Palen Mountains, Granite Mountain #2
By: Steve Smith
Ron and I had originally planned on backpacking Palen and Granite over 3 days but that got revised to two day hikes. Ron had to cancel out and along with the possibility of bad weather, I decided to just go for the normal day hikes of both peaks from their typical roadheads.
Quite a few people were interested in climbing these two eastern Riverside County peaks but only two showed up at the meeting point along SR-177 at the intersection with the Palen Pass Road about 17 miles north of Desert Center. With one winter storm having hit southern California and another ready to come through, I guess most of the potential climbers decided not to make the long drive and risk bad weather. As luck would have it, the storm missed southern California and the weather was mostly perfect the whole time.
We climbed Palen from the west side and the first 4 miles south off of the Palen Pass Road were interesting. Fortunately, with just two other climbers (Bill Banks and Ellen Holden), we could all ride in my 4-wd vehicle (nice to finally have a vehicle well suited for the DPS trips!) and got through the sandy stretch without any, problem. The climb from roads end at the Ironwood mine was uneventful and we had plenty of time on the summit.
Going back and picking up the other two vehicles, we had an easy drive up to Palen Pass since the road had recently been graded. We camped .5 miles in towards Packward Well and had a great campsite just north of Palen Pass. Sunday's hike of Granite went well and we were back to the vehicles by early afternoon. We gained the ridge a little early - about 1 mile south of the summit but the ridge goes well and it was an exceptionally clear day so it was nice viewing the great scenery.
The trip went well and the good weather made for a nice outing. Afterwards, I drove east from Palen Pass and the road was okay for high clearance vehicles all the way to Midland and the railroad track - although not as well defined as the western side.
ADDENDUM: In both summit registers, there were newer record books along with old and deteriorating portions of earlier record books. As what was left of the earlier books were already partly illegible and the paper was breaking off as I tried to open the pages, I decided to retrieve them.
I have put what remains of the two early registers from both summits inside of plastic pages so that both sides of each page can be read. I have given Owen Maloy the pages from Palen to return them to the summit on his scheduled March 3rd climb and will give the Granite pages to the leader of the next trip to climb that peak so that the early registers will be back on the summit. Hopefully, with each individual page inside of plastic, they will be preserved. Also it won't be necessary for other climbers to handle the paper in order to read the pages.
I made Xerox copies of each page and have sent them to the DPS chairman for possible use by the section. The following are copies of the earliest remaining pages from both summits:
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