Telescope Peak from Death Valley

4 Nov 1995 - by Jeff Fisher

Was it really a 12,000 foot day as the 2 Avocet altimeter readings averaged out to? Just check out the "glut" muscles (no touching) of some the members at the next PCS meeting to know for sure. Well, on Sat. Nov. 4, six of us, Scott Sullivan and Elena Sherman (both from the CMC in LA), Eddie Sudol (SF), Jeff Fisher (RWC), Lisa Dersh (PA) and Steve Eckert (Blmt) set out to climb Telescope Peak in Death Valley, 5 of the group from the valley floor.

Leaving Shorty's Well at -253 feet. (yes NEGATIVE, as in BELOW sea level) the temperature was in the mid 40's, at 3:45 AM. We set out up Hanaupah Canyon, the first part of the trek was up a 4WD road. We almost made it up this same road the day before in a 2WD truck while scouting for water. The road part went fairly quickly. There was water in the stream beginning at about 3,200 feet. We tanked up at about 3,600 feet, around 10 miles and 3.5 hours in. We headed north up a subsidiary ridge to a larger west ridge, beginning the cross- country part of our climb up just about where the stream becomes choked with vegetation to the point where you can't see the water anymore. We were surprised to find remnants of a trail on this subsidiary ridge, which zigzags many times before traversing above a steep loose bowl and leading to a well-ducked saddle at 5000 feet.

As we headed west up the ridge, beautiful views were to be had looking down the ridge at the valley below us. We went through surprisingly easy terrain including pinyon forests and rocky outcroppings. I must say the leader did a great job of leading the group as he followed Steve up the final push to the ridge that the trail follows. We aimed for the left edge of a square-looking ramp just right of a steeper bowl, because it looked like a lower angle way to the trail ridge. The brush was short, but the footing was a little loose at times.

The trail of the normal route was reached about 12:45 PM at about 10,000 feet. at the point next to a big old (and very dead) Bristle cone pine. After a long break, beautiful views and many pictures taken we continued our climb, meeting the other member of the group (who had driven the carpool vehicle around the 80 miles to the pick-up point at Mahogany Flat) on her way down. She turned around and resummitted with us at 2:30 PM adding 1,000 feet. and 2 miles to her day. Despite the temperature being 38 F. and windy we spent 30 minutes on the summit (11,058) taking group photos and a group hug.

As the sun set the temp didn't get to much warmer. The last of us arrived at the vehicle at 5:20 PM (Steve already had shaven and changed his clothes) The usual tailgate refreshment party then became the "let's get the hell out of here it's cold movement". So off we went driving into the darkness bumping down the dirt road with a warm glow of dirt and sweat on our bodies, and the happy feeling that there is the 17,000 feet slope on the north face of Mt. McKinley (Denali for the PC people) still to be done. We did NOT know that some of us would get to the showers to late to get one.

P.S. A small pre-hike by two members of the Telescope peak party was done up Manly Peak from Mengel Pass. One had done some minor warm-up hikes like a 10,800 feet day up San Jancinto and the other had been to the high points of not 1 but 27 different states in the previous 3 weeks, so it obviously was a deed of great heroics, daring-do, and sore glut muscles (from driving 400 miles a day).

Anyhow the peak was not so manly but the drive up the 4WD road in a Ford Ranger 2WD probably was. Actually it was a real interesting day, trying to orienteer off of a glossy Death Valley park brochure and a DeLorme map book with 100 meter contours. The summit block was small 3rd or 4th class climb, and the bench mark at the top settled all our questions that the peak a half mile to the north was not Manly (the bench mark said Manly Pk). The register indicated that there had been no one at the peak since May of this year. Views fom the summit were great.

There was much discussion by the two as to what and where the landmarks were that were seen from the summit, and the distance to Death Valley, and if the valley in front of us was Death Valley. But the tuna melt dinner eaten by the southern San Mateo county hiker was enjoyed more that the other tuna melts he had eaten every other day for the past month, probably because he didn't have to pay for it. It is not known for sure how the San Mateo county resident to the north enjoyed his meal, which consisted of Humble Pie.

by the southern san mateo county resident


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