25 October 2014

Telescope Peak

Death Valley National Park

Locate the trailhead.


Bernard did not want to go for another Sierra trip and decided he wanted to climb Telescope Peak from Shorty's Well over the weekend. There is water (way down around 3800) for camping although he really wanted to try to challenge himself and go for it as a day hike. I did not like the sound of it, but was willing to go up to the peak in the much more easygoing way along the trail from Mahogany Flat, or as near as I could get along a road where high clearance is recommended for the last two miles. Unfortunately, those who did like the sound of it at first eventually thought better of it and bailed on him. At the last minute, he decided to go anyway for the shorter hike and so Saturday, mid morning, we are up at Mahogany Flat and ready to start hiking.

Death Valley
Looking down North Fork Hanaupah into Death Valley, for which the National Park is named.

Bernard on the trail among the trees
There goes Bernard, trekking past mahogany and pinion pine.


The trail is well established and smooth as we start the climb. The air is ever so slightly on the warm side. As we make our way around the flank of Rogers Peak to the south side, the wind is picking up and easily overcomes the slight heat. It is gentle, but determined. It feels like it is not accustomed to having anything to hinder its passage through the desert.

Telescope Peak
Looking south along the Panamint Range to its highest point, Telescope Peak. Bennett Peak rises up nearby. (Panorama from just a bit earlier.)

Upon reaching Arcane Meadows, the wide saddle between Bennett and Rogers Peaks, Bernard is chatting with the couple hikers who started just a few minutes before us. The growing wind through the pass is downright frosty as it whips past. Everyone else is in windbreakers and jackets to protect against the wind. A clear trail climbs north to the radio facility, but anyone climbing Bennett will have to sort out their own path.

Panamint Valley
The Panamint Valley from Arcane Meadows. (panorama)

Rogers Peak topped with a radio facility
Looking back across Arcane Meadows to the radio facility on Rogers Peak.

Panamint Valley
Another look down into the Panamint Valley.

following the trail around Bennett Peak
Telescope Peak looms as we follow the trail around Bennett Peak and the minor peak beside it.

I soon have to admit that I need a windbreaker too. The air may be slightly warm, but it is never still enough to feel that anymore. The trail levels out as it wraps around Bennett Peak and a secondary peak south of it. The wind through the next saddle is blowing hard enough to require significant leaning to keep from falling over.

Badwater below in Death Valley
Looking down into Death Valley again. (panorama)

peak upcoming
Trail along the east side of the ridge heading to Telescope Peak.

one of many cactuses
The cactus up here are all radiant with 3-4 inch spikes on beaver tails.

There is shelter behind another minor peak before pushing through one last saddle to the flanks of Telescope Peak. Once to the peak, we start to climb again, first exposed to the wind, then sheltered a bit on the eastern side. The slope of the mountain increases and the trail starts to resemble a use trail draped over the rocks. It is warm as we climb again.

wind blowing through a tree very hard
The wicked wind whistles and moans.

selection of trees reducing in size as they get further away
Some of the trees are quite large up here on this steep mountain slope.

path from -250 feet
The general route starting from -250 feet is down there somewhere and does not look so bad from here. It is likely an illusion because the scale is hard to grasp.

trail on steep slope
A piece of the trail as it curves around the steep mountain slope.

Eventually the trail curves back around the edge of the mountain to the west side and into the wind for one last gentle climb past a false peak to the rocky outcrop at the top of Telescope Peak. The wind is not quite as strong at the top as when it is funneled through a gap, but it is still plenty stiff.

last section of trail to the peak
One last little climb to the top of Telescope Peak.

There is a large ammo can for the register at the top. There was once a benchmark, but only a reference mark remains. Following its arrow shows nothing but broken up rocks. The view is amazing in all directions. We make some attempt to take it all in, but as the wind increases, we have to take shelter. (The full 360 degrees of view.)

single reference mark on Telescope Peak
The reference mark is only marked with a number.

Panamint Range continuing south
The Panamint Range as it extends south. (panorama)

Death Valley
Death Valley with a little shelter from the wind in the lower left. (panorama)

Panamint Valley
Panamint Valley with a little shelter for the other pair of hikers in the lower right. (panorama)

north along the Panamint Range
Back the way we came, north along the Panamint Range. (panorama)

We eventually head down again. The segments of trail with mountain wind breaks are still easy to walk, but the gaps are getting quite bad. It is not quite constant and the leaning required at one moment is enough to fall over the next. At one point, I am certain my feet are about to slip out from under me due to the push of the wind. We decide to hit the little peaks on the way out anyway. First the little unnamed peak marked on the map with a trail down to a spring (which is marked as dry). There is very clear trail over this little bump.

cactus beside the trail
The unnamed peak is only marked with cactus.

Next we skip the minor peak near Bennett and climb up to the saddle between and the peak. There is no trail until we get to the saddle, and then there is only the faintest track which is really many tracks. The sages smell delightful as we make our way through them. Every time I think I am at the summit, the peak seems to have just a little bit more to go. The top has an ammo can register with an older register inside. The older register contains a note about its probable history placed by Rocketdyne engineers.

Telescope Peak
Telescope Peak from Bennett Peak.

rocky top of Bennett Peak
The rocky top of Bennett Peak.

The route back down Bennett Peak on the north side is another choose your own adventure along faint trails or new routes. We do not wait for the clear trail up Rogers and instead follow more faint trail along the edge of the ridge. We hit the road before getting to the top, so have that easy track to follow the rest of the way. The top is flattened and built up as expected of a radio facility.

Telescope and Bennett Peaks
Telescope and Bennett Peaks from the flank of Rogers Peak.

Down again is an easy walk down the road. I cut down a ridge line to the road and would have been served just as well to cut down the more direct ridge line to lower down on the road. The road is fairly steep and direct as it wraps around the mountain and drops with a couple long switchbacks. Bernard cuts back to the trail instead, which is just as easy to do.

road down from Rogers Peak
Following the road back to Mahogany Flat.




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 November 2014

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