time than we did on the DPS route.)

The route did get a little loose and nasty here and there with one particular band of white volcanic rock that crumbled the moment you set foot on it.

And once we were close to the top we started hitting a small amount of snow.      

We crested the false summit and had a short descent followed by about 300 feet of gain on the far side to the actual summit.  We were pushing our turnaround time and everyone wanted to be back over the loose stuff before dark so those of us who felt up to it made a mad dash over to the summit, signed in, and then quickly headed down.

Now we just had a loose descent to get over with before it got too dark.

As soon as we could we dropped off the ridge to the west and dropped in to a small wash with a bit of daylight to spare.

And soon it was dark.

Wohoo!  We got to use our headlamps!  Matt is officially having fun!

After several hours of walking out a series of washes followed by a long tromp along the dirt road we arrived back at Camp Middle of Bleeping Nowhere.  Jack and Bob had returned after a very long day procuring two replacement tires in Parump but after another 40 miles of dirt road driving Jack had suffered a tire blowout on the way back in bringing our popped tire count to 3.

Oddly enough a wilderness ranger had dropped by while we were out and left a note on our vehicles that campfires were verboten.  I guess the pile of firewood gave us away…

Bob was set on leaving the following morning which meant that unfortunately we were heading for Manly without Adrienne, Ann, Virgil, or Bob.

Still, we made the best of things and broke out the Irish Carbomb cupcakes for an extremely cold happy hour.

Irish Carbomb Cupcakes made by the lovely Miss Kircher
Proper demonstration of the mustache topper

We turned in relatively early mostly because everyone was freezing and looking forward to getting in their warm sleeping bags.  And there was the matter of having only a few hours of sleep the night before.  Some people are just too attached to the concept of a full nights rest…

Sunday:  Of Men and Mustaches

We awoke Sunday to another bitterly cold morning and went about getting ready.  

The weather was looking somewhat questionable and we could see fresh snow hitting Manly.

With one of our co leaders and three of our participants set to leave we decided to hold our mustache photo shoot at the cars.

Manly contemplation in front of Manly
For those who conveniently “forgot” to bring a mustache we had an assortment of extras along with our badge wielding Mustache Enforcement Officer to move things along.

Manly mustache make out time

Rather randomly as we were preparing to leave we had an older gentleman drive up in his pickup asking if he could make it over the pass.  Fair enough.  He was also wearing a bathrobe for unknown reasons.

We said goodbye to Bob and company and piled into Laurent and I’s vehicles for a short drive up the road.  We stopped short of Russell Camp as the road was starting to look questionable again and we really didn't want to risk any more blown tires.

It was also rather cold and windy and with the clouds now covering Manly I was cheerfully expecting frost covered mustache pictures on the top.

We hiked by Russell Camp and found a large group of jeepers decked out with all the comforts.  They gave us odd looks as we tromped on by and up the mountain behind them.

The climb was straightforward though the initial slopes were mostly loose dirt.

We had about 3000 ft to climb and somewhere in the last thousand we hit the snow.  The wind wasn’t as bad as I expected and the clouds had receded quite a bit as we climbed.

We found the summit block and located the register.  There was a short 3rd class ish climb to get to the top of the block but we decided not to risk it due to our wet boots and the ice on the rocks.

Instead we posed for a few short pictures.  Manly leadership!

Awesome pirate panda gloves.

We didn’t spend long up there partially because it was cold but mostly because we wanted to get off the bad dirt roads before dark.  The weather did improve as we headed down and we actually got a half decent view.

Instead of retracing our steps we swung around to the north and descended a slope above Quail Spring.  The descent was glorious as we were able to plunge step our way down most of the slope.

Some people really didn't want to give up their mustaches.

We cut across some obvious mining debris and headed for our originally intended camp spot, the Geologist Cabin.

The cabin is open and available to whoever wants to stay there.  There are a few signs warning about active mice and a plaque admonishing you to leave the property better than you found it.

It was actually rather well stocked with recent magazines, books, extra food and water, and more.

Sadly I think it was better stocked than my apartment most weeks.

It even had a patio area complete with lawn chairs and a barbeque pit.

It would have made for a nice camp spot if everything had gone according to plan.  Ah well, maybe for the second pass through the DPS list.

We finished looking around and headed back for the vehicles.  It was mid afternoon by now so we needed to get on down the road.
We pulled out on the pavement shortly after dark with all three vehicles unscathed.  As soon as I was in cell range I contacted the other two vehicles that left early and found they had made it out without incident as well though Bob had ended up with another damaged sidewall on one of his rear tires bringing the total damaged tire count to 3.5.

We ate in Baker at a somewhat questionable Mexican food establishment across from the Mad Greek and booked it for home.

Not the smoothest trip but we managed.

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