Valley of Fire 2014 DPS Trip Day 2: White Dome, Gibraltar Rock, Silica Dome

December 21st, 2014
  White Dome (2,234')
  Gibraltar Rock (2,172')
  Silica Dome (2,349')
[Pics] [Map]

This was the second day of a two day Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section outing to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  For the first day see here.

Today we were doing three easier peaks White Dome, Gibraltar Rock, and Silica Dome. All were picked because they had a name on the map and were unique in some way.

Valley of Fire 2014 DPS Trip 1: Valley of Fire Peak

December 20th, 2014
Valley of Fire Peak (2,972')
[Pictures] [Map]

Valley of Fire is a Nevada State Park along the 15 north of Las Vegas.  After finally exploring the area during the 2012 Turktacular I'd always wanted to bring a group back here since so few people from the Sierra Club peakbagger crowd seem to know about it.

Neal and I were looking for a fun party trip to close out 2014 and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.  We led the trip through the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section despite this being off the list of peaks they climb and by the time the trip rolled around we had 15 people signed up.

Kayaking The Newport Harbor Christmas Light Parade

What: Newport Christmas Light Parade
When: December 18th, 2014
Where: Newport Beach Harbor
Who: Matthew Hengst (kayak), Jen Blackie (kayak), Gracia Delavida (kayak), Kristen Lindbergh (kayak), Karyn Strong (SUP), Steve Kotzbauer (SUP), Paul Ludgate (boat), Alan Bennenbroek (boat)
Pictures: [Matt]

I kayak in Newport Harbor quite a bit after work.  It's been one of the perks of being back in Orange County full time after years spent working on the road.  It's a nice bit of exercise and the water is usually pleasantly glassy at night.  Not to mention we can paddle over to Pizza Nova, dock, and have pizza and beer!

This time of year the harbor gets decked out in some impressive Christmas displays and each night for a week there's a parade of decorated boats.  Viewing locations along the shore are all packed and restaurants and hotels with a view all charge a premium and fill up.

I've a few times riding through with a bike club during my cycling days or just walking through the houses on shore but since we've bought the kayaks I've been thinking it would be neat to see it close up from the water.

Monument Valley & Valley of The Gods

   Monument Valley
   Valley of The Gods
When: November 30th, 2014
Where: Utah-ish
Who: Matthew Hengst, Kristen Lindbergh, Jen Blackie
Pictures: [Matt]

Day 3 of the 2014 Turktacular found us camped rather close to a cliffside at Goosenecks State Park between Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.  See the previous day for more details about the park but the short version is it's a great place to camp if you're passing through.

Today was going to be mostly vehicle touring covering Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, and then heading back over towards White Pockets.

Navajo Mountain DPS & Goosenecks State Park

   Navajo Mountain (10,346')
When: November 28th, 2014
Where: Utah
Who: Matthew Hengst, Kristen Lindbergh, Jen Blackie
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]

Navajo Mountain is a peak on the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section list of 99 peaks stretching from Mexico to Utah.  It has the distinction of being very far away and the only peak on the list you can drive up.

Sound awesome?  Well that's not all!  It's located on Navajo land and depending who you ask climbing it is either forbidden or just discouraged.  See the Summitpost page for Navajo for details.

Despite this DPS hasn't seen fit to de-list the peak (despite doing so for Kino, Ajo, and Maturango all of which I've also done and have far less access issues) so I figured it was worth a shot and started calling around.

After getting transferred umpteen times the best answer I was given was "Not everyone likes you up there and you can't leave the road but if you stick to that you should be fine"  I was also able to contact someone through Peakbagger who had just been up there and said he'd had no issues.

So day 2 of the 2014 Turktacular found us driving across Navajo land towards a very big mountain...

Mollies Nipple & Thanksgiving Dinner

   Mollies Nipple (7,271')
When: November 27th, 2014
Where: Utah / Arizona Border
Who: Matthew Hengst, Kristen Lindbergh, Jen Blackie
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]

Thanksgiving time and once again the plan was to escape civilization and go someplace awesome for the annual Turktacular trip.

This year we decided to head toward Monument Valley out in the Utah/Arizona border area and fill in the other days with Mollies Nipple, Navajo Mountain, Valley of the Gods, and finishing up in White Pockets.  Mostly due to having seen cool pictures of these places or liking the names.

Silurian Hills High Point and Silver Lake Mine

  Silurian Hills High Point (3,738')
  Silver Lake Mine
When: November 22nd, 2014
Where: North of Baker, CA
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jen Blackie
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]

After yesterdays jaunt up Avawatz we got moving at a reasonable time and went hunting for access roads.

I had no beta on the Silurian Hills and it took Jen and I eyeballing topos to determine what the highpoint even was.  To get there I checked satellite shots and maps to see what old roads headed back that way and made sure to have plenty of alternates.

This was a really really good idea it turns out.

Avawatz Peak DPS From Sheep Creek

  Avawatz Peak (6,155')
When: November 22nd, 2014
Where: North of Baker
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jen Blackie
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]

I'm closing in on the end of the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section list and there's a few peaks left out by themselves as a result of odd pairings or minor misadventure.  Avawatz is one of those and I'd been eyeing it for some time making eventual plans to pair it up with something off list like Ibex.

I'd heard through the grapevine that the standard DPS route up Avawatz was so washed out so as to be terrifying even in a Jeep so that put it out of consideration for trips like the Mustache Mosey.  So when an open weekend came up we decided to knock it off.

The northern route listed in the DPS guide is significantly longer (15 miles vs 6 miles) but avoids the access issues and starts out of something labeled Sheep Camp on the map which sounded interesting and fulfilled my strong preference for desert trips of having nice camping!

We made plans to explore the nearby Silurian Hills the following day to round off the weekend and we were off!

Mount Patterson DPS From Both Sides

November 15th & 16th, 2014
Mount Patterson (11,673’)

We planned to do Patterson Saturday and Glass Sunday but things went a little cockeyed...

Patterson is a DPS peak that's up north of Bridgeport.  I hadn't gotten around to climbing it since generally I if I'm going to drive up there during the summer I'm going to go into the Sierra and snow can make winter access a problem.  Now I was getting closer to finishing the DPS list and so felt a bit more motivated With the lack of snow we thought we had a decent opportunity and Kristen and I set off Friday night for the long drive.

Brown Peak DPS From Deadman's Pass

November 2nd, 2014
Brown Peak (4,947’)
[Pics] [Map]

Brown Peak is yet another peak on the Desert Peak Section List and one I'd originally planned to climb back in 2010 when I did Corkscrew for the first time.  That didn't happen when a storm hit big enough to cause everyone to flee the park due to flooding concerns.

So when Paul said his list finish was going to be on Corkscrew it seemed like the perfect opportunity to pick up a peak that was left hanging out there on it's own and really wasn't difficult enough to warrant a trip of it's own.

Corkscrew Peak & Little Corkscrew Death Valley For Paul Garry's DPS List Finish

November 1st, 2014
Corkscrew Peak (5,084’)
Little Corkscrew Peak (4,720’)[Pics] [Map]

I'd done Corkscrew peak waaaaaay back in 2010 to flesh out a multiple day M-Rock provisional.  It had always stood out among desert peaks as one of those that just look awesome from a distance and are pleasant to climb.  If you've ever driven over Daybreak Pass you've probably noticed Corkscrew due to it's distinctive summit.

I was here to do it again because Paul Garry's Desert Peak Section List Finish meaning he'd climbed all 99 (-ish) peaks on the list.  In Sierra Club land this is an excuse for a summit party (not that we really need that much of an excuse...)

Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) 2014 - Kaweah Group In Orange County

Past the break is a very long quasi-chronological sequence of photos following the 2014 Wilderness Travel Course in Orange County with most being specific to Kaweah Group led this year by myself and James Montross along with a staff of extremely hard working volunteers.

For more information on what WTC is and how to take the course see the official site here.  More posts about it by me can be found here.

This was the 3rd year since we started Kaweah Group which is the third currently in Orange County.

Yutings themes this year were Hippies: Dirty Or Otherwise for Joshua Tree and Beach Party for Snow Camp.  Joshua Tree in particular people really went all out resulting in the first time I had to censor a summit shot followed by a six and a half hour fireside happy hour.  We also had minor injuries on every outing but all were just freak occurrences.  Tripping, twisted ankles, knees turned out of nowhere while putting on a snowshoe.

This was the first of two years where we held the class at Santiago College after having to leave the Red Hill Church location due to them not having space for us.  

Tehipite Dome and Spanish Mountain Attempt #2 Gets A Little Snowy

September 27th & 29th28th, 2014
Tehipite Dome (7,708')
Spanish Mountain (10,051')
[Pics] [Map]

I tried to do these two peaks several years ago while struggling with a prolonged illness.  The result was I managed to get Spanish but never got anywhere near Tehipite.  That means this was technically a grudge peak for me and one that had always stood out due to the 3rd class summit block and pictures like this.

2014 rolled around and I planned this with Laurent Hoffman and Jeff Atijera as an official Sierra club outing towards the end of the season.  We ended up with a full group of friends signing up all excited to see the area.  Then a few weeks before the trip the forecast showed a bit of weather.

We watched it as the trip approached and there was a clear trend of the prediction getting worse. Despite this we decided to roll the dice.

Mt Davis From Thousand Island Lake WTC Experience Trip

September 13th to 15th, 2014
Mount Davis (12,303')
[Pics] [Map]

This has been a weird summer due to changes in my work and living situation.  After years of running back and forth between Orange County California and Boise Idaho I was back in town permanently but also having to deal with the reality of a new job after a long relatively stable period.  As a result I ended up doing lot more adhoc vs the usuall planned official trips.

I did still manage a few official Sierra Club trips and this one to Mount Davis co-led with Paul Warren as a WTC experience trip was one.

Mount Senger & Mount Hooper From Bear Creek Diversion Dam

Aug 30th to Sept 2nd,  2014
Mount Senger (12,286')
Mount Hooper (12,349')

This was the second Labor Day in a row Jeff, Kristen, and I came out this way.  Last year it was to climb Seven Gables & Gemini and I'd be incredibly impressed by the area.

And this trip was similar spectacular.  Having been back here again it just left me wanting to find some more peaks as an excuse to come back again.

It's a 4WD ish trailhead and a 13 mile hike to get back in there but it honestly it fairly gentle as far as 13 mile hikes go.

Pettit & Volunteer Are A Long Damn Haul

August 22nd to 24th, 2014
Pettit Peak (10,788’)
Volunteer Peak (10,481’)
Day 1: 17.2 miles, 3400' gain, 10 hours
Day 2: 21.3 miles, 5500' gain, 12 hours
Day 3: 17 miles, 4200' gain, 11 hours
[Pics] [Map]

This was one of those periodic late season "let's go big" style trips where the goal is to do something long and difficult.  It was right in the middle of busy part of the summer with trips pretty much every weekend and came between the easier Mineral King trip the previous weekend and the longer Labor Day outing to Hooper & Senger planned for the next one.

These peaks jumped out because they were SPS peaks in an area I'd never really been back into.  Closest I'd been was probably Matterhorn and Whorl a number of years ago and even then that was just a quick two day in and out where I was barely over the crest.

It is a long way in to get these two requiring over 50 miles and 10k gain any way you go.  And since Toyabi will unfortunately not allow you to pick up your permit after hours (and the fact I don't typically take an extra vacation day just to drive up to the trailhead) that meant we had to be in Bridgeport at 8 am when the ranger station opened and then haul ass for the trailhead.  So we started late, had really long days, and basically never made the time back.  But hey, it was memorable!

Florence Peak and an Ill Advised Attempt at Vandever Mountain's North Ridge in Mineral King

August 15th to 17th, 2014
Florence Peak (12,432')
Vandever Mountain (11,947')
[Pics] [Map]

These were two peaks I'd tried to do years back only to get sidelined by some misadventure.  So I kept the plan and figured eventually I'd have a free weekend.

And it just so happened I had this weekend open and Kristen had never been back to this particular area.  So off we went to Mineral King.

Mount Langley From Little Cottonwood Creek Because Why Not

August 9th & 10th, 2014
Mount Langley (14,026')

(aka A Cold Damn Birthday for Blondie)

Mount Langley is one of the 11 California peaks above 14,000 ft and so highly desired by many.  It's also one of the easier ones along with Mount Whitney owing to the trail that leads up to the very summit.

Personally this makes the peak somewhat less appealing to me than your average nondescript bump somewhere in the Sierra backcountry and as a result I've walked past it numerous times without bagging it.  It always seemed like a good one to save for an easier two day weekend when nothing else was going on.

And that turns out to be this weekend.  I wanted to get out but since I was looking at a brutal drive next weekend for a two day Mineral King trip a reasonable drive and days sounded pretty damn good.  So off Kristen, Jen and I went.

I managed to make things a little more interesting by finding a trailhead I didn't know about and which I couldn't find much information on.  So we'd leave from Little Cottonwood Creek, camp at the lakes, and then bag Langley on Sunday before leaving possibly early enough to make post trip mexican in Boron.

Oh, and it was also Blondie's birthday on Sunday so we planned to have a nicer camp wherever we ended up complete with homemade lasagna cooked in camp thanks to Kristen.

Mount Stanford in the rain. A lot of rain.

August 2nd and 3rd, 2014
Mount Stanford (12,838’)
[Pics] [Map]

I led this exact trip back in 2012 as a WTC experience trip but turned back only a few hundred feet shy of the summit while helping some struggling participants.  I dislike not getting the peak but figured it was no big deal since I knew I'd be back in the area at some point.

And this weekend ended up working out.  I needed a quick two day so I could get out in the mountains without using vacation time I badly needed for other longer trips.  Also it was one of those weekends where the weather forecast looked rather dire so an easier trip like this fit the bill.

Dragon Peak To Gould Ridge Traverse With Bonus Kearsarge

July 12th & 13th, 2014
Kearsarge Peak (12,615’)
Dragon Peak (12,927’)
Mount Gould (13,005’)
[Pics] [Map]

This was originally planned as Jeff Atijera's Sierra Club M-Rock provisional to certify him for leading trips involving 3rd class rock.  We ended up doing it as a private outing after running into disagreements within the club over what the actual rating of the peak was.

This is a fun trip because it's an easy drive and you get three Sierra peaks in two days with two (Dragon & Gould) involving 3rd / 4th class terrain.  Dragon is the real draw due to a somewhat unique and heavily photographed bit right below the summit.  It involves doing an exposed traverse that would be terrifying except the rock slopes away, you have a huge crack for your feet. and on top of that there's decent handholds.  The result is it feels super secure but looks absolutely terrifying in pictures.  So basically it's the perfect Facebook profile photo.

Mount Izaak Walton Northeast Ridge via McGee Creek

June 13th to 15th, 2014
Mount Izaak Walton (12,077')
[Pics] [CalTopo]

A combination of factors had delayed the initial Sierra trip of the season but finally it was time for a peakbagging weekend at altitude.  With a job switch imminent I needed to take advantage of whatever vacation time I could manage so we planned a last minute 3 day up McGee Creek to get Mount Izaak Walton via the northeast ridge which Secor at least described as a "good" 3rd class route.

Picacho del Diablo In Baja Mexico

  Picacho del Diablo (10,154')
When: May 16th to 17th, 2014
Where: Baja, Mexico
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jen Blackie, Gracia Delavida, Kristen Lindbergh, Neal Robbins
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]
Mexican GPS Maps:  [Harlan]

The last Mexico trip had been on the memorable side if slightly traumatic for all parties.  We'd hit both Pescadores and Pico Risco over two days and due to a variety of factors ended up with only about 4 hours of sleep for the entire weekend by the time we arrived back in OC at 5 am Monday morning.

But this was going to be different!  Since Picacho del Diablo (aka Big Picacho of the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section) was located a fair way down Baja we were looking at 4 days with two of those taken up just be driving surrounding a two day backpack.

And yes of course any visit into Mexico or even just into the border region has some inherent risk.  But never fear!  We had a plan B.  (For Blondie)  (As in needs of the many > survival of the Blondie)


Pico Risco Mexican DPS Peak From Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs

January 12th, 2014
Pico Risco (4,987')
[Pics] [Map] [Mexico GPS Maps]

After yesterdays extremely long day and somewhat disappointing peak behind a dump we were enjoying the Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs much better.

While we didn't get up until late and we only had 4 or 5 hours of sleep it had certainly been worth it.

And now we had a much more scenic peak towering above us.

Cerro Pescadores Mexican DPS Peak

  Cerro Pescadores (3,346')
When: January 11th, 2014
Where: Mexico!
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jack Kieffer, Jen Blackie, Gracia Delavida, Kristen Lindbergh, Neal Robbins, Mark Butski
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]
Mexican GPS Maps:  [Harlan]

The Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section list has 4 peaks down in Mexico.  Due to the issues around the border the last few years these aren't done quite as much as the various peaks north of the border and as I completed more and more of the list I started to look at them more seriously.

I'd previously attempted Cerro del Pinacate during the last run up Baboquivari only to get turned around at the gate of the park due to "unspecified security concerns" that seemed rather oddly focused around the volcano itself.

With that peak apparently closed off (not to mention a long drive) there were still 3 others we could do and Jack, Gracia, and myself decided that would be a goal for the early part of 2014.  So we planned a two day for January to grab Cerro Pescadores and Pico Risco and a four day for May to get Picacho Del Diablo.