Sentinel Peak


By: Erik Siering, Dan Richter


Dan saved money otherwise certainly spent this weekend. Our scheduled trip coincided with both the annual A16 parking lot and REI "as-is" sales, as well as the Desert Committee outing to Panamint City led by Jim Schoedler and Maris Valkass. Despite missing out on the hot deals, this proved one of our most enjoyable trips. We had a great group, canyons, mines, even a peak.

Our band of thirteen met in the warm morning at the Trona-Wildrose road turnoff to Ballarat. WTC students were specifically invited; Greg, Rob, Doug and Bob gave us representation from all the groups. We consolidated into our trucks and left the remaining cars near the radar tracking station on the way to Ballarat. It had been posted that parking is not permitted directly off the side of the main dirt road. The road into Novak's camp proved to be in 2wd shape with trailhead parking space for about ten cars. We packed our way up canyon, through the running creek and small rushing waterfalls, to reach Panamint City well before noon, beating the rising midday heat. But was this a socially acceptable time for happy hour? [of course, but it was a provisional lead...]

The cabin situation has changed from the peak guide description. The main cabin and stone shed "shopping center" complex are locked and off-limits. The welder's shop "hangar" is accessible but also identified as private property. Of the available cabins, only "The Castle" is inviting; the others are merely decrepit wooden shells. Mountain bikers were inhabiting the Castle. The piped water output was flowing and good. Since we had pleasant weather and a large group, we set ourselves up here around the hangar, giving us a shaded panorama view west to Maturango Peak.

After some lazing about, the group went exploring the City. Willy and I checked out the cabins and scrambled up to the water source, a good spring. Later, most of the group strolled up the mine road to Water Canyon past Thompson's Camp. Willy, Eileen, Ann and I continued on the road for a full view of Sentinel. With Doug and Amanda, we then joined Dan and Leslie in bouldering a fun crack move. Doug and Amanda cooled off in the creek collection basin. Ann and I took refreshing alfresco showers in the water tank overflow. Returning to camp at mid afternoon, we found that a jeep group had winched up the falls below and driven in for a day of area sightseeing. Jim and Maris shortly thereafter led their group into camp. At this point happy hour did begin. Though modest by carcamp standards, it was finest backpack spread I've seen in a machine shop!

This was followed by a group mine exploration at dusk. The road above the brick chimney led us to a long exploratory mine shaft, which tunnels straight into the mountain bedrock for about 0.5 mile. At the tunnel's end, one finds "vintage" graffiti. Here we briefly dimmed our lights, to see the tiny entrance light far behind us. Once out, Willy, Gary, Eileen, Ann and I scrambled to a higher second principal shaft, which appeared unsound to enter. Dinner was by roaring campfire, as the sun set to a clear starry sky with satellites racing overhead and burros serenading in the distance.

Merging with the Desert Committee group, we set out early the next morning for Sentinel Peak. The track behind the hangar wound steeply to the high Wyoming Mine. From the protruding rail trestle spur, we spied the City below. Bob had signed out, deciding that our pace was too rapid. From the mine, we followed the ridge 1.5 miles up to the windy summit by 9:00, with outstanding views of Telescope and Porter Peaks to the north and south, respectively. Surprisingly, we had no takers on the Porter ridge traverse option. Dan led back, dropping towards Frenchman's Canyon to contour to the ridge adjoining the Magazine Canyon mine road. On our way down, we found "rambling Bob," who had continued up the ridge on his own. The group whole again, we lunched in camp at noon, and then lazily packed out. The splashing waterfalls were delightful in the afternoon heat. A lone snorting burro, perched high on the canyon wall, hailed our departure.

DPS group participants were Willy Richter, Leslie Hofherr, Ann Kramer, Eileen Ricks, Karen Leonard, Greg Adams, Rob Wood, Mike Daugherty, Doug Tung, Amanda Fry, Bob Freed. Joining us from Desert Committee were Jim Mans, Anna Valkass, Gary Murta, Dave Urcioulo.

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