Corkscrew Peak


By: Gary Graig


My List Finish

I had no idea that I knew so many great people. It was truly an honor to hike with so many of my friends on the occasion of my DPS List Finish on Corkscrew Peak this fine November day.

After the sign-ins and introductions, which took longer than usual as one might imagine, our group of about 45 hikers set off across the gentle terrain toward the base of Corkscrew. There were scattered high clouds and nice temperatures. We veered a bit to the east of the route marked in the Peaks Guide, staying in the major north-trending wide wash for a mile or so before turning more to the west and taking our first break on a broad ridgeline at the 3500’ level at UTM 017678. When we got moving again we moved along the ridge north, west, and then steeply northwest until we joined the route ‘A’ variation at elevation 4400’, where we saw the first signs of a faint use trail leading toward the summit. We took another short break here, after having climbed some steep terrain around some rocky outcrops along the ridge. Then, we hiked upward to another level area near elevation 5100’, along the “variation” marked in the Guide, where we took our final break before the summit. The use trail above this point is quite obvious as it winds its way up and to the right toward the wide gap in the summit cliffs.

The final few hundred vertical feet start with a nasty bit of sandy, slippery, terrain which quickly eases and passes a large “window” before the final push to the summit along a ridge with great views in all directions. This last bit was absolutely surreal for me: the culmination of an effort that began in earnest in 1994 and had introduced me to so many fantastic people and places. I stopped just a few yards short of the summit to let the tail end of the group catch up, almost reluctant to take the last few steps.

Good sense set in soon enough. After touching the highest point, a “receiving line” of sorts formed and I had the pleasure of shaking hands with (or getting a bear hug from, in some cases) every member of the group as they joined me at the top. A huge quantity of champagne (generously provided by my co-leaders) quickly appeared, as did a List Finisher pin and about a million cameras. We enjoyed the bubbly, lunch, and camaraderie on the summit under perfect conditions. Nice!

All manner of summit group photos were taken and then the group headed back toward the vehicles after about an hour on top. At the point where we had taken our last break on the way up, the group split in two with one party dropping to the east into the major north-south canyon and the other following the ridgeline between that canyon and the ridge that we had ascended. I led the latter group down the ridge and we found it generally easier going than the ridge that we had climbed. The canyon group encountered some “interesting” dryfalls but made it back to the cars not much later than we did with no problem.

Our camp/party site for the evening was outside the Death Valley park boundary, at a point 1.4 miles from the pavement along the Titus Canyon road on the north side. I won’t even try to describe the variety of food and drink that appeared in camp. Many thanks to all of the cooks! Shortly afterward, there was a short musical number and I was presented with a copy of “Desert Solitaire” thoughtfully signed by all of the participants, and a small flat rock autographed by some of my “girlfriends”. The remaining festivities involved demands from the crowd that I burn articles of clothing, and the destruction of some of my camp furniture, both of which were accomplished in short order.

On the morning of Sunday the 17th, we had the outstanding-as-usual pancake breakfast, and then the group split and departed for various destinations. I joined a climb of unlisted Thimble Peak, which goes quite nicely (class 2) in about three hours round trip from the highest point on the Titus Canyon road to the west of our campsite. Another group climbed Canyon Point, well known for its fabulous descent route on a gravelly slope. Others headed for more obscure destinations or straight for home. Our climb of Thimble had about 15 participants and we closed out the trip with a final bottle of Champagne and some snacks at the old mining site in Titus Canyon. It was another fine day in the desert.

I’d like to close with recognition of a few people who I didn’t get a chance to thank publicly and personally during the trip. First in line of course are my co-leaders and frequent climbing companions Greg and Mirna Roach and Sue Holloway. I’d also like to include Linda McDermott here as “campmaster” and pancake queen. A few other people stand out too: Ron Bartell and Christine Mitchell, who were most instrumental in getting me interested in doing desert trips in the first place. Also John McCully and Ron Hudson who organized some of my earliest “death marches” like the Inyo Crest ridge run and the Big Picacho dayhike. And lastly, all the rest who joined us for this special weekend: Jim Hinckley, John Strauch, Dave & Elaine Baldwin, Steve Eckert, Jack Wickel, Heidi Dunham, Linda Roman, Gail Hanna, Richard Carey, Kathleen Mazur, Edna Erspamer, Ed Herrman, Judy Hummerich, Cliff Jones, Richard Whitcomb, Mary & Rayne Motheral, Ten Ryan, Scott Craig, Dean & Pat Acheson, Rich Gnagy, Mark Adrian, John Connelly, Patty Rambert, Tom Erspamer, Jim Conley, Neal Scott, Don Sparks, Mary McMannes, Jan St. Amand, Vic & Sue Henney, Gene Mauk, Duane McRuer, and Jim Kalember. For those of you unable to attend, we missed you, but don’t despair; you’ll get an invitation for the next go-around in a few years...

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
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