Waucoba Mountain, Pinyon Peak, Red Mountain
By: Wynne Benti
The official climb of Waucoba was scheduled for Sunday, giving everyone the chance to drive north at their own pace on Saturday, missing much of the Friday night traffic Early Saturday, the leaders climbed Pinyon Peak on the HPS list in the Walker Pass area. It was a clear, warm day and the Southern Sierra was covered with spectacular wildflowers. The walk to the summit of Pinyon was atop a carpet of flowers, every imaginable color of the rainbow. Following this, we went north and spent the night at Grandview campground in the White Mountains with the rest of our group.
Sunday morning, eight met on the corner of HWY 168 and the turn-oil for the Saline Valley Road at 8am sharp, starting off soon after. About twenty minutes into the Saline Valley Road, two people decided to turn back since they were concerned that their car a Toyota Tercel, was too rickety for the dirt road. The rest continued on.
Just about a mile short of the Waucoba Trailhead, I realized that the strange noise my truck was making was the sound of a flat tire. My hi-lift jack was stowed on my bumper and I was excited to think I finally had a chance to use it. One of the participants opened it up, pulled the handle down and the jack Froze in position - rusted! A truck just happened to drive by at that moment and the driver loaned us some Pam which we sprayed on the hi-lift to loosen it up, but to no avail ~ resorted to using the jack that came with the car and were able to put the spare on. However, the spare was low on air. At that precise moment another truck came by with an air pump which we were able to use to fill the tire Following an approximate 45 minute delay, we drove to the trailhead, located at the end of one of the short side roads mentioned in the write-up. We started up the peak at 10:45. About half an hour into the climb, one of the participants decided to return to the cars. The rest of the climb went very nicely, a comfortable pace set to the summit. The view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and White Mountains was spectacular. We started back down and easily found our way back to the cars, well-hidden in the pines, thanks to a well-ducked trail created by Vladimir Waucoba was the first desert peak for two of our trip participants, Emma and Vladimir, who were both Russian (and met on this trip!).
Following the climb, George Pfeiffer and Judy Ware went back to Los Angeles as planned. Before leaving, Judy asked me if I was worried about driving on to Saline Hot Springs with no spare and I replied, "What are the odds of having another flat! At least a thousand to one!" Famous last words! Onward into the desert depths we drove out fifteen miles this side of the hot springs. I heard the familiar flapping of a flat tire! I stopped the car and sure enough, another flat tire. Everyone gathered around and stared in shock, slow panic setting in, realizing that the hot springs were now out of the question. In addition, Vladimir and Emma had not filled their car with gas in Big Pine as advised in the write-up, so they didn't have enough gas to get to the springs and back out.
Amazingly, I happened to have a can of Puncture Seal for flat tires beneath the front seat of my car. We jacked the truck up slightly and discovered a clean puncture through the tire tread. I sprayed the Puncture Seal into the tire slowly filling it with air and unknown chemicals. The instructions advised driving the car for at least 3-5 minutes following the application. I pulled the jack out and I turned the truck around determined to go as far as I could back toward Big Pine. Asher, Vladimir and Emma followed.
I checked the tire periodically. It was low but solid, and I could hear the steady hissing leak. Nearly three hours later, the tire ruptured, just half a mile from the Triangle campground and Big Pine! Around 10pm, me and my truck came flopping into the campground, followed by the others. There was only one site available and we took it, telling the story of our escape to all interested parties.
The next morning, I replaced both tires at the Chevron station in Big Pine. Feeling more comfortable when I had a spare, I said, "Hey! Let's go to the hot springs!" Everyone just glared at me! So instead, we went south to the Randsburg area and climbed Red Mountain on the HPS list. After the climb, we had a tailgate picnic at the abandoned gas station in the town of Red Mountain. And from there, we went our separate ways back home; I over the dirt Mojave-Randsburg road and Emma and Vladimir over paved roads.
A few recommendations: never buy Pos-A-Traction truck tires (they got a great write-up in 4WD Mag, but they're too dang wimpy); always carry at least one can of Puncture Seal for inflating and make sure you keep your hi-lift jack well-lubricated with WD40! Thanks to everyone for a great trip despite the setbacks!
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