Well, no, it wasn’t the first. Consider that poetic license. But it was the first ascent anyone I knew made and caused it to seep into the public eye. So there. So my story is the first “official” ascent of Tikaboo was March 12, 1994 by Glenn Campbell, myself and my wife Jeri.
At the time, it was obvious that Freedom Ridge was well on its way to being shut down. I had done a number of sightline analyses of various mountain peaks, looking for alternatives. Pete Merlin had mentioned he attempted to get to the top of Tikaboo Peak previously, but had been turned back by snow. He parked at Badger Spring and made it as far as the false summit. By March we thought conditions had improved to the point where it looked like it could be done.
Jeri and I met up with Glenn Campbell in Alamo, drove in as far as Badger Spring and hoofed it through occasional snow patches from there. The route past Badger Spring was very overgrown at that time and snowy. From the saddle camp, we didn’t go today’s route, which is straight up the talus face. Instead, we headed off the to right straight for the high saddle. This forced us to traverse the steep face to the right and below today’s route. This was clearly a mistake, but we didn’t know it until we were half way up that damn slope.
Now at that time I didn’t really know Glenn well. We had met at a few of his crazy events out near Freedom Ridge. But I had assumed that a guy who had spent as much time in the desert as he had was an accomplished desert rat (that was the name of his publication, after all). I expected some sort of outdoorsy, savvy kind of guy. Instead here we were on a steep, snowy slope face and he was in a pair of worn, Wal-Mart hiking boots, carrying a six pack of Mt. Dew in what appeared to be a rip off of a Gucci makeup case (kind of a rigid hat-box like affair, with a shoulder strap). Not exactly a vision out of a North Face ad. Still, he had a lot of good stories.
Finally reaching the top, we were amazed by the view. It was one of those perfect vision days, with a 360 degree view. We knew right away it had potential, but wasn’t really necessary unless Freedom Ridge was ever closed. We kept quiet about it for a while, thinking it would be a good place to lurk, as there would be no way for the powers that be to know someone was up there. We were also concerned (and rightly so, it turns out), that visits by a lot of people would trash the place. It was pretty pristine back then.
Interestingly, we found evidence that someone had been there watching previously. The elongated rock shelter that Glenn eventually turned into the “Shrine of Our Lady of the Black Budget” had been constructed to allow someone to peep at Groom in comfort. It was about the size of a bathtub, and pointed directly at Groom. This allowed someone to lay down inside it, out of the wind. There was a large flat rock at the back end against which their back would rest. And right across the top in front of where a person would recline was a 4×4 timber upon which they could rest a spotting scope, right in front of their face. There were also a few old MRE packets around.
In all the years since we never found out who constructed the shelter, but it was no one in our circle. My guess is that it was either serious espionage types, or maybe off duty millitary guys from Nellis determined to see for themselves if anything was going on out there.
Nothing of particular note was visible at the base, with the exception (if I remember right) of the usual Janet activity.
One curious thing. Glenn was in a construction mood on that trip, and we rearranged the big timbers up there, as well as piled rocks, to form sort of a wall, facing out towards Groom. This would allow people to sit down and peep out with scope resting on the wall. It also kept us warm, because it was damn cold! When we returned a few weeks later (hauling up the sacramental lawn chairs), the thing had been knocked over. I still don’t know whether it was wind, or someone pissed at what we had done. It seemed pretty massive to have been knocked over by wind.
Here’s an annotated panorama, taken on a much later trip, showing the fantastic view from Tikaboo Peak. Click on it to make with the biggers::
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