Telescope Peak

18 Feb 1996 - by Arun Mahajan (view roster page)

On Sunday, 18th Feb 96, 4 PCS'ers climbed Telescope Peak in the Death Valley instead of the scheduled Mt Lamark, and this is the report of that climb.

Leader: George Van Gorden.

Team members: Adrienne, Scott Kreider, Arun Mahajan

We were scheduled to climb Mt Lamark (13,417 ft) in the eastern Sierra over 3 days (17, 18, 19th Feb) but the weather forecast of an impending storm made the leader plan for an alternate mountain. There were a couple of no-shows as a result and that left the four of us. So we met at Bakersfield, early morning on Saturday, the 17th. George had suggested Telescope Peak as an option earlier, and the other's agreed, given the expected bad weather.

We drove to Death Valley. Sections of the road leading to the Charcoal Kilns are not too good, but the road from the Kilns to the Mahogany Flats campground is atrocious, given that both the cars were generic sedans. We clattered along to the campground, there is no water there, so if you do go there, bring some. We got water from the town of Ridgecrest, there might be a spiggot at the ranger station before the Kilns, but I am not sure and we did not stop at the town/hamlet of Trona. The campground is at 8153 ft, so the elevation gain for the peak is just about 3000 ft from there. We set camp. George and daughter, Adrienne took a small hike to a foreground hill. It was cold when the wind came, but we were not uncomfortable. We had glorious views of the Death Valley (Badwater section), especially when the ebbing sun touched the tops of the peaks there.

We started the climb at 7.30 am on Sunday. It was cool, but we warmed up soon. There were very little patches of snow, more so on the sheltered side of the mountain that faces Badwater. We came to the ridge of the hill in front and got our first view of the stately summit of Telescope Peak. The trail was snow free and it climbs up to the top of the ridge skirting the peak that has a radio-tower. It was here that the vistas opened up. We could see the Sierras, and even the White Mountains (but not any more north). The Sierras seemed devoid of storms. We plodded along the trail and hit snow in patches. Me and Scott, we were in sneakers (not having brought our leather boots along) but we carried our plastic boots and crampons and ice-axes anyway. We hit snow at some places along the trail. I switched to plastic boots close to the summit, but they were not needed. Leather boots would have sufficed. The wind had died down a bit on the summit, and the sun beat down upon us warmly. It was very pleasant there. The views were excellent, with the Sierras on one side in contrast to the Death Valley, with it's strange peaks which look as if the earth had just spewed them out, on the other side. The summit was almost entirely bereft of snow. We reached the summit by noon. We started down at 12.30. We met a few people on the trail and on the summit. Scott and Adrienne met 2 people from the LA chapter who had come up from the Hanaupah Canyon. We were back down at the begining of the trailhead at 3.30 pm. It is a fairly arduous 14 mile hike from the Mahogany Flats to the summit, and it took us 4.5 hrs to the top and 3 hrs down and we had a 30 min summit dawdle.

It was a pleasant trip and we had good weather and it was not too cold. Eventhough from Telescope, it seemed that the weather was good in the Sierras, we were glad that we did this beautiful peak, instead of Lamark, as the potential for bad weather was always there. We were all hoping that the sun was shining as warmly upon the other PCS trip to Shasta the same weekend, as it was upon us at Telescope.


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