Mount Palmer, Grapevine Peak
By: Sue Holloway
Having climbed both of these peaks before, I knew that Palmer would be a long, hard day and I “advertised” it as such. I had checked the weather forecast on Thursday night as I certainly didn’t want to drive 900 miles and not get the peaks. There was a 40% chance of “rain showers” for Saturday with clearing on Sunday. I figured we could do Grapevine on Saturday and Palmer on Sunday if the weather was really bad on Saturday so Cliff and I left San Diego Friday morning and headed north. While topping off the gas tank in Beatty, we saw Richard and Kathleen doing the same so we caravanned to the 2WD trailhead. About the time we arrived at our camping location it started to snow. I was starting to think I had been overly optimistic about the weather.
We set up camp during the snow showers. Richard had a new overhead tarp arrangement which he and Kathleen constructed over the back of their truck. Once Cliff and I were set up, we huddled with them under their cover. Richard agreed that we’d try to climb Grapevine on Saturday if the snow continued. At the first lull in the precipitation, Cliff went to work in starting a campfire and soon we were sitting around the fire where the light snow didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t too long before Gail, Ken, Annemarie, Ann and Dave arrived and joined us around the fire. Intermittent light rain/snow showers were only a minor annoyance as we enjoyed the fire and socializing. Before turning in for the night, I told the group that if it was raining at 5:30 the next morning, we’d sleep in and try to climb Grapevine later in the day. Otherwise, we’d depart for Palmer at 6:30 a.m. sharp!
Well, it was only overcast Saturday morning so off we went, joined by Gary and Brian who drove in late Friday night. The hike from our campsite up to the saddle was great in that it served to get us all warmed up. From the saddle we started the climb with Richard leading the way. Visibility was poor so the navigation was a ~jg challenge but Richard did an outstanding job. Many times he was leading the group into total overcast/fog but only once (and then just momentarily) did we stray off route. Our breaks were short as it was too cold to stop for long; they usually served the purpose of keeping the group together. Up and down, up and down and finally we were on the summit ridge! There was lots of loose rock in the chute but we reached the summit without incident. We were lucky in that we had the best weather of the day while we were on the summit so we enjoyed an hour break on top.
Palmer’s one of those peaks that, once you’re on top, the climb is only half over as there’s as much (or at least it seems so) gain on the way down as on the way up. The clearing weather we had enjoyed on the summit didn’t last and, before long, Richard had to contend with the poor visibility again while leading the group back. The weather deteriorated even more and we all donned our rain jackets as it started to sleet/snow. Once again the breaks were short.. .just long enough to keep the group together. We were all back in camp by 4:30 which made for a 10 hour day. Given the conditions and the difficulty of the climb, I was pleased with our time.
Within 30 minutes happy hour began and was followed later by a great potluck dinner. Once again we enjoyed a huge campfire but this time there was no rain or snow; the weather seemed to be getting better!
Our start for Grapevine on Sunday was a bit later and, once again, we warmed up by hiking up to the saddle. With the beautiful, clear weather the long ridge to Palmer was clearly evident during the Grapevine climb. Some in the group thought it was better we hadn’t been able to see Palmer the day before; it looked so very far away Once again we enjoyed a long break on top and, during the descent, some of us lingered behind to look at the numerous geodes. We regrouped at the saddle and hiked back to camp where we rested and enjoyed leftover happy hour refreshments. With the exception of Gail who was ready to go again after a short rest, there was no interest in climbing Wahguyhe Peak as most had the long drive home ahead of them. Richard, Kathleen, Gail, Cliff and I weren’t leaving until Monday morning so, for once, we were able to sit back and watch the others leave. Gail talked Richard into climbing Wahguyhe with her while I could see no reason whatsoever to leave my chair. They successfully reached the summit and were back well before dark. The five of us enjoyed another fine night of desert camping, this one under the stars.
Thanks to Richard Carey, Co-Leader, whose expert navigation was invaluable on the Palmer climb. I also enjoyed the company of each of the other participants. Cliff Jones, Kathleen Mazur, Ann and Dave Perkins, Annemarie Schober, Gail Hanna, Ken Barr, Gary Craig and Brian Smith.
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