Hunter Mountain, Skidoo
By: Ron Jones
PANAMINT EXPLORATORY-HUNTER MTN TO SKIDOO(almost)
Three people met Steve & Debbie Smith at Skidoo at 6 am Saturday. They were Barbara Reber, Don Weiss and Duke Blakesly. Richard Lejnieks and I had been at Hunter Mtn since Saturday scouting the route into Cottonwood Cyn. Steve's group left two cars at Skidoo (5500 ft) including one 4WD, another 4WD at the Emigrant Ranger Station, and then Steve drove everyone to Hunter Mtn, Joining us about 9am and making a group of 7 climbers. We met at the end of a unmapped 200 meter long road which branches SE from the Hunter Mtn Road, ending inside D. V. Monument near the enclosed contour of 6760+, and northeast of the spring shown at the UTM grid location of 572455 on the Marble Canyon Topo.
We spent the morning backpacking through the low rolling hills trying to stay on the trail leading to Cottonwood Cyn shown on the topo. Near the Hill at 6872 we came across an old enamel trail sign reading in part, "Skidoo 38 miles". The trail follows exactly as shown on the map, there was a small amount of water at the springs shown (although don't count on it to drink), and we lunched at the spring shown at 5000' in the head of Cottonwood Cyn. Hiking weather was perfect and we reached our first day' s camp at Cottonwood Springs by 3 pm, passing three more enamel signs enroute and having gone about 13 miles with 2900' elevation loss. There is a lot of year round water which should be treated and plenty of wood for a campfire at this pleasant campsite.
Sunday we started about Barn and hiked up the southern slopes of Cottonwood Canyon gaining about 1700' in 6 miles to the crest of the Panamint Mtns. By this time the wind was kicking up in 40 to 60 mile gusts as the first big storm of winter was blowing in. The Panamint Valley below looked like a JPL photo of Mars as dust from the dry lake was billowing up thousands of feet and sand, from the Panamint dunes streamed across the upper end of the valley. We dropped our packs, and pushing against the wind forced our way 1400 ft in nearly 3 miles to the tap of Panamint Butte, 6585'. The views were impressive. We could see Telescope, Sentinel, Argus, Maturango, Tucki Pleasant, Inyo, Keynot and N.Y. Butte but the views over Death Valley were obscured by dust. The Sierras stood out as yet unmantled by snow. While we were near the summit Steve Smith, Don Weiss, DPS member Richard Lejnieks and myself independently suggested that this peak be nominated for inclusion on the DPS peak list. Debbie and Duke thought it a great peak and one abstained the nomination. The peak can be climbed as we were doing as a very interesting backpack or it can be climbed as a long day hike from Towne Pass (16 mi RT, 4,000+' gain) or also from the Big Four Mine area in Panamint Valley (5 mi RT, 4,100' gain).
From the top we dropped back to our packs and with the clouds rolling in we backpacked NE into Lemoigne Cyn. and camped at about 4,B00'. We had carried an, extra gallon of water this day as we knew our camp would be a dry one. During the night it began to rain and then snow and we awoke Monday am to a 3-4" blanket of snow over our tents and the entire landscape. We quickly ate and started down canyon in occasional snow flurries turning to steady hard rain arriving at Emigrant Ranger Station between 11 and 11:30. The snow level there was about 800 feet above us and Tucki was mantled with snow. There was time to continue the hike up to Skidoo as planned but the weather being as it was our spirits were not willing. Instead we finished the hike here, shuttled our cars back up to Hunter Mtn through 8 or 10 inches of new snow and drove back through a snow covered desert and with chains over Cajon Pass to home. Thanks again to Steve for a great assist.
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