Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Final Test on Indian Head Peak

From WW

Final Test on Indian Head Peak

In spring of 2002, I had returned home to San Diego from Ventura. I was experiencing some distress from my previous job. Strenous exercize in the past had always helped me "de-stress," but a ski trip to Mammoth with my next door neighbor, Bill, and his buddies, had not helped. Shortly thereafter, WRL invited me along on a trip with him and his nephew, Kellen, and David and his son, Adam. They were heading out to Anza Borrego to go pheasant hunting and camping at Palm Canyon.

The pheasant hunt was "canned," and WRL and David used this as an opportunity to teach Kellen and Adam about hunting before heading into the Sierras to hunt deer. I hung back, not especially excited about this portion of the trip.

We then headed over to the campgrounds at Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego. It was still relatively early in the morning and cool. WRL suggested that he and I climb Indian Head Peak.

I have climbed Indian Head several times, and while it is long and steep in some areas, it is not technically difficult. Just good, hard work. I agreed.

I filled my water bottles, got my day pack ready, and headed towards Palm Canyon to take the trail west, and pick up the south ridge trail to the peak.

"Where are you going?" WRL said, "we're going up that ridge." He pointed straight ahead.

For the readers, the ridge WRL referred to is the right ridge in the photo above. The left ridge is the "Indian Head," although from the angle, it is difficult to make out the head. The Indian is looking up at the sky, and the first peak in the photo is his chin, the second peak behind the chin is his nose, and behind the nose, but not visible from the photo, is his forehead.

"I didn't know there was a trail up that ridge." I said.

"There isn't. Let's go," came the reply.

My thought processes were a bit fuzzy at that point in time, so I just followed along. The ridge was steep in some areas, but not bad. Just tough hiking.

After about two hours of hiking we reached the "peak" on that particular ridge. From the photograph it appears that all a hiker has to do is go left, cross the bridge between the two main stems of the mountain, and scurry up the Indian's Head.

Not so. Once we reached the top we discovered there is no direct, connecting route from the minor peak to the bridge. Behind the minor peak the mountain drops significantly and veers to the right. Then one must cross a ledge and climb up a dome in order to connect with the trail up to Indian Head Peak.

I approached the ledge. It was approximately 8 feet long, and at most 3 feet wide. The drop off to the left was at least 500 feet, and the drop off to the right was minimum, 1000 feet. The dome was not a significant angle, but for my level of climbing, I would have had all the necessary pro. Instead all I had were approach shoes.

I stood frozen. WRL was already at the top of the dome. He has climbed most of the major, international class climbs in America, including Half Dome, El Capitan, Tahquitz. He and his buddy, Mark, created the route, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," on El Gran Trono Blanco in Baja. This was a walk up for him.

"Don't look down, and just do it. Power through it. Don't stop your momentum when you get to the dome, just keep going," he said.

I took a deep breath, and crossed the ledge. But I stopped when I reached the dome. I couldn't find a hand hold. Then I looked down.

"Stop it!!" he yelled at me. "Don't look down, look up. Look at me!! Now don't worry about handholds. Stand up straight, and walk up the dome. Trust your shoes."

Tears started falling down my face. I was stuck. I couldn't move. It was certain death. One false slip on the dome, and the only option was to fall at least 1000 feet.


I don't recall anything else about the climb. But obviously I made it, because I am here today. I recall a little of the hike back through Palm Canyon. And I recall being angry with myself because I had not pitched my tent beforehand. It was dusk when we returned to the campground and I was beyond exhausted. One shot of mescal and I was out for the night.

This story has no moral to it, no grand higher meaning. It just is.

1 comment:

MaoMao said...

Oh wowie, that's a wunnerful story. It gave Momma the chills. Great job on the climb -- what a great adventchure! Momma's furry outdoorsy and likes to do lots of hikin, too.

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Final Test on Indian Head Peak

From WW

Final Test on Indian Head Peak

In spring of 2002, I had returned home to San Diego from Ventura. I was experiencing some distress from my previous job. Strenous exercize in the past had always helped me "de-stress," but a ski trip to Mammoth with my next door neighbor, Bill, and his buddies, had not helped. Shortly thereafter, WRL invited me along on a trip with him and his nephew, Kellen, and David and his son, Adam. They were heading out to Anza Borrego to go pheasant hunting and camping at Palm Canyon.

The pheasant hunt was "canned," and WRL and David used this as an opportunity to teach Kellen and Adam about hunting before heading into the Sierras to hunt deer. I hung back, not especially excited about this portion of the trip.

We then headed over to the campgrounds at Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego. It was still relatively early in the morning and cool. WRL suggested that he and I climb Indian Head Peak.

I have climbed Indian Head several times, and while it is long and steep in some areas, it is not technically difficult. Just good, hard work. I agreed.

I filled my water bottles, got my day pack ready, and headed towards Palm Canyon to take the trail west, and pick up the south ridge trail to the peak.

"Where are you going?" WRL said, "we're going up that ridge." He pointed straight ahead.

For the readers, the ridge WRL referred to is the right ridge in the photo above. The left ridge is the "Indian Head," although from the angle, it is difficult to make out the head. The Indian is looking up at the sky, and the first peak in the photo is his chin, the second peak behind the chin is his nose, and behind the nose, but not visible from the photo, is his forehead.

"I didn't know there was a trail up that ridge." I said.

"There isn't. Let's go," came the reply.

My thought processes were a bit fuzzy at that point in time, so I just followed along. The ridge was steep in some areas, but not bad. Just tough hiking.

After about two hours of hiking we reached the "peak" on that particular ridge. From the photograph it appears that all a hiker has to do is go left, cross the bridge between the two main stems of the mountain, and scurry up the Indian's Head.

Not so. Once we reached the top we discovered there is no direct, connecting route from the minor peak to the bridge. Behind the minor peak the mountain drops significantly and veers to the right. Then one must cross a ledge and climb up a dome in order to connect with the trail up to Indian Head Peak.

I approached the ledge. It was approximately 8 feet long, and at most 3 feet wide. The drop off to the left was at least 500 feet, and the drop off to the right was minimum, 1000 feet. The dome was not a significant angle, but for my level of climbing, I would have had all the necessary pro. Instead all I had were approach shoes.

I stood frozen. WRL was already at the top of the dome. He has climbed most of the major, international class climbs in America, including Half Dome, El Capitan, Tahquitz. He and his buddy, Mark, created the route, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," on El Gran Trono Blanco in Baja. This was a walk up for him.

"Don't look down, and just do it. Power through it. Don't stop your momentum when you get to the dome, just keep going," he said.

I took a deep breath, and crossed the ledge. But I stopped when I reached the dome. I couldn't find a hand hold. Then I looked down.

"Stop it!!" he yelled at me. "Don't look down, look up. Look at me!! Now don't worry about handholds. Stand up straight, and walk up the dome. Trust your shoes."

Tears started falling down my face. I was stuck. I couldn't move. It was certain death. One false slip on the dome, and the only option was to fall at least 1000 feet.


I don't recall anything else about the climb. But obviously I made it, because I am here today. I recall a little of the hike back through Palm Canyon. And I recall being angry with myself because I had not pitched my tent beforehand. It was dusk when we returned to the campground and I was beyond exhausted. One shot of mescal and I was out for the night.

This story has no moral to it, no grand higher meaning. It just is.

1 comment:

MaoMao said...

Oh wowie, that's a wunnerful story. It gave Momma the chills. Great job on the climb -- what a great adventchure! Momma's furry outdoorsy and likes to do lots of hikin, too.

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao!