Tucki Mountain, Panamint Butte


By: John Vitz


It had all the markings of being a lousy weekend. My assistant leader was on business in Detroit (freezing his bod) and my car blew out its third muffler in 27000 miles on the drive to Death Valley. Imagine, then, my delight at seeing a mere twenty-nine people amassed around the sign at the Skidoo Ruins. The sign is the only standing thing at Skidoo.

Tucki is a gigantic mountain at the north end of the Panamints which dominates the Stovepipe Wells area and provides a beautiful viewpoint for Charleston, Telescope, and the Sierra. The route involves much up and down in the fairly lengthy hike. And even though the mileage and gain were listed in the schedule many of the participants were not in good enough shape to have attempted the peak. After many hours of pushing and coaxing twenty-five finally made the summit about 2. Bill Banks volunteered to take any people who were willing to move fast and try to return to the cars before dark. Seven people decided to join him in his Northern Panamint exploratory. Included among them was Cy Kaicener who had picked up a bighorn sheep head while it had been still frozen. By mid-afternoon, however, no one had the slightest difficulty locating Cy. At 2:45 the remaining climbers started back, knowing full well that we were not going to make it before dark.

Upon reaching the four who had not made the summit we were informed that their number had mysteriously shrunk to three. At this point the leader became unglued and followed his tantrum with a quick search of the area. After failing in this, it was assumed that she had returned with the fast group without bothering to burden anyone with the news. This turned out to be fact. We started up the last 800 foot gain to get back to the cars at about sundown and by the time total darkness set in all my bodies were safely on their ways back to Skidoo. However, Bill's bodies were still exploring. Eventually all but two of them were drawn to my flash light. We speculated that they might have bivouacked or walked a jeep road to Emigrant Junction, and so a few of us decided to camp at Skidoo in order to search for them in the morning. So we camp in the cold at Skidoo trying desperately to avoid Cy. About 10:30 a car containing our missing friends arrived, almost running over Cy, whose death would have gone unnoticed for weeks. They said, "Thanks for waiting." and then proceeded to drive down to warmer climes at Emigrant Junction. At least they could have frozen alongside their intended rescuers.

Due to the incredible success of the Tucki climb, most everyone (8 in all) returned the next day for the climb of Panamint Butte. And six of them wanted to climb Pinto instead, so I dismissed class. Probably the reason that no one wanted to climb the Butte was that Bill and Cy were going to do it.

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