Manly Peak, Needle Peak
By: Scot Jamison
Twenty-two hikers were loaded up into 4wds and ready to go by 6:15 Saturday morning. It was cold and clear, and we only had to leave Rich Henke and Rena Tishmar's car in Ballarat. The only vehicle the leaders had real questions about was the 7" clearance Subaru Forester that Dave and Ann Perkins were driving. The rest were high-clearance 4wds, all loaded with gear and people. Linda McDermott and Jim Hinkley showed up in a bright red, brand new rental 4wd rental truck (the only vehicle that can really go anywhere!).
We drove the 15 miles out to the Goler Wash turnoff, and started up the narrow canyon. Lots of folks had handheld radios to use in an attempt to maintain contact in case of problems, but luckily, they weren't needed, and besides, they didn't work in the steep-walled wash anyway. The 11 vehicle caravan regrouped at the base of Mengel Pass, and slowly bumped and ground it's way up and over the obstacles. At one point a huge, table-like rock was lurking in mid road, set on devouring the lowslung Forester's undercarriage, but a couple of feints and quirky dodges by Dave outfoxed the road troll, so all vehicles made it through with very few problems, if any.
The group arrived at the Needle Peak trailhead by about 9:30. The wind was just starting when we left Willow Springs, and it picked up velocity as we gained altitude. Once we hit the main ridge it was blowing cold, and we didn't dally making our way to the peak, other than to have lunch on the lee side of the saddle so we could eat out of the gale.
Greg Vernon pointed out Mt. Baldy from the top, as the visibility was severe clear in all directions. He had placed a giant register book in the can a couple of years before, but the "old" register was barely started, and it looks as though his might last through the new century. Not a very poplar peak! Larry Tidball led the way down, and we split the group at the junction of the "A" and "B" routes, so the tigers could go check out a campsite, while the rest of us wandered back across the talc-smeared desert to the cars. Leslie Hofherr and Greg Vernon, using the radios, drove toward Striped Butte in hopes of locating a campsite out of the wind, but the group was too large for that area. We camped at Anvil Springs, the "B" trailhead, and a fabulous happy hour and a world-class campfire ensued.
We had Ann Perkin's chile, Jim Conley's lentil soup, Greg & Mirna's pozole soup, Yvonne's shrimp & jicama salad, Barbee's version of Delores Halladay's ratatouille, another great salad by Rena, more goodies from Gene Mauck and his son Rob, and plenty of wines, (mostly reds, much to Rich Gnagy's delight!). Linda McDermott made super quesidillas, Dan Clank made spaghetti, Rich Gnagy brought cake, as did Leslie Hofherr, and Jack Wickel brought other desserts. Everyone brought something that was tasty, and not much was left.
No wood was left unburned, and the only liquids remaining in camp in the morning were in the water bottles for the upcoming hike to Manly. There are two campsites at Anvil Springs, with upper and lower level parking, and we used all the space! The group was pretty comfortable, as the wind went down with the sun. As usual, Sunday morning found the Fire Warden, Barbee Tidball, eradicating the evidence of any campfire site. Any campsite she uses always looks better after her usage than it did before. Thanks!
The group left Anvil Springs at 7:30 and proceeded to the shorter "B" route trailhead for Manley. Quail Spring is located in a short little canyon, surrounded by "up". The slope is steep, sandy and loose with a few convenient rocks to step on. Scree gators would have been useful for most of us. Jack Wicket always has his, and so did a few others, but Yvonne Jamison mentioned hers being "in the garage" a couple of times, as she dug rocks from her boots. We regrouped on the upper ridge, and moved up into the summit rocks for the final summit block, the register, and lunch. While Greg Roach and Jack Wickel climbed the crack and set-up a system of slings to aid others up and down, Rich Henke was walking around on the face of high angle rock like it was a table! It's really obvious when someone is comfortable on rock. Greg Vernon, Brian Smith, Rob Mauck, Mirna Roach, Jim Henkley, Jan St Amand, Leslie Hofherr and quite a few others showed their skills on the rocks on top. We all signed the register, whether we free climbed, pulled our way up via the slings, or just watched from below. The day was clear with little wind, and the company was excellent. A perfect day for a climb in Death Valley, with nice views of the Sierra, Telescope Peak, and the rest of the desert.
Larry led the quick descent to the cars, where he and Barbee took Rich and Rena, and Jim Conley and Jan took their gear, and they wandered back over Goler Wash and down to Ballarat. The rest of us drove out via Warm Springs Canyon, which is definite 2wd and graded smooth below the mines. As we passed Striped Butte, we could see 3 climbers near the top of the mass-looks like a good little climb! Dan Clark stopped at Warm Springs, planning to explore and camp in the area for a few days. Most of us ate at the Mad Greek in Baker and then headed home in light traffic due to the MLK Holiday.
Thanks to Larry and Barbee for sharing the leads and help organize, to Yvonne for sharing the 17-degree morning Sunday, chipping away at ice in the water bottles, and for everyone who came on the trip. It was fun! SJ
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