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Eagle Peak, Smith Mountain (DPS)

16-17 January 1965

Leaders: Ben Romero, John Robinson, Frank Sanborn


With the holidays just passed, and with all those potatoes, gravy and egg nogs, one has a tendency to put on weight and get out of condition. So with this in mind, some 100 Peakers decided to prepare for the coming season by taking in some so-called conditioning trips and it was agreed that we would participate on the coming DPS trip to Smith Mtn. in Death Valley on Jan. 17.

A study of the maps revealed that Eagle Pk. was in the general area and that we might use that climb as a trip tightener. Ben Romero asked for permission to lead the hike for sentimental reasons. It seems that Ben lived in Death Valley Jnct., 20 years ago and each morning on awakening the first thing in view was Eagle Pk. The desire to climb the peak was so great that it became an obsession to him.

On Sat. morning a group of 100 Peakers drove to the base of the peak and started to the climb. The group consisted of Lorraine Pearson, Dave Scruggs, Janis Hawley, Miriam Myhre, Bob Van Allen and his son, Jim, Ben Romero and his grandmother Senora Mathilde, who now resides in Tecopa. Grandma's reason for climbing the peak was not because it was there, but in memory of some of her friends buried in the Junction cemetery. We were amazed at the agility of the little old lady despite her many years and how effectively she handled her cane on the 2nd and third class trailless route. The ascent was not only hilarious, but educational as well. Senora told of her early days in the Amargosa Region as a young girl living at one time or another in Johnnie, Pahrump, Ash Meadows, and in Greenwater. She spoke of cherished memories and friendships with such people as Death Valley Scotty, muleskinners Johnie O'Keefe and Frank Tilton. She remembered that it was through the efforts of Senator Charlie Brown (he was a clown) of Inyo County that Death Valley was opened up to the public to enjoy. Her greatest thrill was the first time she rode the now defunct Tonopah and Tidewater railroad to visit relatives in San Bernardino.

The group made several stops scrambling upt he rock and twice Grandma popped a button off her high-buckle shoes which Bob Van Allen repaired. The summit was reached in 1 hour and 19 minutes. A faster trip could have been made but Grandma needed two belays on two pitches near the top. Lunch on the summit was most pleasant. We all took a number of pictures and even Grandma got into the act with her old box camera. Grandma did not want to sign the register, however. She said she was on a pilgrimage and not peak-bagging. The descent was not without mirth for Senora's shawl, which doubled as a rucksack, kept falling off. When we got back to the cars we all agreed it had been an enjoyable trip. Grandma was only interested in getting home, soaking her feet and getting out of her "darned corset". She has to wear a back support since her early days as a climber while on a traverse of the Nopah and Kingston Ranges she fell and hurt her back.

Two things were learned on the trip - where Ben gets his stories and that when one has had a desire to climb a mountain for 27 years and realizes that ambition, climbers are born, not made.

Next day on the scheduled DPS trip led efficiently by John Robinson and Frank Sanborn we climbed Smith Mtn. The trip was uneventful and anti-climatic. Special praise must be given to Jim Van Allen (age 14 years) who made both peaks though he was footsore because of the new boots he was wearing.

(Author wishes to remain anonymous!)

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