Palen Mountains


By: Wes Shelberg


Palen Mountain (3851-ft.) is highest in the Palen Mountains and is on the DPS Peak List. From the summit of Palen Mtn one views rugged and impressive peaks to the south. Peak 3623 (ft.) is one of these, is second highest in the range, and is situated roughly 5.5 miles southwest of Palen Mtn. A section of the topographic map (Palen Mts., Calif., 15-Minm) showing these relationships accompanies this write-up. The map does not name Palen Mtn itself.

A solo climb of Peak 3623 in February 1977 revealed the harsh beauty and isolation of the southern Palen Mountains. While Palen Mtn itself awakens occasionally to the determined hooves of DPS/private trips, Peak 3623 sleeps-on unmolested. Peak 3623 bears no evidence of mining scars or other human depredation, is only 228-ft. lower than Palen Mtn, and commands a fine view of the latter which interestingly has a reddish hue. Peak 3623 is a fine platform for viewing the surrounding desert and many familiar peaks and ranges: Chuckwalla, Little Chuckwalla Mts, Black Butte, Pilot, Eagle Mts, Coxcomb Mts, Granite Mts, Iron Mts, Old Woman Mts, Big Maria Mts, Little Maria Mts, Mc Coy Mts, Kofa, Castle Dome, Turtle Mts, Rabbit, El Toro, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio. The sand dunes associated with Palen Dry Lake (nearby to the vest) seemed surprisingly extensive and hummocky. The rugged wash that comprised a significant portion of the route to Peak 3623 was a real reward, reaffirming that there is no such thing as a "desert wasteland".

The vehicle route to the "road head" is shown on the accompanying sketch. The "road head" is simply a place at the side of the indicated jeep road. Four-wheel drive Is recommended because of deep sand in places. Non-4WD users would have to use their own judgement with respect to the sand and shallow washes traversed. The last 4.7 miles to the "road head", shown as unimproved road on the topographic map, has deteriorated so that sections of discernible road alternate with sections defined only by a swath cut through the desert vegetation (or by tracks of recent vehicles). Those familiar with desert travel should have no trouble finding/driving the route.

The climbing route taken to Peak 3623 is traced on the accompanying topographic map. The one-way distance from vehicle to peak measures 5.5 miles on the map. The elevation gain is 3110-ft.. A register was left. The route Is Class 2.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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