By: Patty Kline, Bill Bradley
This is the non-traditional way to do Panamint Butte - as a backpack. All in all it was 20 miles and 2700 feet of gain, all class one. It sure beats the 5000 foot gain, mostly on loose rock I tried to climb as a day hike in a gale force wind the March before where all but 2 people aborted.
Four of us met at 7:30 am at the Stove Pipe Wells Public Campground in Death Valley. The group consisted of the leaders Bill Bradley and myself, plus 2 participants, Darrell Lee and Barbara Reber. Barbara and Bill carpooled in Bill's 4x4 Toyota truck and Darrell and I carpooled in my 2WD Pathfinder. I drove very slowly. and when we shared the driving Darrell drove my vehicle like he was in the Indiana 500. We both made each other crazy. Besides being an excellent rock climber and Chair of the rock climbing group called the SCMA for 1996, he used to drive race cars.
At 7:45 we were all crammed in Bill Bradley's truck with Darrell in the camper shell holding onto the backpacks. We drove south from Stove Pipe Wells on Highway 190 taking us part way up the great alluvial fan rising above Stove Pipe Wells. We made a right turn at Lemoigne Canyon Road. It was a difficult 5.5 miles on this 4x4 road, taking us about an hour to negotiate. Bill did an excellent job of driving. We hoped we wouldn't find the remains of the German tourist family who perished here last July in their rented Ford Explorer. They had run out of gas. The rental company found the vehicle, but not the occupants.
There was a nice parking spot at the end of the road. With our backpacks loaded with tents, stoves and 2 days water supply for this dry backpack we left the parking area at 9:25 am and hiked approximately 5 miles up the gentle and wide canyon stream bed with 1000 feet of gain. It was a very clear, crisp day with the golden colors of the canyon standing out. At a leisurely pace and lunch along the way, we arrived at 1:30 pm to our campsite. The wind had started to pick up, but the canyon floor offered some shelter. As you begin your walk up the canyon, be sure to stay right at the first division in the canyon. This division is very near the cars. That night we all retired early to out of the cold weather, but it didn't get much below freezing.
At 7:30 am on Sunday we left for the peak arriving there at 11:05 in a white out and cold wind. It was 5 miles and 1700 feet of gain from camp. We met Ted Brasket and Jeanette Vincent, both from Arizona, on top. Ted had recently finished the list and Jeanette did soon after this climb on Chemehuevi on December 15, 1996. On our return to camp on gentle rolling hills we found some mining implements. We got back at 1:00 pm to repack our backpacks. We left camp at 2:20 pm and the group was at Bill's truck at 4:30.
This was a great weekend with beautiful scenery and good companionship. Thank you so much to Bill Bradley for helping me lead the trip and to Barbara Reber for supplying the route information.
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