Dyadic Point & Tensor (aka Aqua BM) Joshua Tree

  • Updated: January 27, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

January 27th, 2018
Aqua Benchmark (4,419')
Dyadic Point (4,360')
14.1 miles, 3,200'

I was going to stay home this weekend.  I really was.  The last few weeks of constant trips and frantic work weeks had left me with quite a bit to do around the house and I decided I should really just stay home and deal with it all.

That resolution lasted until about 3 pm on Friday.  5 hours later Kristen and I were driving out to the desert planning to knock off some things that had been on the list for awhile but didn't really warrant their own weekend.

Dyadic is a peak near the DPS Spectre Peak out to the east of Twentynine Palms.  Jen Blackie and I did Spectre back in 2013 and due to running low on water we'd skipped the two named bumps nearby and ever since I'd heard people talk about Dyadic and how difficult it was.

And they were right.  I tend to discount a lot of the Joshua Tree area peaks as trivial but this one has solid high end 3rd with a bonus of non trivial route finding.  It's a great pick for a Sierra Club M provisional with the only drawback being it's tough to day hike and any plan to backpack the peaks requires you carry all your water.  And who the heck wants to do that...

Kristen and I planned to do the dayhike version starting early and hopefully finishing before it got too late.

We drove out Friday night and slept along the side of a dirt road heading north just a bit further east of the actual trailhead in an attempt to get further away from the periodic traffic noise.

I thought I remembered the trailhead being really sandy so I expecting to have to park right off the road.  As it turned out it wasn't that bad and Kristen's Subaru Forester made the whopping 250 ft back to the gate with ease.

We started out at 7 am across the desert floor loosely following an old road and a fair amount of footprints.  Nav in this section just involves curving around some rocks and entering a large canyon so in retrospect we probably should have started out an hour or two before dawn.

We didn't see any live tortoises along the way but we did find two shells.

The route curves into a canyon and around 2,600' you have a choice to make.  One route option continues to the southeast to pick up another gully and approach the peaks to the west while a slightly more direct route climbs straight for the peaks.  I wanted to do a loop and we took the direct approach aiming for the large notch.

The terrain is all second class but there's significant boulder scrambling.

It's a beautiful area but rugged so expect not to go fast.

Tensor / Aqua BM was a trivial scramble and up top we found a 1969 register and a lot of people talking about hitting either Spectre or Dyadic.

We decided to head for Dyadic first just in case we didn't have enough daylight to do everything.

Interestingly enough the USGS topo map appears to have a mistake around Dyadic.

This picture is looking over from Tensor / Aqua.  The smoother bump on the left is the closed contour to the east of Dyadic Actually on the topo.  Dyadic actually is the high point while Dyadic USGS is one of the lower bumps to the right.

We left the summit of Tensor around 1:15 pm and dropped down the south side aiming for the saddle west of Dyadic.  I had the text from a Bob Burd writeup along but I hadn't looked at any of the beta in detail figuring hey, how hard could it be.

We started up terrain that was a mix of 2nd and 3rd class just following what seemed to make sense.  It seemed to go fairly easily until we were looking down a 15 ft drop with a tree at the bottom.

There were two easy ish options to downclimb.  Kristen and I used the one next to the yucca since the footholds on the one to the right looked a bit crumbly.  Both turned out to be nice and solid.

Immediately after the downclimb there's a chockstone.  It's easy enough to get over with a combination of spanning and using some holds on the left.

After that a short scramble later we were sitting on top of what looked like the summit on the USGS topo.

We'd been scratching our heads thinking that we must have missed the hard part considering we hadn't seen anything that could be described as a chimney.  From the top it was obvious where we needed to go.

We followed an obvious -ish quasi ducked route around the left of one of the intervening rocks, down past a tree, and in to the gully just west of the summit.  At which point the chimney mentioned in the writeup was rather obvious.

There's a loose rock lying inside the chimney which makes it much easier to climb.  It doesn't feel 100% solid but I didn't feel like it was going anywhere.

We passed up packs and Kristen followed up after me with somewhat less enthusiasm despite my gentle support.

There was a belay / rappel station set up above the chimney but it was just a single piece of webbing wrapped around a rock horn that moved when I hit it.  (I guess why bother with redundancy if you're just going to pull the rock down on your head anyway?)  For the record there was a much nicer rock that would work immediately to the left of this picture which could be slung redundantly with a suitable long piece of webbing.

The next bit was more awkward than anything and Kristen really disliked the feeling of the slung rock horn moving under her feet.  We both ended up facing out and spanning across the crack to her right before transitioning to the horn and up.

You can see your dealing with a bit of a fall potential during all of this and it only gets more fun from here.

At this spot we decided to climb the ridge and stick to the sunny southern side though it looked like we could have made the northern side work.  It was just too damn cold over there.

We scrambled up the ridge keeping to the southern face.

We had to downclimb off the ridge to get around some impassable rocks.  We climbed over to the right side of the gap shown above and then did an awkward chimney down.  It's more serious than it looks here.

At this point we ended up looking around a bit for where to go next.  While a lot of peaks get to a point near the summit where you can pretty much tell you have it this one was a challenge right up to the end.

I've seen writeups elsewhere that all seemed to use an airy step across into this lovely thing.  I felt out the move and it's doable enough just awkward and quite airy.  (Note the caption: A tight chimney with an awkward exit (big air below).)

If you head back down on the southern side you can actually make it around that spot by using this illustrious exposed butt scoot.  You can't walk across because the rock above is overhanging and trying to slab using the ledge as a handhold didn't feel overly great.  There is a small ledge below you which had the advantage of being chock full of spiky plants so if you did blow out it might at least slow you down before the big fall...

It was also a lot easier to do without packs and you can see where we stashed them below the step across.

Past that we had an easy scramble to the top.

We made the summit at 3:30 pm and found the standard ammo can register filled with a lot of familiar names.

As always reversing a route is far easier since we already knew what worked and what didn't.

We downclimbed everything and never felt the need for a rappel or belay.  (We had webbing and a short rope along just in case)

We hadn't made quite as good a time as I would have liked coming down the boulder field and it was 5 pm by the time we were back down in the canyon.

Kristen offered to wait while I ran the quarter of a mile to Spectre which was tempting but considering our speed I decided it was probably best to make it as far down the canyon as we could before it was fully dark.  After all I already had a 1x on Spectre so I could always come back and get a 2x on all three of these peaks at a later date.

And so we hiked out.  The canyon heading to the east took a painfully long time in the dark though it got better once we turned to the northwest and started finding a periodic use trail. 

I was pretty sure I saw a light like someone was camping on those rocks southeast of the trailhead and sure enough there were cars parked along the road when we got back a little before 10 pm.  I'm not sure the logic of camping there but who knows, maybe there are some other interesting climbs in the area.

I didn't want to camp that close to the road so we drove further east to the Iron Mountain Aqueduct and found a well used if slightly trashed camp spot at the northern end.  We had plans to hike Iron Mountain from here the following day but instead decided to give our battered knees a rest and visit Deep Creek Hot Springs on the way home.  Next time!

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