Ascent of New York Butte on 1946-05-19

Climber: Frederick Johnson

Others in Party:Sierra Club DPS group led by Niles Werner
Ian Mackinlay
Carlo Schueller
Date:Sunday, May 19, 1946
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:New York Butte
    Elevation:10668 ft / 3251 m

Ascent Trip Report

After picking up my good friends Ian Mackinlay and Carlo Schueller, we drove out of town under a dark, threatening sky. But fears of bad weather quickly folded once we hit the desert, where there was nothing but sun. A stop at Mojave for a hamburger, malt, and a straw hat.

The desert was canopied with many fleecy afternoon thunderheads, which meant taking a few pictures along Hwy 395. At Lone Pine we cooled off with a couple of Cokes at the Keebird, then drove off in search of a swim. We went up as far as Chrysler and Cook’s pack station on Carroll Creek before giving up on finding a good swimming spot. So we came back to town for a huge steak dinner.

About 8:OOP we started looking for the Sierra Club group in Jawbone Canyon. After a couple false leads, we finally located them a few miles east of Lone Pine over a typical desert washboard road. We camped as far as we could drive up Long John Canyon, with the lights from Manzanar winking in the distance and the Sierra silhouetted behind.

Up at 2:30A on May 19 to break camp and begin what they said was to be a 6,500’, 8-mile climb up New York Butte. At 4:00, at the end of the road at Dead Mule Spring in Long John Canyon, we passed the main group, who had backpacked in a short way and were just crawling out of their sacks. Here we started the climb out of Long John Canyon. It was soon light as we met a ridge, went around a hill, then entered a wash that brought us to another ridge. At 5:30 we met four of the group who had camped at about 7,500’ in some pinon pines to be on hand for the sunrise. Then some tomato juice before starting the next half of the climb that continued up the ridge to more level ground, where, on the Inyo crest at 9,500’, we passed the Old Ironsides mine, abandoned in 1942. From here we made a long contour before climbing up to the summit ridge, which is plainly seen much of the way. Finally, at 8:55 several of us scrambled up the last rocks to the top, where we found the benchmark, cairn, and register. The rest of the group didn’t start arriving until 9:45; so I relaxed on top taking in one of the best views I’ve ever had. What could I see? So many of the desert peaks, the Saline and Owens Valleys, and 40 miles of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra, which held, among its many peaks, seven 14,000’ summits. The most striking thing to me was the contrast of New York Butte’s steep mountain wall rising from the barren Saline Valley so many thousands of feet below. I spent some talking with our leader, Niles Werner, who knew so much about the Sierra peaks as well as the desert ones. Before leaving, several of us visited the crag just a few hundred feet to the south and judged it to be a bit higher than the marked summit. But who's to say?

We wasted little time on the way down, although we did poke around the Old Ironsides mine and stopped for a bite to eat at the pinon pines. By now ominous thunderheads were everywhere. Despite the cloud cover, we still had to endure the scorching heat which we had avoided with our early morning start. The trail seemed endless as we walked our feet off. At last, at 3:55P, we reached the cars, a welcome sight to say the least. Then to Lone Pine for a malt and on home, with frequent stops to water our dry mouths.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6668 ft / 2032 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Trailhead:Long John Canyon  4000 ft / 1219 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 

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