By: Dave Baldwin
The following is a description of the western approach to Dry Mountain from Saline Valley used on a successful climb of the mountain on 1 February 1997. This route is listed as "Route B" in the 3rd edition of the Road and Peak Guide of the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section. Some updated and modified information is provided which may help anyone attempting the mountain using this route. The Guide describes the Saline Valley Road running north from California 190, east of Olancha as "fair, paved road" which gives way to "excellent dirt". The first 8.2 miles of this road would be more accurately described as excellent dirt showing signs of having once been paved. The nest 30+ miles of "excellent dirt" may be wide and free of ruts and large rocks, but at the time of this trip, the washboard surface of the road was so rough that even drivers of stout Toyota trucks have since reported "parts falling off' due to the intense vibration. This was nearly unbearable at any speed from 5 to 50 mph. The measured distance from highway 190 stated in the Guide leads to a good to fair road leading along the south side of The Dunes toward Saline Warm Springs. A better dirt road to the Springs can be found by continuing an additional 5.8 miles north on the Saline Valley Road to a junction marked by a large, colorfully painted boulder. It is 7.1 miles from this junction to Lower Warm Springs. The next 10+ miles of road beyond the Springs is in fair condition with one short, steep, rocky section about 4 miles from the Springs where 4WD would be helpful. The appropriate parking place for the start of the climb is probably best found by measuring 10.8 miles from Lower Warm Springs. The hike begins with a walk eastward across the desert floor toward a large fan leading up to a narrow gap in the foothills. Almost immediately after passing this gap the canyon forks radically and the route proceeds up the left fork between a steep wall on the west and sloping slabs on the east toward an area of strikingly red rock. A reasonable variant to the route proceeds up these slabs which are cut by numerous shallow troughs. The rock here is loose, so extreme caution must be used to avoid causing dangerous rockfall. Above the slabs, the slope eases as prominent ridge is gained. This is followed to the 6500' saddle mentioned in the Guide. (The map and altimeter would suggest an elevation closer to 6400' at the saddle.) The route then begins an arduous scree traverse contouring around the north side of hill 7326'. It is important to stay below the rocks of hill 7326' until it is possible to descend into the deep wash to the northeast, just below the point where the wash makes a sharp turn to the east. About 200 yards upstream from this bend, an alternative to the Guide route may be pursued by ascending a slope on the north side of the prominent ridge descending from point 7610'. This slope is climbed on the north side of the ridge until it is possible to gain the crest of the ridge to the northwest of point 7610'. From here a prominent ridge can be followed toward point 8626' until it is possible to traverse to the summit. This route is shorter than Guide Route B or its alternate and avoids unnecessary loss of elevation enroute. Descending from the mountain requires some careful route finding, particularly below saddle 6500'. When descending the ridge below this point, numerous routes are possible due to forks in the ridge. These subsidiary ridges are separated at the base by deep gullies which are difficult and dangerous to cross. Unfortunately. the landmark red rocks in the initial gully are not visible from above until after a commitment to one of these ridges has been made. Probably the best defense against a route finding error here is a good look to the rear during ascent. Total time for this trip was 10 1/2 hours. After a long day on the mountain, one should not miss a hot shower and long soak in one of the warm water tubs at Palm Spring or Lower Warm Springs.
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