Ascent of Val Verde County High Point on 2002-03-12

Climber: Scott Surgent

Date:Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Val Verde County High Point
    Elevation:1700 ft / 518 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bob Martin and I camped in the open desert a few miles north of Dryden. During the night, we were rousted by a Border Patrol agent, but he let us stay. From our camp area, Bob and I started looking for ways to get near the highpoint of Val Verde County. The highpoint is atop a bluff overlooking the Pecos River in the county's extreme northwest corner, miles from the nearest decent roads.

We started from the northwest, following oil roads through a refinery plant called Terrell Plant, plopped incongruously atop the desert flats. There is company housing here, but it is a dreary place, being so remote and nearby a big smelly loud refinery. We drove through the plant, the roads so far not being posted against travel.

We came to a series of large "push" gates spanning the roads. These gates are unlocked but tensioned so that the trucks can nudge into them and pass through without the need to have someone hold it open. Once through, the tension pushes the gate back to its original position. Neither of us wanted to scratch up our vehicles in this manner, so one of us would get out to hold open the gate while the other passed through.

We were now in the middle of nowhere following a warren of sandy roads. There were no features to reckon by, nor signs that named the roads. Also, the roads did not match the map. We decided to stay on the main road and hope for the best. After about a dozen miles, we came to the cliffs overlooking the Pecos River, and drove down a steep road into the bottom. Wouldn't you know, people live there. Bob had driven ahead, but I stopped to greet these people, who were undoubtedly surprised to see us.

They were friendly. I explained our intentions. They told us we were about five miles north of where we wanted to be. More importantly, they were eager for us to leave. I begged their pardons and told them I'd have to go fetch Bob, who was about a mile down the river, futzing with his GPS. I told Bob that we should vacate, and we did. We weren't going to get near the highpoint this way anyway.

We drove back up the bluffs and retraced our route through the Terrell Plant, and back out to the nearest paved road. Looking at the maps, I think we were on Upper Geddis Canyon and Richland Springs Roads. We gathered ourselves back on state route TX-349. Two hours had passed. We had a plan B.

We drove south on TX-349 to Pumpville Road. This road goes east and would bypass the highpoint to its south. The map showed lesser roads that get "close" to the highpoint, but we'd have to possibly ford the river itself and probably climb the bluffs on the other side, assuming there wasn't some road already put in.

We drove Pumpville Road, but had no luck finding decent secondary roads that would get us close to the highpoint. Everything was gated and fenced. We drove over 30 miles on this road, crossing into Val Verde County, eventually stopping for a soda and a rest in the town of Pandale, population 10, all of them in the town's cafe at this very moment. This is the type of place where people get around on ATVs. Plan B was a bust. We actually had a Plan C.

North of Pandale, we saw a "decent" road heading west. We drove in and came upon a couple push gates, We passed through these then came upon a "Posted" notice. We were about six miles from the highpoint area, and the road looked good, so we continued on. However, we came upon a second such notice. We figured we could feign ignorance if we missed one notice, but not two. Thus, we decided to exit.

We drove north on the main road into Crockett County, where the pavement resumed. Believe it or not, we had a Plan D. However, this Plan D was doomed from the start (D for doomed, get it?). A big ranch property along this road might have included the highpoint, but we couldn't get past the front, locked gates. After five hours and nearly one hundred driving miles devoted to this task, we finally conceded defeat. We drove into Ozona on Interstate-10. I got a new air-filter and went on ahead to hike the Schleicher County highpoint, while Bob drove to the town of Barnhart where we would meet a few hours later.
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