Tin & Dry DPS Peaks In Death Valley

  • Updated: January 07, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

January 5th & 6th, 2013
Dry Mountain (8,674')
Tin Mountain (8,953')

Another winter weekend another long drive out to the desert to grab a pair of DPS peaks. And sadly they can't all be as pleasant as the pre-Christmas set had been.

This time it was off to Death Valley to climb Tin & Dry from Racetrack Road. Others had commented these two were a rough slog and after having done them (admittedly on a very cold weekend with bad weather) I can say they don't have near the appeal of some of the other nearby climbs like Corkscrew or Grapevine and Palmer. Not to mention the camping opportunities are poor and no campfires are allowed which takes away one of the perks of desert outings.

This weekend had the distinction of being the Rav's last outing since after two years of getting me to Sierra and Desert trailheads that people swore couldn't be done with a soccer mom-mobile I'd started to rack up a bit of damage and finally settled on upgrading to something a little more rough and tumble.

It was also the first official trip Matt Kelliher and myself had led together and after the usual cancellations we ended up a healthy group of 6 willing to put in over 10k gain over two days.

Friday night our 4 vehicles eventually converged along the side of Racetrack road. There are a few different pullouts in the vicinity of the area we were hiking from but if you're looking for decent desert camping this isn't it. (Note there is an official campsite near Ubehebe Crater that I drove past in the dark and never checked out.)

We started with Dry being the hardest of the two peaks with roughly 13 miles and 6000' gain. It's also one of those somewhat frustrating peaks where you climb up only to reach a ridge then have to drop down a ways before climbing the actual peak. It had a reputation for groups making the ridge too late and turning back rather than dealing with route finding in the dark.

The DPS guide indicated a route straight up the prominent drainage but we all agreed the ridge to the south of that looked much nicer to us.

While there were a few steep parts it was straightforward and largely easy going. We had nice views of the snow scatted across the landscape and a cold wind kept us in our layers for most of the day.

Arriving at the saddle we rejoined the DPS route and descended about 700 ft before climbing another 1400 or so to make the summit.

The summit itself was cold and rather unremarkable though it gave us a nice view of the Death Valley Racetrack and the snow covered Sierras (summer needs to get here faster dammit!)

We decided to take the DPS route back down since I wanted to see how it compared. As it turns out we would have been better off sticking with our southern ridge as a few inches of snow on the ground obscured many of the ducks and other signs leading to a lot of zigzagging across the drainage before we found the route down. Even knowing the route I'd say the ridge is preferable.

On the plus side we did get to use headlamps.

We returned to the vehicles feeling rather tired and hungry. We layered up and went about a rather subdued happy hour since the temperature had dropped sharply and everyone was in a hurry to get into their bedrolls.

Morning came and we were a rather sad sight. With another 8 miles and 4800' gain in front of us Bill & Rune decided they weren't up for another long desert day and took off to sightsee. Kelliher, Jim, Kevin, and myself all set off for Tin only to have everyone decide to throw in the towel at the start of the steep section due to a combination of feeling beat from the previous day and the rather unpleasant looking weather rolling in.

Everyone except for me of course. I decided I wasn't beat enough for the weekend yet, threw on some layers, shouldered my pack, and continued up the long slog.

I had a clear trail until about 7500' where again there was enough snow on the ground to obscure any ducks. After some swinging back and forth I finally just bit the bullet and climbed up a few hundred feet of loose snow covered scree before topping out with great relief.

One up top I did hit the occasional snow drift but the going was much easier.

A few times it looked like I was about to get nailed by some weather only to have the clouds clear. I ended up with a lot of cold wind and some snow flurries here and there. When it did clear I had a rather good view of Dry across the way.

My stop at the summit was short due to the fact it was rather cold and I was somewhat concerned about making it down with daylight left.

I jogged partway down in order to warm up and managed to avoid the unpleasantness above 7500' by just dropping straight down the ridge.

I returned to my car with a bit of daylight to spare grateful to finally be out of the wind and started the long drive home.

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