By: Dean Acheson
TED BRASKET'S MINI-LIST FINISH
In January, Pat and Cinnamon and I met up with Ted Brasket at an RV park at the east end of Gila Bend. Ted had been working on some prominence peaks in the area and we stopped by to visit. (Prominence peaks are the quiet rage with some of the weathered desert climbers. Ted and friends pour over desert topos, looking for anything sticking up 300 feet higher than any other land or saddle around it, and then figure out ways to get to the tops of them all.) The RV park was not a usual place for any of us, but it was Super Bowl time and we could stay out of the weather while watching the game on the park's brand new big screen TV.
But that wasn't climbing, and I had determined to go back while Ted was still climbing those obscure peaks in the Gila Mountains area. He was finishing up a group of peaks in the Spring Mountains, and we were going out to accompany him. Cinnamon and I packed up Pat's Cherokee and took off early afternoon on Tuesday, arriving in Tonopah at dusk. From there, we followed the back roads down to old highway 80, and out to the old one lane bridge that spans the river north of Gila Bend.
How we managed to miss that wide open canal road that parallels the river running south from the bridge we will never know. Nor will we know why we went on through the "Road Closed" sign anyway and ended up plowing sand down near the Gila River, at times slowing to a snail's pace with the engine still revved at 3000 rpm. It was pitch black outside, and following that road (if there was a road) was more instinctual than visual. We didn't dare try to turn around or back up as the only slight advantage our 4-wheel had over the sand was that we were going downhill - the opposite direction would have been impossible. I asked Cinnamon why we did this, and she just grinned excitement and adventure.
About 45 minutes later we finally pulled out onto a well-graded wide dirt road about two miles down from where we should have. From there it was only about 12 miles to the GPS location Ted said marked the turnoff to his camping spot. There were ten 'prominence peaks reachable from this spot, and Ted had already climbed seven of the longer, steeper, higher ones. So while Ted took a break on Wednesday, Cinnamon and I hiked just a few miles east and climbed a small peak that gave us great views of the Gila Range. The climbing was moderate 2nd class, rocky with bits of cacti, but exhilarating in the cool desert air.
Thursday was sunny and cool, and the three of us hiked north on an old road leading back through the center of the Spring Mountain group. The three target peaks were on our left. The plan was to hike to the farthest of the three and then return south, staying on the ridge to bag the three final peaks of Ted's mini-list often.
This really is God's country, except for the cholla that insisted on interfering with dog paws. I think those fine one-way needles have got to be the leeway God grants to the devil in this part of the world.
Four of the peaks Ted had done earlier showed "no signs of previous ascents." The three we did that day each had a small register with a single entry by each of two climbers. You guessed it - Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lilley! They were obviously having fun and taking their time with these peaks, as the three entries were spread over as many days.
These peaks were definite third class, requiring the use of all four limbs. We were both amazed at Cinnamon's uncanny ability to not only negotiate the 4 and 5 foot twisty rock hops, but her stealthy sure footedness in the steep, loose terrain. By far the most difficult part of the climb was the final descent over very unstable rock that toyed with us all the way down. At one point Ted was about to step on what appeared to be a solid boulder. Cinnamon passed by barely brushing the boulder with her paw. We watched in awe as that baby's breath of pressure tipped what turned out to be a precarious boulder, sending it rolling down the steep slope in a thundering tumble. We both thanked her for that one, for a fraction of a second later and Ted would have been part of that thunder!
We decided to drive on back to Tonopah that night, settling in for a couple of major basketball games at Tonopah's fabulous desert-country-style restaurant/bar. The food was great, as usual. In fact, we met again for breakfast the next morning before going our separate ways. It sure felt good to be back in that desert air! Cinnamon grinned her agreement all the way back to LA.
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