Thomas Mountain, Rouse Hill, Olancha Peak, Five Fingers, Telescope Peak

30 August 1993 (Four emblems in 24 hours)

By: Rob Langsdorf


The Concept:
About 5 years ago I read about several people obtaining their Emblem status on the three Angeles Chapter Section Peak lists within a 24 hour period. I thought it would be a great challenge to obtain such status on 4 lists (the 3 peak lists and the Segment list of the Pacific Crest Trail Section) within a 24 hour period.

My plan was to reach the summit of Olancha, my 10th SPS emblem peak, shortly after midnight to begin the 24 hour period.

After returning to my vehicle I would drive to Kennedy Meadow to finish the Olancha Peak segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. (The San Diego Chapter has a Pacific Crest Trail Section (PCTS). The PCTS has divided the PCT into 60 segments of about 35-60 miles each. Their trail emblem requires completing 15 of these segments. The Olancha Peak segment is the 41 miles of PCT from Horseshoe Meadow to Kennedy Meadows.)

Then I would drive down 395 to bag Aquilla for my 100th summit from the Hundred Peaks List.

Finally I would bag Telescope for my 5th Desert Peaks Section emblem summit. DPS requires 5 of their 7 "emblem" peaks and any 10 other on their list for their emblem.

To accomplish all of these 4 emblems in 24 hours I needed to be in fairly good shape, have a full moon, and good weather.

Getting the "Next to Last" Peaks & Miles
The Friday I was supposed to leave for the Sierra I was still 2 peaks short and I also needed about 3.5 miles of the PCT to finished my 14th segment of the PCTS trails list.

I left La Jolla about 3:30 pm on Friday. Bagged Thomas Mountain and Rouse on "drive ups". I made the mistake of driving this long dirt road route from Garner Valley to Hemet. The light of setting sun played on the truck's dusty windshield, making it very hard to see the road. The last of evening light found me hitting the paved road near Hemet. I drove around to the north side of San Jacinto and took the Snow Creek Road across the wash and parked where the PCT crossed a dirt road about a third of a mile north of Snow Creek Village.

First I hiked to the Snow Creek Water District gate, the last point I had reached hiking north through the San Jacinto segment of the PCT. Then I followed the trail north across the San Gorgonio River Wash and north under the railroad and I-10 to the end of the segment at Tamarack Road. Since I hadn't arranged for a shuttle I was stuck hiking all the way back to my truck (7 miles round trip).

A Trip to Get into Shape
After a few minutes rest, I hit the road again. First to Banning for gas and a late (2 am) supper. Then an all night drive through Lone Pine to the Sawmill Pass Trail Head. I arrived just as the group I was to meet there gathered for breakfast. About noon I interrupted the 5400' elevation gain day with an hour and a half nap alongside a nice stream.

During the following week we crossed 3 passes. I bagged 7 peaks. The night we did Arrow & Pyramid we didn't get back to camp until 2 am. On another day we were so slowed by an avalanche blocked route that we bivouacked only a mile from camp. It was a first for both Ron Young and me, but the fourth for another member of our party. The night we came out I stayed up too late having dinner in Bishop with our Taboose group. In short I didn't get caught up on my sleep during the week. Not the best preparation for a sleepless event.

Monday the sun awoke me after only about 5 hours of sleep. I spent the day doing errands and driving south on 395 to the Kennedy Meadow turn off and in to the Monache Meadows trail head for Olancha Peak. There I was able to stretch out for 2-1/2 hours of rest (no sleep) before it was time to eat supper and get ready to hike all night.

SPS Emblem: Olancha
(7:50 pm) The western sky was still orange as I headed off. Soon it gave way to the light of the full moon, as I climbed up the stock torn Monache/Olanche Trail. At times this trail is actually about four separate paths. The challenge is to pick the correct one. After climbing and winding around for some time, the trail dipped a bit to meet the Pacific Crest Trail. (9:05)

Now I was on familiar trail. I had hiked it going the other way with Ken and Jan Quigley in July. It didn't take long to say good bye to the stock trail as it headed off towards Summit Meadows. (9:35) Now the PCT was a more hikeable trail. Nearly dust free. Where there had been a flowing stream 6 weeks earlier it was often dry now. I did find enough flowing water in one stream to top off my water bottle.

The trail climbed up to the saddle above the junction with the non-existent Bear Trap Trail. Then the route crossed a high meadow that was silver in the moonlight, and contoured the west side of Olancha's south ridge to the trail's high point west of the peak.

Originally I had planned to backpack to this high point saddle and sleep in its flat until about 10:30 pm. Then start my Emblem bagging marathon from here. But I had arrived at Monache Meadows too late for this option. Instead I reached the saddle just after midnight (12:10 am, August 31). To celebrate the start of this new day I decide to take a longer rest break here and got behind a large boulder to get out of the cool wind. Fortunately it was cool enough to keep me awake. (12:47)

From this saddle it was a steady uphill grind over downed trees and boulders. In several places I found myself following a ducked route. Then the ducks would disappear and I would just keep climbing over the rocks toward the summit. The top was easy to spot in the moonlight. The meadows to the west and north also showed clear in its reflected silver. At times I wanted to take a break but I kept going on.

Finally I reached Olancha's summit. (2:35 am) This was my 10th Sierra Peaks Section emblem peak and my 138th SPS summit. My first emblem for the day. (It was also my 25th peak from the PCTS peak list. To qualify for an emblem on that list one must climb 25 summits, with at least one from each of 4 areas: Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. I still need one peak from those listed in Washington to qualify for that emblem.) I signed in and celebrated by having a freeze dried ice cream sandwich that was a present from my brother & his wife.

(2:57) Back down to the PCT. (4:00) Down and down the trail. The moonlight was giving way to dawn's light as I pounded down the last mile to my truck. (6:40)

PCTS Emblem - Completed Horseshoe to Kennedy Meadows Segment
I napped for an hour and loaded my gear into the truck. (8:25) The jeep trail was a bit of a challenge for a tired driver. Eventually I reached good dirt road. (9:23) Then down the paved road to the Kern River Bridge in Kennedy Meadows. (10:10)

I had hiked all but the final third of a mile of the Horseshoe Meadow to Kennedy Meadow segment in July. So far today I had rehiked four miles of that segment. Now I hiked the final third of a mile to complete my 15th segment of the PCT for the Pacific Crest Trail Section's emblem. When I covered this distance I hiked back to retrieve my truck. (10:34) I celebrated with a Dr. Pepper at the Kennedy Meadow general store.

HPS Emblem - Aquilla
Then I drove down to the desert and 395 (11:24) and south on Highways 395 and 14 to the Indian Wells Canyon turn off. (11:38) A short drive up this canyon took me to the parking for Aquilla.

(11:50 am) A few moments at the designated parking spot convinced me to drive up the canyon another block to get away from the bee hives across the lot. Stowed everything in my truck's cab and got ready to hike. The temperature was just a little over 90°.

(12:25 pm) My route ground up the soft sand and loose rock towards the saddle just east of the highest of the five fingers. When I was about halfway up a car with rifle shooting young men drove past. They announced that my headlights were still on. I thanked them and told them there wasn't anyway I could have them turn them off and I would take care of it on my return. I was happy to see them drive on without shooting them out.

When they left I continued to climb up to the saddle between the two rock fingers. (1:30) Once there the route drops around the 395 side and scrambles up about 100' of third class rock to the summit. (1:45) Signed in. This was my 100th peak from the Hundred Peaks Section list. My third emblem qualification for the day. (1:56) Then it was down around the northwest side to a great scree run back to the truck. (2:27) Reloaded the truck. What a hassle to have to move everything to & from the cab with each stop. It started easily in spite of leaving the lights on.

Drive to Mahogany Flat. (2:40) On to Ridgecrest. (3:08) Good gas prices at the ARCO. (3:19) Lunch at Burger King. (3:49)

On through Trona to the Inyo County line. Here signs said that the road was closed ahead due to storm damage. What a way to end this 4 emblem attempt. (4:25) I turned back to Trona and went to the San Bernardino County offices. A lady there said that a car had come through ok from Beatty that morning. She thought that Cal Trans had probably just failed to take the signs down. Her advice was to drive on through. (4:34)

So I did. The sides of the road showed signs of fresh grading. There were also indications of recent flows of muddy water across parts of the road. Only two cars passed going the other way before I turned off for Wildrose Spring.

After that I saw no other vehicles until I came upon a stalled construction truck. About a half mile further up the road I picked up that truck's driver and gave him a ride to his construction camp at the campground a mile below Mahogany Flat. He was involved in constructing a new microwave repeater station on Rogers Peak. As thanks for the ride he gave me the combination for the gate that would allow me to drive up Rogers Peak. I decided it would not be kosher to use it for this multi-emblem attempt. I drove on up the rugged dirt road to the Campground at Mahogany Flat. (5:54) Stowed my gear and ate a quick dinner.

DPS Emblem: Telescope Peak
(6:50) There was still plenty of twilight as I hiked up the trail. To the east I had great views of Death Valley's Badwater area. Gradually the sun's light gave way to the full moon and I rounded Rogers Peak to the saddle between it and Anderson. (8:15) I still felt pretty good as I hiked around the west side of Anderson and onto the next saddle. (8:58)

But by the time I climbed up the ridge to the saddle at about 9500' (9:23) I was getting quite tired and took a longer break. I had gone over 62 hours with less then seven hours sleep. (9:40) My watch and map told me I had to just keep pushing.

In the surreal moonlight my body plodded up the path, while my mind began to carry on a third party discussion about how to get this person up the mountain. It was very dreamlike, yet somehow I kept awake and kept going. (10:55) At about 10,800' I stopped for a final snack. (11:00) It was a challenge to get started again. But soon I topped the ridge. I was going to make it. Rejoicing I strolled along it to the summit. (11:19 pm)

Telescope Peak was my fifth Desert Peaks Section Emblem summit. It was my 58th DPS summit and my fourth emblem in 24 hours. I was too tired to do much other than sign in, snack, and drink some water. I thought about taking a picture, but couldn't find a good place to set up the camera. Besides I was too cold. I just wandered around the summit for a while thinking about taking a picture.

The scenery didn't lend itself to a moonlit picture. The lights of Trona and Pahrump were quite visible, but not good picture material. The silver casts of various hills and valleys showed well for the eye in the moonlight, but wouldn't photograph as much. I drank all this in and then decided it was time to head down before I got too cold or just fell asleep.

(11:51 pm) On the way down I would hike for about a half hour, then curl up under a tree that protected me from the breeze and from radiating my heat, and nap for half an hour. This I repeated 3 times to get to the saddle south of Rogers. (3:30 am)

I decided to avoid the narrow trail back to Mahogany Flat by climbing around the west side of Rogers to the road to the microwave towers. (3:52) The road's wide track guided me back to Mahogany Flat, camp and my truck. (5:07)

I slept until 1:30 that afternoon and then headed back to Bishop and up to South Lake to join Al Conrad, Ali Aminian, and Scott Sullivan for a climb of Devil's Crag. It was good to have the emblems behind me.

Things I would do differently:

  1. Get more rest in the 24 hours before setting off for the emblems.
  2. Have someone else do the driving. It was hard to stay awake on some of the roads. And
  3. Have someone climb the final peak with me. I was getting kind of spacy the second night. Actually it would be wise to climb every peak with other people.


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