By: Steve Smith
The north face of Tucki Mountain has a steep, eroded slope that drops down from the summit to Mosaic Canyon and Stovepipe Wells. It is an imposing, colorful fault-line escarpment which drops from 6,731' at the summit of Tucki Mountain down to 880' at the Mosaic Canyon roadhead.
From an earlier climb, I recalled that some people had noted in the register using a northern climbing route. Along with Debbie and new DPS member Chris Brong, we decided to do a south-to-north backpacking traverse across Tucki and explore the northern face with its mixture of bisected canyons and views of the northern Death Valley region.
Starting Saturday morning, we left a vehicle in Mosaic Canyon and then drove around to Skidoo and began the hike from the traditional 5400' starting point. After crossing the three canyons and exploring the old mining cabin, we ended up camping on the barren ridge1ine 500' south and below the summit with a nice night time view of lights along the Death Valley highway going over Townes Pass.
Early Sunday, we were on the summit and then came the interesting challenge of navigating the 6,000' drop down to Mosaic Canyon. There were at least two notations in the register of climbers who had used the northern route and their cryptic comments noted it had taken longer than expected. The maps show a very broken up area with several major canyons to avoid but there is a good winding route through the area with only a few minor gains and losses at two points.
Generally, the descent is a constant drop with some very steep and loose rock segments on the lower half (similar to Villager). From the summit, we traversed northeast and generally veered to the east to circumvent a huge canyon. There was plenty of Bighorn Sheep sign and we discovered one, 3/4 curl, intact rams skull about two miles north of the summit. At the halfway point, we veered about 1/2-mile to the west before descending rapidly on an open ridgeline down to Mosaic Canyon.
The lower half of the descent was open with great vistas of northern Death Valley. This traverse was a good way to see great desert scenery and go through an isolated portion of Death Valley. There was some evidence of several areas of past hiking, but the route is not obvious so careful map navigating is necessary to avoid several canyons.
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