Asbestos Mountain (5353')

27 October 2001

By: Ping Pfeffer, Mars Bonfire, Karen Isaacson Leverich


Leader: Mars Bonfire

Ping Finishes the List! (Karen Isaacson Leverich)

We're sooooooooo happy! She's done it, Ping Pfeffer has done it! This diminutive but determined lady has climbed every peak on the HPS list!

Many of us (Pat and Frank Arredondo, Doris Duval, Joanne Griego, Barbara Guerin, Brian and Karen Leverich, Dave Michaels, Martin Parsons, Byron Prinzmetal, and Ingeborg Prochazka) were lucky enough to join her last Saturday south of Palm Desert, and followed her and Mars Bonfire to the top of her last undone peak: Asbestos Mountain. Statistically, the hike doesn't sound like that much trouble, a mere 2 miles round trip, and 800' of gain. But don't let the numbers fool you. Ping saved a very worthy peak for her list finish. This was definitely not a drive up!

It is definitely a desert peak, but Ping as usual had ordered up good weather -- it was clear and cool. After a short stroll across the desert floor, stepping carefully around cholla and other botanical hazards, we ascended a steep, rocky gully, with footing sufficiently challenging that some of us abandoned our poles part of the way up. We took our time, enjoying the terrain, the scenery, the excellent company.

Once atop the summit plateau, Mars led us around the summit in a clockwise direction, mumbling something about how every rockpile was topped by a dead tree, and looked more or less alike. Byron and Barbara split off and went straight up, presumably meeting us at the top. (I arrived a bit behind the group, having tangled with a boulder that proved more difficult for me to scramble across than it had for anyone else in the group, oh well!, so I don't actually know if Byron and Barbara got there first or not.) But it was the right summit, complete with register, so the Peak Police needn't be concerned: Ping well and truly finished the list. (We did attempt to convince her that the Management Committee had met in the emergency session the evening before and added a dozen new tough peaks to the list, but she wouldn't have any of it.)

Ping had requested that we not celebrate on the summit - she preferred that we wait to party until we met at a restaurant afterwards. But since when have we ever paid the slightest bit of attention to advice like that? Pat poured out sparkling grape juice so we could all toast Ping, Dave Michaels had brought not only brownies but certificates (one written in Chinese) honoring Ping for her achievement and Mars for his essential assistance along the way. Brian took about eighty million photos, until we all got bored of posing and smiling and threatened to throw him off a cliff.

She was so jazzed, I think Ping would have agreed to anything. For instance, maybe not paying as close of attention as she ought to have done, she seemingly agreed to carry Byron's water up Big Rabbit in return for $100. And I know we were coaxing her into becoming a leader and leading the list. I think she did agree to get an "O" rating and help newcomers get started. Not to mention working with Pat and Joanne and others to help them finish the list. I'm soooooo glad, I was worried that finishing the list might mean we'd not see Ping again. But we will. Hurrah!

The hike itself hadn't been too challenging, but getting back to the cars didn't mean our challenges were over for the day. First, there was the small matter of Dave's car. The drive to the trailhead had included a stretch of deeply rutted sandy road, and Dave's 2WD Detroit sedan hadn't coped as well as it might. It was, in fact, totally stuck. But he'd been such a good guy, bringing brownies and the certificates, that it didn't seem entirely right to leave him there, stranded, while the rest of us went off to party. So first the men attempted to push the car out, but that didn't work, it was too stuck. Dave luckily (had this happened to him before sometime?) had a towcable, so Brian attached it to our Jeep, and in short order we had Dave's car rolling again.

The next challenge, and it was an annoying one, was working our way through all the weekend traffic back to Palm Springs. Many knew of the road work being done on CA 111, and went by an alternate route. We didn't, and so didn't. No matter, everyone seemed to arrive at the restaurant at the same time.

The restaurant is one Ping had learned about from Huell Howser's California Gold -- Nature's Express. All the food is vegetarian, but you wouldn't necessarily think so, eating it. We ordered hamburgers and tacos, enjoyed mysterious but presumably healthy beverages, and finished up with tasty sundaes. Martin had contacted Huell Howser himself, and he came to the restaurant to congratulate Ping. Unfortunately, we just missed him -- he was driving off as we drove up. But Joe Young and his wife Jeri Marston were there already waiting for us, and they had chatted with him. He left a note with them for Ping.

This entire day was so much fun, I attempted to convince Barbara Guerin that she'd already hiked (but had somehow forgotten doing so) the Big Three and Big Rabbit. Why? So that when she reached the top of Black Mountain #4 the next day, it would be her list finish, and we could party some more. I really think she was receptive to this fine idea. Why do I think she'd have a better turn out at her list finish if it were on Black #4 rather than the Big Three or Big Rabbit? Oh well, no one ever listens to me! (And yes, she did do Black #4 the next day, so is now down to only those four easy peaks. Who's going to join her? I certainly hope to!)


Mission Impossible to Mission Accomplished (Ping Pfeffer)

Mission: 277 Peaks of HPS peak list
Time: March 15, 1996 to Oct 27, 2001
Duration: 6 years 7 months and 2 weeks
Miles: 1,767.7
Elevation Gain: 493,470' (93.46 miles)
Hours: 1,117 (Stats furnished by Martin Parsons)

It is very hard to bring myself to tell my hiking story in English, every peak was a happy struggle hike except my list finish hike; Oct 27 2001 was a very good hike. Asbestos Mtn is a beautiful peak, weather was perfect for hiking, the view from the top of the mountain is awesome. Leaders Mars and Byron and hiking friends are wonderful, what a way to do a list finish. I want to thank all my leaders, especially HPS leaders, and all my friends for helping me do this tremendous job. You all helped make the 277 peaks go from Mission Impossible to Mission Accomplished. I appreciate everything.

I thank everyone. I am a little womean but I feel like a GIANT. What do I do next? Not sit home and become a TV potato.

  1. Help my friends to finish their HPS List.
  2. Hike. Hike. Hike. Have fun for future outdoor adventures.
  3. Learn to be an "O" rated leader. Lead 100 easy peaks from the HPS List, one peak at a time. My teacher is going to have a hard time because I don't know how to read maps nor determine North, South, East, or West. But I am going to learn.
  4. I want to earn DPS emblem status.

See you on the trail,
Ping Pfeffer


Forever Hiking with Ping (Mars Bonfire)

On a sunny Saturday afternoon atop Asbestos Mtn, Oct. 27, 2001, I finally graduated from the Ping Pfeffer School of Sane and Sensible Heavenly Hill Walking and am now authorized to use her trademarked, and copyrighted Ping Pace anytime and anywhere without warning.

Definition: The Ping Pace is a style of hiking so relaxed and easy going that a person seems to effortlessly float up and down the mountain while calmly breathing in and out through their nose in rhythm to their stride. Safety is enhanced since there is ample time to choose secure foot and hand holds and avoid knocking down loose stuff. Comfort is enhanced since sweating, sore muscles, gasping lungs, and a pounding heart are all greatly reduced. Enjoyment is enhanced since the senses have time to register the full impact of the many magnificent places we visit. And at the end of a long day a person looks forward not to a couple of days of rest and recuperation but to another hike, and then another, and another!

Prior to studying under Ping I had assumed my job as a leader was to charge full speed up hill to the register and in the process make as many people as possible feel stupid and inadequate; to keep the subtleties of the micro route to myself, get ahead of my group, and then turn around with arms folded across my chest to give them disdainful looks when they wandered off course, letting them know they were just not worthy and should exit the planet; to plow aggressively through heavy brush until my participants were all wounded, bleeding, and swearing never to visit this peak again. But Ping would have none of that: "You go too fast! You slow down so I can see your feet!" Slow down? Why would I slow down only to risk letting someone else pass me to become Alpha Tiger while I was demoted to Omega Sub-slug? And see my feet? Why would anyone wat to see my feet? Well it turned out that if I slowed down so Ping could see my sequence of foot steps on rugged terrain it saved her time and energy by just duplicating them rather than working out her own and the overall efficiency and safety of the hike was improved. Why had I never thought of that? Under constant supervision and before I could concoct adequate excuses to resist I learned to offer a knee step at the beginning of a rock scramble, to spot people, to extend a wrist-to-wrist pull from above, to identify holds and point out wobbly rocks, to prune unavoidable brush and to otherwise follow the line of least resistance. Until finally it all came together and the full impact of my training hit me: a leader could be in helpful harmony with his or her group rather than in competitive opposition to it!!!

You might think that when someone calls me up for a custom hike it's a one-way situation - they benefit from my having done the route several times and I'm just along for the walk. It is, however, a reciprocal relationship. I learn something from everyone I hike with and I learned a lot from Ping. She taught me well. Although she'll be moving on to many new adventures and I may only occasionally enjoy her company in the mountains she'll enter my thoughts on every hike I do. I shall be forever hiking with Ping.


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