Der Tooth & Nine Others Around Gold Valley

Where: Mojave National Preserve, California
When: January 2010
Who: Matthew Holliman

Matthew had forwarded me a 1970 Andy Smatko trip report that spoke glowingly of Der Tooth and a plethora of other high-quality peaks around Gold Valley. Among these were North and South Tower, which we put first and second on our to-do list for the weekend. Here we go:

North Tower - A very ho hum peak, if you wanna call it that. Really just a subsidiary bump on a small peak next to Barber Benchmark. A touch of class 3 scrambling put us on top.

North Tower from South Tower

South Tower - Although the map shows otherwise, our observations (as well as the information in Smatko's trip report) determined that South Tower is a touch higher than North Tower. It's also a touch less interesting. A couple class 2-3 moves put you on the top, a mere 5-10 minutes from the summit of North Tower.

Columbia Mountain - This lame named peak stood between North/South Tower and Der Tooth, our next objective, so we decided to bag it. We were 30 minutes car-to-car via the southeast face.

Der Tooth - Based on Smatko's info, this was to be the highlight peak of the weekend. As it turned out, the single pitch of class 4-5 scrambling was fun but the peak was just too minor to really be considered a "peak." Der Tooth, frankly, is a crag; albeit a fine one at that!

Der Tooth from the trailhead

Matthew heading up Der Tooth

On the summit of Der Tooth

Der Tooth - the route essentially follows the right skyline

Woods Mountains Highpoint - With a quick four peaks already under our belt that morning, we headed over to the Woods Mountains to bag the unnamed highpoint. It was a quick affair. We noted the name of Bob Burd's friend, Evan Rasmussen, in the register. Evan is the only person to date to have bagged the highpoint of every mountain range in California!

Table Top - After the Woods Mountains highpoint, Matthew and I headed off to bag Table Top, the flat topped mesa that is so visible from the Mid Hills/Hole in the Wall region. Rather sloggy, it was over quickly and the views from the top were nice.

Twin Buttes - North (aka Tawoo Peak) - This peak looked really nice from Black Canyon Road, so we decided to bag it after Table Top. Little did we know, but this was to be the best peak of the weekend! Excellent class 3-4 scrambling put us on the top via the north face. On the summit, we found a Smatko register from May 1969, in which he claimed a first ascent. He dubbed the peak 'Tawoo Peak' and not a soul had signed in since! Ours was the first in 41 years!
Just below the summit, along the summit ridge

Matthew on the summit of Tawoo Peak

The Tawoo Peak summit register in Jan '10

Twin Buttes - South (aka Woota Peak) - After a spicy downclimb of the southeast face of Tawoo Peak, I traversed alone over to the south summit of Twin Buttes. With yet more interesting scrambling, I found another May 1969 Smatko register claiming a 'first recorded ascent'. It had been signed only one other time, by a park ranger in 1994, and Smatko dubbed the peak 'Woota Peak'.
The Woota Peak summit register

Returning to the car 1.5 hours before dark, I asked Matthew if he wanted to go off and bag Barber Benchmark (which I'd already done). He decided to call it a day and tick off Barber the following afternoon. After some dinner, we headed over to a fine desert car camping spot not far from Hole in the Wall.

Tortoise Shell Mountain - Rising casually Sunday morning, we decided to bag Tortoise Shell Mountain, which lies on the southeast corner of the Woods Mountains. With a few ups and downs as we crossed a couple canyons on the approach, the summit was soon bagged. It was not particularly memorable.
Views from Tortoise Shell Mountain

Wild Horse Mesa - Driving back up Wild Horse Canyon, we parked where we had for North/South Tower the morning before and started up the east ridge of the mesa. With surprisingly fun scrambling, we accidentlly passed right by the highpoint in pursuit of another point a bit away that appeared higher. Soon realizing our error, we backtracked to the true highpoint, where we found a cairn and register. We descended via the somewhat interesting east face.
The view toward Edgar and Mitchell from Wild Horse Mesa

Hole in the Wall - Since DB and I had already climbed Barber Benchmark via Hole in the Wall (the only decent way to climb it!) a couple/few years earlier, we agreed to hang out and explore Hole in the Wall and Banshee Canyon while Matthew bagged the peak. It was a fun time to scramble around and snag a few photos.

Banshee Canyon

Matthew climbing Barber Benchmark, from across Banshee Canyon

Where's Waldo?

By the time Matthew finished up with Barber, I'd polished off the last of my water, kicked off my shoes, and was in the mood to recline. So with a bit of sadness, we bid Matthew farewell and bee-lined it to Mad Greek in Primm (the one without the roaches on the counters).