DEATH VALLEY PEAKS: Corkscrew Peak (5,804'), Eagle Mountain (3,806') April 2-5, 1983

Somehow, Leo, my then peak pal, if you can call him that, wanted to bag Corkscrew Peak in Death Valley National Monument, then. He had a fancy with such peaks, with funny or unusual names or aspects. I am always game for some adventure, so again, I picked him up at his home, and we motored east, and south, then, on U.S. 395. He insists on me driving him in my car, with his dictating how much he'll contribute for sharing the gas costs. A detail on many such trips, approved by the local enviro club. The club trip leader can set the rate for reimbursement, sometimes with even the declaration that "the leader rides for free." That never applied to me, but this way was still cheaper than hiring a guide, my only other venue for some climbing company.

As my drift, I stopped by Mono Lake for some photos. I like to make stops for pictures, although people get outraged. The scenery along U.S. 395 is marvelous by me, but others hate it all.

Camping by Father Crowley's Overlook, I drove us to the start point for Corkscrew Peak. Again, the figuring and navigation was my job, some people being completely useless for knowing where they are and which way to go. I'm pretty good at map and compass, being once a comparative math and logic genius, and can research descriptions by other club people in the Southern California peak sections.

We hiked up from the highway to Beatty, NV, and I soon found a use trail. It led over gullies and washes. Then, me aiming for the saddle between Corkscrew and an adjacent peak, I found even more of this use trail. After much of my waiting, my partner came up to this point.

The ridge to the summit is pretty steep and rugged, with no further use trail. I found some ducks, but my companion, being so slow and overweight, figured to stop and rest. No interest in climbing to the top, now, even though this peak was his idea.

So, I went ahead to climb to the top. It was a magnificent vista, and I captured the sight. Even placing a new book for the peak register, I was to climb this peak again in ten years exactly, and still my old register book was there! I rested, and enjoyed the scene.

Back down to where my partner had stopped, he asked how far it was. I replied that it took me some 15 or so minutes to hike back down to rejoin him. That inspired him to go up, but I declined to go back with him to guide him, instead telling him the way. Grumbling, he hiked out of sight and presumably made it to the top.

He finally returned, saying it was great. I checked the register on my next ascent, and saw that he did sign in. A moment of honesty, out of character for many hikers of that sort!

I had to slowly lead us back, and we reached my car, safe and successful.

Despite his insistence of fitness and readiness, he had enough. One peak. I would have to cut this trip short. We toured part of the National Monument sights, fine for him since he wasn't paying. It was well worth it to me to auto tour about the Monument, having driven all this way. I was so aware of his false promises, and double dealing. But, it was still cheaper than hiring a guide!

The next day, I resolved to check out Eagle Mountain. This was a class 3 climb, and I set it to my good route finding skill to find the way. Being a bit windy and cold, my partner opted to stay inside my car. Nothing that I could do, there.

I had read that the route led straight up from about the bottom to the summit. I hiked to the gully accorded the route, and seeing no good way, hiked more to the right (south). I found ducks, and then gambled on this being the way. More ducks led me up, onward and upward. There is some tricky class 3 route finding, with specific ways to go. This part of the mountain was in shadow, bad for photography. I couldn't be sure that this was the way, so declined taking lots of pictures. Film, even aside from my buying from discount houses, was pretty expensive.

I clambered up and reached the main ridge. The summit was an imposing crag to the north, and I first felt it was beyond me, climbing solo. I am not a big risk taker. If it got too bad, I would turn back. I looked at the possible routes, and tackled the knife-edge ridge directly. I saw no easy way around it. With my usual care and caution, I edged up the narrow fin, and reached the top. It was some airy class 3 climbing, but nothing more. Later, I was to lead other climbers up this way, still then ignorant of the easier way from the north side. So, I'd think that I know this peak pretty well, now, having climbed it twice from each way. I uploaded diagrams and photos on the easier route, described now by a desert guidebook, to a climbing website, and that'll be that for me.

I had thought that Eagle Mountain was the only class 3 peak in the Death Valley area, by the desert peak list, but I was to find that the true summit of Manly Peak (7,196') was also a scramble, with even some rock climbing possible.

I followed my route back down, taking my time, since a route-finding error could be very serious. I was to build temporary ducks on my second ascent in November, 1984, with people following, so that I wouldn't make any mistakes in getting back down. These would all be knocked down as we passed them, headed down, once again.

Successful, I crossed back over the Amargosa River, and met my partner waiting at the car. He wasn't interested in the details, and demanded to go home immediately. Unfit, and wanting for more Nevada pleasures, to be had with his big time money, special for all that, such was the way of the local enviro club. No one else, then, would climb with me.

We passed Pyramid Peak, a mountain I was to climb later, with a sizable Club group following. I stopped at the dunes east of Stovepipe Wells, for my photography. Leo, being a cheapskate when it comes to supposed club fun, as well as being the chief of peak photography then, as designated by the club, typically doesn't shoot anything, more to spending his money on porn by mail order (back then). Such is the way of some obviously mentally debilitated people promoted so heavily by the club. Available girls, too, for him.

I managed to get a photo of Mt. Tom as we passed by, one of my best photo ops for this beautiful peak. Again, no interest by this club member, except to complain about having to stop.

My friend was a friend as long as he got such services, and I had no other choice except to climb solo. There are entreaties against climbing alone. He would share costs only as he decided, sometimes insisting that I pay his way fully. The club says that he did me a favor by coming along on my trips, therefore, "he should get something."

As I was barred from further club leading in 1987, I enjoined him for some company after work, buying him restaurant meals, albeit low priced, as club dictate. Then, I was removed from my position at my job. That settled it for him, loudly and speedily declaring, "I got no use for you," and that was the end of that.

Myself later receiving a subsistence income, he came back to attempt to pry more money or services, but as he no longer did any peak hiking, the subsidized rides ended for him. I was regaled with his old stories, repeated hundreds of times, about things with the old peak section, presumably. Like a broken record. I surmise some people are like that, with their tales, narrated time after time, completely ignoring me as I say, "I heard that already."

The enjoyment that I got, to climb, hike, and ski, were worth the small losses from such club hikers coming along. No one else would do this. The club hikers openly demanded money since "hiking is work," and that it's only fair to be paid. Their prevailing mercenary attitude remains in effect. No money, no hiking. Guides now cost hundreds of dollars a day, so I got my peaks relatively cheaply. I regard myself as fortunate that I never suffered an injury or rescue on any of my own activities. Much better peak climbers have had to be rescued, with great expense and effort. I now play it safe. No class 3, or higher, solo peaks, unless they're ones that I know, and feel safe enough with. That greatly curtails my peak climbing, but I do not do this to cause government expense. The club says, "We'll be rescued as often as we please." Never my way!