Despite having climbed most of the peaks, there are still regions of the ridge line that I am unfamiliar with. Therefore the first order of business is to scout out these areas. Also it is clear to me that any attempt will need to travel fast and light, a near impossibility with the desert heat. Water caches are a must, so these scouting hikes should also serve to cache water in strategic locations throughout the ridge.
With those ideas in mind, I struck out for a solo trip to link up Organ Needle to the Wedge, with a possibility of going even further with time permitting. I left Las Cruces a little after 4am and after a quick gas stop, was leaving my car on Modoc road at 450 am. The quiet cool morning is perfect for hiking this easy stretch. I got my first surprise at the BLM gate, where someone was camped out. I startled him awake and he yelled "HEY!", making me jump as I hadn't really noticed him. "I'm just hiking, no worries" was my reply and hike on I went.
Feeling Good at Juniper SaddleAs I neared the top of Modoc road, I was able to put my headlamp away, the morning twilight was enough light. I flew by the regular landmarks on the trail up to the needle; Yellow rocks 6:06am, Juniper Saddle 6:37am, Dark Canyon Pine Tree 7:07, Organ Needle summit 7:26am. The cool morning and fresh legs made the going smooth. even so, I was happy to unload a gallon of water on the top of the Needle as a cache for future use.
I took a short break on the summit, and rifled through the summit register. There were several full notebooks filling up the container and I decided to take them down with me for archiving. It will be quite a project to log all these books, but I usually enjoy reading all the different accounts of who travels these mountains.
|Organ Needle Full Logbooks, coming along for the ride|
I descended the NW ridge of the needle, a route I had climbed a few years back. The down climbing was a bit exposed but solid. I left a poot sling to make the single 30m rappel down to the saddle. Once in the sadle between LST and the Needle, I climbe dup a short rocky headwall rather than traverse into the main gully. This followed the way I had descended from LST previously during the Lost Carabiner Route fiasco. It involves some low fifth and fourth calss moves, but is a quicker cleaner way to get over to LST.
|Scramble traverse into LST gully|
|My painful rappel spot off of LST|
At the bottom of the gully was more new terrain for me, I would have to traverse out of the gully to the north and find a point to cross over onto the east side of the ridge to reach the Wedge's standard route. The initial bush whacking to get out of the Square Top gully was the worst of the day, consisting mostly of dense and dead brush oak scrub. After only a short ways, i opted to ascend back up to the ridge-top following a faint climbers trail. This placed me on a nice perch between Square Top and the Wedge.
|Looking North with the Wedge behind me|
By the time I joined up with the Wedge's regular route it was getting hot, and I was slowing down. I finally summited the Wedge by 11:28am. Good time, but not fast enough to do the entire Organ Mountain ridge. My legs were beginning to ache, and my camelback was already empty. I only had one more 32 ounce water bottle left and considered heading back to the car. To go on would surely mean I would run out of water while still high in the mountains. While I was having these thoughts, I holed up under a boulder, the only decent shady spot on the summit and tried to eat some food.
|My shady nook on top of the Wedge|
|Third Peak's little summit cairn and knife-ridge|
My route to the summit of Dingleberry was unremarkable. I had to bushwhack a bit to get over to the ascent gully, but it wasn't very bad. The main thing that was getting at me was exhaustion and dehydration. I was nursing my last water, but the heat of the day was sapping me quick. I took advantage of every shady spot to rest and try to recuperate, but I was still slowing down. I finally reached the summit of Dingleberry at 1:21pm. The summit log I replaced a year or so ago is in good shape, and there has even been some traffic up here.
|Dingleberry, the 5th summit of the day for me!|
Once down in the Wildcat gully I decided to shuck my pack and go light up to the top of Wildcat. I still was nursing my water but I knew it was down to the last few sips. I was exhausted, but I slogged my way up to the top of Wildcat. the time was 2:30pm. I brought a copy of the old summit log to leave, so future parties will have a chance to read the history of this little peak. Then I turned around and started my descent.
Despite travelling on familiar terrain, the exhaustion and dehydration made the descent very trying. I sucked my last few drops of water down while still high in Wildcat gully, and the whole rest of the way I was fixated on nothing but water. I sang songs to myself to try to keep my mind occupied. I cursed myself for leaving an entire gallon up on the Needle. By 4pm I was at the top of Wholt's Welt. By 4:28pm I was back on Modoc road. One foot after another I just kept moving on. The lower I got, the hotter it was and I began to feel some of the signs I'd felt before.Nausea, cotton-mouth, tingling limbs. I held a glimmer of hope that the guy camped at the BLM gate would still be there and I could beg some water from him, but no such luck. I finally made it back the car at 5pm.
|Shady spot in Wildcat gully where I tried to regain my composure|