EAGLE MOUNTAIN #2 (3,806'), BROWN PEAK (4,947'), AND SMITH MOUNTAIN (5,913') February 17-19, 1996
For another desert holiday weekend, we carpooled to do this collection of peaks on the eastern side of Death Valley National Park. Meeting in the town of Shoshone, CA, we drove north on CA 127 to gain our view of Eagle Mountain #2. Again, the DPS style is to give peaks with duplicate names a number. There is another Eagle Mountain to the south, in Joshua Tree National Park.
I had personally done Eagle #2 twice then, now four times. It is a challenging peak, however only 1,800 feet gain with a couple miles one way. But it is the only class 3 rated peak in the Death Valley area. I am pleased to recollect that I soloed the harder route in 1983. The standard DPS route goes a different way, with a use trail and easier climbing.
We took a broad chute to the left (north) of the summit crags, which are visible from the road. As you climb, some short traverses can be done for easier climbing. Nearly to the top of the main ridge, an improbable use trail is picked up and leads through otherwise difficult terrain to the base of the summit crags. A short bit of vertical class 3, with good holds, is done to get to the summit. Having started at 8:22 a.m., I topped out at 10:35 a.m.
The weather was sunny and nice. My 3X was to me, somewhat strange, but reflects my love for these mountains. Few people would ever reclimb a peak like this.
We ambled back down the same route, and a look back at the peak reveals the broad chute and the rocky route, looking so difficult or impossible to the untrained eye.
A low wash on the opposite side of the paved highway provided us with a car campsite. Some of the group went north to Death Valley Junction to enjoy the opera by Marta Beckett, which is a must see for some. I guarded camp, and read maps or books.
The next day, several trucks motored onward up the Deadmans Pass Road to park off the sandy road and begin our hike up Brown Peak. We crossed a big stretch of desert pavement, which consisted of a uniformly flat area almost as if it were deliberately cobbled with small rocks. We ascended up sandstone cliffs (photo, top) with wind formations, in a seemingly roundabout way to the top. Sometimes, it appears as if the leader doesn't know what he's doing. Have faith in the DPS, however!
My time was two hours and forty-five minutes. The light was overcast, so didn't lend for any great photos. The summit area is big and flat, and the participants formed a line for a photo that appeared in the DPS newsletter. Taking a slightly different way back, it was a weekend wrap for several who came back to their cars.
Five of us stayed over another night to get Smith Mountain, the second attempt for Rich and me. The poor roads, with inadequate directions from the Guide, led us to a start point nonetheless. This peak is really easy if you can drive there.
We followed the guide climbing directions, and these were good. Going up a wash, we climbed onto a ridge, then along it to a high bump. We continued along this ridge to a lower bump to the west, and there was the summit register. I was taken by the view, especially to the south. We were some 6,000 feet above the Death Valley floor. The clouds and light were really, "desert."
Getting back to the trucks in 65 minutes, we motored out together and began another long drive home. Although, we stopped at a museum for a photo or two.
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