Old Dad Mountain, Kelso Peak, Foshay Peak
By: Igor Mamedalin
Maris Valkass and we planned this exploratory and peak climb for a long time. Twenty-eight desert enthusiasts signed up for it. Then,, on Wednesday, Maris called to inform us that he was forced to cancel his participation because his escrow was closing and he had to move that weekend. On Thursday, Suzanne announced that her business trip to Chicago was unavoidable, which limited her participation to Saturday due to her Sunday flight. Well, we forged on with our plans hoping that Saturday would dawn with some alternate leaders volunteering to take over for Suzanne so that the trip could continue on into Sunday as an official 'DPS scheduled' climb. No sases were received from 'known' leaders.
Saturday morning dawned chilly as fourteen vehicles gathered on Kelbaker Road twenty miles south of Baker. Following the DPS Road and Peak Guide, we caravaned west toward Old Dad Mountain. The mileage noted in the guide is misleading: the roadend is 8.3 miles from Kelbaker road, not from the T two miles down. The dirt road is generally passable all the way to high clearance vehicles with one sandy stretch. One compact car was left at the sandy point. From the roadend twenty-three people and one dog proceeded to climb Old Dad Mountain following the guide and taking about two and a half hours to reach the top. The views of Soda Lake, Kelso Dunes and Devil's Playground from Old Dad are worthwhile.
Returning to the vehicles we had lunch before proceeding back out to Kelbaker Road. Driving a few miles further south and eyeing Kelso Peak we concluded that the climb would take too long and we did not wish to search for a camp spot in the dark. Instead we chose to visit the Kelso train station (all restoration work on it appears to have ceased with deterioration setting in) and to climb the Kelso Sand Dunes. Later on when Vic Henney and Sue Wyman joined us, we learned that the hike to Kelso Peak from the road is barely over an hour -- they were on top of the peak watching our caravan hesitate on the road in our moment of indecision. After Kelso Dunes we headed toward Foshay Pass to camp for the night. Along the way we lost John Cheslick, a prospective leader to replace Suzanne on Sunday, due to deteriorating road conditions. A couple of other vehicles headed home for the Super Sunday game watching.
Saturday night's camp was established by the great Vulcan Mine where we found Vic and Sue awaiting our company. Ablazing campfire and abuffet with a Middle Eastern theme (Texas oil beans included) helped warm us through the chilly evening. Political, environmental and personal issues were thoroughly examined without any conclusions drawn. Sunday morning Suzanne headed for Chicago and Alterio Bill Banks was asked to assist with our exploration of Foshay peak - a prospective candidate for addition to the peak list.
Proceeding over Foshay Pass, a steep hill impeded the progress of Paul Backer's Volvo forcing him to turn back taking Barry Antler with him. Although the gas pipe road over Foshay Pass has been recently bladed, the steep hills may prove to be a barrier to low powered cars coming from the west; the alternative is to approach the peak from the Mitchell Caverns road. At this point, except for Bill Bank's Subaru, only 4WD vehicles remained to continue the journey to Foshay Peak. Half a mile form the junction with the Mitchell Caverns road and about six miles from Foshay pass, we turned south west onto a poor but passable dirt road. This road was followed for 7.1 miles to the turn off for Bighorn Mine. After first turning onto the Bighorn Mine road, we studied an updated topo map and decided to back track 1.7 miles to another dirt road (6.4 miles from the gas pipeline road) which serviced some mining claims just northeast of the Foshay summit. This road placed us at about 4,000' with the peak being 6,612' - not bad.
From the water tanks at the roadend, after first heading northwest for half a mile and crossing a small canyon, we took the obvious ridge straight to the top. Bill and I alternated leads along the way arriving at the summit in a little over two hours. Enjoying the views of Kelso Dunes and eating lunch, I noted that the register in a glass jar with a rusty lid dated back to 1976 and that the peak was frequented by John Vitz on numerous occasions. Foshay can probably be climbed from the Bighorn Mine with equal ease; the route from Foshay Pass was not recommended by Vitz. A third class obelisk to the west on the summit plateau challenged Bill Banks. We returned by a different ridge dropping almost directly to the cars. After a snack on leftovers, we headed home by following the Hidden Hill Road toward Granite Pass and Kelbaker Road; this leg of the road is not recommended for low clearance vehicles.
After the uncertainty and the changing leadership the planned exploratory managed to survive and turn into an excellent weekend in the desert. Foshay is a worthwhile peak to climb - I can probably name a dozen on the list that are less deserving of peak status. Many thanks to Bill Banks for assisting when called upon and to everyone whose patience and cooperation helped make the trip. The other desert rats on this trip not previously mentioned were: Art and Diana Chesterman, Hoda Shalaby, Ron Bartell, Christine Mitchell, Donna Werner, Cyril Weaver, John Rhodemhamel, Adrienne Knute, Carl Faber, Bob Sumner, Jim Conley, Duke Blakesly, Bruce and Terry Turner, Laura Schwartz, Jay Holshuh and Sue Leverton. Three dogs also participated in various activities.
NOTE: Paul Backer reports that on his journey home south along Kelbaker Road he came across a vehicle that spun out and overturned at the point where the pavement ended and the dirt part of the road began. Paul and Barry noticed a seriously injured woman laying by the overturned car. They quickly moved her away from the vehicle just before it exploded in flames. They took the injured person back to the Kelso train station and waited for the Sheriff and paramedics to arrive. The Sheriff reported that this was the second vehicle that day to 'bite the dust' at that location and that they get several fatalities on Kelbaker road each year. This is something for all DPSers to keep in mind when driving this road at high speed - watch for the pavement to end.
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