28-Oct-95 (Private trip)
By: Erik Siering
Hiking in the wee hours of the morning is rare, unless it's Death Valley or perhaps one of those infamous death march duo returns to camp. Bob Sumner and I hence found ourselves starting out at 2:30 a.m. to beat the DV heat, in our manly trek from Shorty's Well, at 250 ft below sea level, to climb Telescope Peak.
We met at Mahogany Flat Friday night. After midnight we left my truck, and Annie Kramer purring within, and drove Bob's truck to Shorty's Well. The Mahogany Flat and West Side dirt roads were both in excellent graded condition. Suitable for 2wd autos. RV's are another matter, as we later found out.
We hiked up the old mining track into Hanaupah Cyn, Bob's headlamp lighting our way. This dirt road is quite good for the first 4 to 5 miles, after which it progressively deteriorates into badly eroded 4wd as it curves into the canyon proper. Nine miles from Shorty's, the road disappears into the wash. Here at 3300', even late in the year, a sizable creek was flowing down from potable Hanaupah Springs. The plentiful water and green foliage seemed out of place in Death Valley. Roughly .25 mile of the road's end, as depicted on the 15 min topo, has been washed away over the years.
Pausing a moment for the approaching daybreak under gray, overcast skies, we then continued up the broad wash to 3600', where we reached a prominent side ridge dropping from the north. This is directly opposite from a continuation of the mining road cutting up the south side of the canyon to several mines. Just a touch of brush was encountered in the sandy gravel wash itself. Widespread fresh droppings indicated the fondness of wild burros for the area.
We climbed the side ridge steeply over open ground to about 5000' on the principal east-west ridge leading to the crest of the Panamint Range. A faint mining trail traversed the south side of this ridge, thereby avoiding a couple of bumps. Once the trail faded, we followed the ridge top as it climbed up and down through pinyon pine and sage covered slopes to finally intersect the Telescope Peak trail at 9700', within one mile of the summit.
We topped out at half past noon. Annie awaited us there, having come up the trail from Mahogany Flat. The summit register told of the Desert Survivors trail outing of the prior weekend. We tarried briefly, so that two hours later we were celebrating the day's effort with cold beer and hot quesadillas. Total stats: 21 miles, 11,500' gain, 12 hours total. A good workout.
A rainstorm struck our camp at the Flat that night. We rose in the morning to see the top 1000' of Telescope Peak covered with snow! Winter was definitely approaching. We packed and left early, only to encounter an immense RV, embedded sideways and perfectly blocking the dirt road above the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. The owners, a pair of elderly fellows, claimed to have taken the wrong turn in the night to Stovepipe Wells (!). Oh, and they were also low on gas and the brakes were going... A bit of futile digging to free the RV resolved us to 4wd through the adjoining brush to bypass the obstacle. We headed out to alert the NPS and to pick up Bob's truck at Shorty's Well.
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