Porter Peak, Sentinel Peak
By: Igor Mamedalin
Ever since witnessing sunrise from atop White Mtn. in complete awe, I have wanted to repeat the unparalleled experience of watching a mountain's shadow cone extend across the land to a virtual infinity point on the horizon. The Panamint Range, separating two deep valleys (Death Valley and Panamint Valley), is a prime candidate for this unique experience. Hence, the leaders decided that a backpack along the Panamint crest would be an ideal setting, with a climb of two peaks accepted as a bonus.
Saturday morning the leaders met five stalwart participants (Alterio Banks, Jim Farkas, Martha Flores, Bruce & Terry Turner) at the intersection of Trona Road and the dirt road to Ballarat. Proceeding up Pleasant Canyon on a fair 4WD road we made good time -- evidence of recent road grading was abundant. We drove to just above 7,200' on the Mormon Gulch spur after missing the turnoff to Cooper Mine, our original goal. From the Mormon Gulch we gained the ridge quickly and followed it to the top of Porter Peak gaining 1,800' and arriving there by lunch.
How does one spend an afternoon on top of a desert peak? How often does one get an opportunity to indulge in such luxury? Bill Banks took off to scout the ridge to Sentinel; Suzanne read aloud, for everyone's edification, the pro and con arguments to the propositions appearing on the November ballot; Igor built stone monuments to honor the mountain gods, only to have them devastated by the foul breath of evening wind gods; the remaining participants snoozed in the warm afternoon sun. Bill returned before sundown assuring us that the way to Sentinel Peak was clear for us in the morning. Sunset on top of Porter was as beautiful as I anticipated the sunrise to be. Evening was cold, windy, and miserable; the campfire sputtered streams of sparks and failed to warm up the huddling cold bodies.
Sunday morning the sun cast Porter's shadow across the Panamint Valley to the distant Sierra as we arose yawning, rubbing sleep from our eyes. With blue skies above us and no wind to chill us we strolled joyfully along the crest toward Sentinel Peak. Bill guided our way and signed in on Sentinel two days in a row; on the return journey along the crest nobody bothered to sign in again on Porter. After picking up our gear on top of Porter we made a quick descent to the cars. On the way out everyone stopped at Clair's camp, an abandoned mining town, to pick through the ruins --judging by the abundance and diversity of scattered books, the miners at Clair's camp must have been a scholarly lot.
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