Clark and New York
(near Mountain Pass)

18-19 Apr 2009 - by Steve Eckert

NOTE: This was an official DPS trip, lead by Dan Richter and Asher Waxman. I presume a trip report will also be filed on the DPS archives page. If so, I'll update this link and hopefully there will be a return link.

Clark Mtn

We all met at the Mad Greek restaurant in Baker, some having breakfast and most having good converstations. A nice relaxed way to start the day! We weren't trying to start early because the climb was so short. Little did we know the long drive would make up for the short climb...

After caravaning from Baker to Mountain Pass (see the trailhead link above) we wanted to consolidate cars. I, in particular, wanted to get out of my passenger car and into Daryn's Jeep! There were wide shoulders near the exit and by chance a CHP officer killing time just off the freeway, so I verified that it was OK to leave vehicles there for the day. Several others formed carpools and we were off.

The trailhead page holds my distilled wisdom about how to reach a very nice trailhead and waypoints all the way to the peak... it's worth reading even if you think you know how to get there, because there's a chance you don't need 4WD and there's a link to a magazine article about the mine at Mountain Pass. Suffice it to say we took one significantly wrong turn based on unclear directions from another source, and had to backtrack to the power station. Other than that and the spinning 2WD SUV we had no problems getting to the picnic area where we parked (waypoint CLKMTH - this and other waypoints below can be found on the trailhead page). At the last junction before this trailhead, I believe you can go left (waypoint CLKRDJ) and get a little bit higher in the next drainage west... but then there's no cool picnic area to visit!

As we were preparing to hike, several vehicles drove up behind us (including kids on tiny ATVs). They lit a fire in the BBQ pit and asked if doing a little target shooting would bother us. Not a typical desert peak encounter, but everyone was friendly and we headed up the drainage toward the peak.

On the way up we followed the drainage to about 2100m and then climbed steeply out to the left (west). On the way down, we stayed on a rib (waypoint CLARK2) and didn't hit the bottom of this drainage until about 2000m (waypoint CLARK1). I've marked the descent route with a green line because I think it was better footing and more of it was on a use trail. The dashed black line is where we went up.

We picked up a use trail along the base of a cliff band (waypoint CLARK3), following the base of the cliffs up and right (north) to a defect just before the cliffs turn into a knife edge ridge (waypoint CLARK4). We donned helmets at Dan's suggestion since there was about 15' of 3rd class. Some used a top-rope belay from a tree but most did not.


Some of us at the bottom got a little careless about crossing the fall line, and perhaps some of those at the top got a little careless about moving around after the rope was up. A fusilade of rocks, accompanied by cries of "ROCK", approached too fast to get out of the way. Two of us were hit on the head by rocks! This is the first time I remember failing to get out of the way of human-launched rocks, so it's a damn good thing that Dan required helmets. The one that hit me must have been bigger than I thought, because it broke my brand new Petzl Meteor III helmet. A displaced fracture, the doctors would call it, which showed on the inside also. The rock hit the very back of the helmet, then grazed my spine. Without the helmet they would have been checking my pupils. With the helmet I barely felt anything and the only real damage was that I had to retire the helmet after only one trip.

Note to self: Don't duck when wearing a helmet. That exposes your neck. If I hadn't ducked it wouldn't have touched anything except the helmet.

Note to buyer: Any climbing helmet with any rigid foam inside is specifically a single-use device. Budget for replacing it. You are required by the manufacturer to retire it after any significant hit. Breakage is not a defect for which you can return the helmet, it's designed to break as a way to reduce the shock to your head. But it will only break (properly) once. After that you're not protected. Makes me wonder what happens if you tumble down a slope and hit your head twice. This one was half the weight of my older strap-and-plastic helmet, and had better side/back coverage. But if it's strapped to your pack and your pack falls over, or if it's in your luggage and the airline drops your duffel, that might well be the end of your $100 helmet. Inspect often. Caveat Emptor.

Above the 3rd class pitch we climbed up and left to crest the ridge (waypoint CLARK5). There's a cool view from the saddle between this ridge and the summit. Stay generally on the south side of the ridgeline, but not too low, for the easy stroll over to the register. ClarkSaddle.jpg

New York Mtn

The view east:
(false summit as viewed from the true summit)

After shuffling cars, we drove 5 miles east on I-15 before turning off to New York Mtn. Again, refer to the trailhead link above for 35 miles of mostly dirt to our trailhead. This time I took my passenger car all the way to our campsite, which wasn't hard but did require a bit of concentration and took over an hour. It was getting dark as we scrambled to find campsites among the trees but not right next to a family that was already camped there. Happy hour around a campfire wasn't really a balanced meal, but was fun as always.

The next morning we headed out of camp about when the sun hit the road. We didn't drive the last (4WD) part of the road, but it seemed like real 4WDs could get significantly further than the camping area. We may have walked a bit too far up the canyon, because we ended up one drainage too far north (the black dashed line). Much brush and many boulders later, but still in good spirits, we arrived at the saddle due east of the peak instead of crossing the south shoulder. No matter, a traverse with more boulders and brush got us where we needed to be. Probably. (Some thought we should go east around the peak on what might have been easier terrain, but the leader's plan was to go south.)

Once on the south shoulder there was some confusion about where to go. Memories were no better than the DPS Guide descriptions. Two people split off and headed up toward the peak, while most of us continued around onto the southwest corner and hunted in vain for the bowl and crack described in the Guide. We backed off, went down, then went further around to the west side, finally finding a way up that didn't match the Guide and was harder climbing than the way we went down.

Here's how I think the climb should go based on how we came down, NOT how we went up: (Refer to waypoints on the map below.) Walk one mile up the road from the campground (NYM2WD) to where you see some corrugated steel litter in the wash (NYMEND). Turn up to the northwest in a small gully. Don't drift too far north or the brush will get worse. The drainage opens up into a small bowl at NYORK1, by which point you should be going due west. Follow the drainage northwest around NYORK2, and climb out on the north side around NYORK3 to avoid waterfalls (aka huge boulders). Leave the drainage at NYORK4, turning left (east) to ascend the south shoulder of the peak.

From the south saddle, walk 50-100' west losing less than 20' of altitude. Don't go way around the corner and do a big traverse! We tried that and it doesn't get better. From waypoint NYORK5, where the picture to the right was taken, follow a bearing of 28 deg and stay up against the cliffs without climbing into the cliff rocks. You'll be crawling under some trees here but the climbing won't be hard. Go through the patch of trees/brush at the top center of the picture and then turn right to climb up toward the peak. That overhanging boulder in the top left of the picture is a good landmark. We went below it on the way up (bad) and stayed above it on the way down (good). There are two pitches of 3rd class right below the summit, about 10' each with good holds and minimal exposure. Mix with water. Stir well. Return the same way!

The 'ramp' to the summit blocks, from near NYORK5:

As we left the campground, a dozen oversized SUVs showed up. They were apparently part of some field study group, and we were quite happy to be gone before they arrived!


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