Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Deadman Peak / Lookout

A business associate dropped by my office a few weeks ago. Just one of those "We want to do some more business and how soon can we get something going?" type visits. During the short meeting I got up rather stiffly, and walked over to the copy machine. He commented on my awkward movements and asked if I had been to the gym. I told him I had been climbing, he said "Really?, Where?" I told him I had been on a few short trips into the Wyoming Range, and loved the area. He then startled me by saying that as a very young man he had spent some time there, more specifically, in the Deadman Canyon locale.
Three -Toed Woodpecker

As a young man (he is now close to 70) his father would take him up to this area to load coal into their small truck. This was around 1955 and there were several coal mines in operation way up in the high places of this mountainous area. The mine they used the most was called the Blind Bull. To get to it they had to pass the Vail Mine, now known as the Deadman Mine.......

Deadman Cabin

We go back to February 1938. Five miners are wintering over in this remote spot high in the mountains. They are working the mine to stockpile coal to be sold and hauled out the next summer. Carrie Baker, the wife and mother to two of the miners also worked as a cook for all the men.

Deadman View

Carrie was busy making dinner for the men when she heard an explosion. Not unusual for the type of work they were involved in. Not long afterwards Henry Ash stumbled through the door. "There has been a terrible accident, an explosion in the mine" he gasped. Through clenched teeth he told Carrie she would have to use the old set of cross country skis and ski six miles down the canyon to get help.


Now the Young family had homesteaded an area on the Grays River in the 1920's. Sam, his wife and two sons were asleep in their small cabin. Sam awoke to the sound of his dog barking and he leaned up on an elbow to listen closer. He could hear the sound of another dog barking, so he arose, dressed and went outside into the frigid air. He followed the sound of the barking dog and soon saw it and knew the dog came from the mines up the canyon. The dog lead him to a shape laying on the ground. It was Carrie, exhausted and crying. She had given up. Sam brought her down to the cabin, warmed her up and she was then able to tell what had happened.

Sam and his son Rex donned winter gear and skied the six long miles up to the mine that night. They found Henry Ash in the cabin, dead. The four other miners they found in the mineshaft, also dead.
Deadman Cabin

It was determined that coal dust in the shaft from previous blasts had ignited when they set off the last blast of the day. It blew two mine cars clear across the canyon. The four miners inside the mine, John and Bill Baker, Denver Holbrook, and Rulon Ivie were killed instantly. Henry Ash, who was was outside the mine, died from his injuries when the tipple collapsed on him.

The Lincoln County highway crews, assisted by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, cleared seven feet of snow from 30 miles of the Grays River road and the six miles of access road up to the mine. Four of the bodies were sent home to North Carolina. Rulon Ivie was buried in Utah. Carrie Baker recovered and returned to the East, grateful to the Young family and her shaggy black dog that she had not perished as well.

I accidentally found out about (through the Ranger Station in Afton Wyoming) and tracked down the Grandson of Sam Young. To my great surprise, I learned that he lived only a couple miles from me. I called him up and talked at length about this area and it's history.

Deadman Lookout

The Mine, Canyon and the Mountain are now known by the name "Deadman". Deadman Mountain was used for a fire lookout from the 1930's to the late 60's. It still sits atop this remote peak. It is no wonder it was put here, the surrounding views are outstanding. The Salt River Range, the entire length of the Wind River Range, along with the Tetons and parts of the Gros Ventre can be seen, not to mention the surrounding mountains like Hoback and McDougal.

Trenton, Tate and I climbed this peak in the summer of 2007! Nice trip, well worth the effort to get there!

Trenton - Deadman Peak

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mount McDougal

Tate and I planned a short overnight trip up into the Wyoming Range, for a jaunt up McDougal. This peak just north of Triple and south of Deadman. We found an exceptional camping spot a few miles downstream just above N. Cottonwood Creek. Perched on a bench we had an uninterrupted view from McDougal all the way past Triple Peak. Outstanding. Built a fire and cooked hamburgers and fried potatoes. Delicious!


Slept in the back of the Durango for expeditious reasons, and woke very early to get a good start on this short but steep trek. As I rolled down one of the windows a couple of frisky yearling elk paused long enough from play to look over at us from the edge of a meadow and then disappeared around some trees.

Wyoming Range

Triple Peak

**Better shots of McDougal can be found on the Triple Peak report, and this one shows shots of Triple.....

We ate while we drove the few miles to the trail head and were soon walking up the trail. We came to the old Cottonwood Coal Mine, not much more than a big pile of discarded low grade coal, with one building standing, the powder shack.

We left the trail and headed up the ever steepening slopes of our chosen peak. We soon left the scrubby vegetation and crossed slopes of rock that was at first fairly solid, but soon became the stuff that every climber hates - loose scree. You know, one step up, two steps back. We toughed it out and reached the upper slopes of this route, not the regular route I may add. Too much snow lay on the easier SE slopes still, so we picked our way carefully up a steep south ridge. One small steep section of class 4 and we found ourselves within a couple 100 feet from the top. Huge snow cornices blocked the final 20-30 feet. We thought about digging through but decided to call it good.

"Hoofin" it!

Tate on McDougal

Tate on McDougal

A short lunch / rest and we found ourselves on the way down. We saw an easier way to get to the trail head and took it, cutting off perhaps a quarter mile of trail. A great little "hike"!

Triple Peak

We had plenty of time to get home so we drove over to Daniel through the desert and down the Hoback to Granite Creek for a short soak in the hot spring located 1/4 mile downstream from the pool. Ahhhhhh!

Near Granite Creek Hot Springs