Sentinel Peak, Porter Peak
By: David Perkins
Eight climbers (Bob Hoeven, Anne Rolls, John Thau, Virgil Popescu, Ron Eckelmann, Ann Perkins, Patty Rambert: asst. leader, and Dave Perkins: leader) met near Ballarat at 8 AM on Saturday and drove to the end of the road at Novak's camp. The road is rough and rocky has a couple of spots where 4wd or high clearance 2wd is necessary. We left at 9 and proceeded up Surprise Canyon, and were duly surprised by the large amount of water that was coming down the canyon. We got to climb up small waterfalls, wade through the stream, and push our way through many types of brush and vine obstacles. In fact, we had such a good time that we didn't get to Panamint City till 2 PM.
Finally, after some exploring, we located water above the water tank that shows on the sketch in the DPS write up, and also at the Castle, a very well cared for cabin in Sourdough Canyon just downstream from PC. A notebook left at the Castle indicated that climbers a few weeks earlier had not been able to get water, so maybe water there is not always reliable, and it is also a good idea to take a filter system of some kind.
We initiated happy hour at about five, and enjoyed the wine and the snacks so much that we didn't bother with our backpacking dinners! The cabin was in such good order, with no evidence of rodents, that four of the group slept inside. (Although as we were having happy hour, someone opened the door and a bat flew out, and later Dave observed a miniscule mouse running out a tiny hole near the door lock.) Bedtime was early in preparation for our 6 AM start on Saturday.
The temperature was perfect for our climb the next day. Virgil had left early for Sentinel because he had to be back to town by Sunday night, so we signed him out and the rest of us got started about 6:15 and followed the directions in the DPS Guide to the Wyoming mine and thence up the ridge to Sentinel, arriving there at 10 AM. As we neared the top, we were glad to see Virgil, who was just on his way down, and wished him luck with the descent through the canyon. Ann P. decided to stay and wait for us to return from Porter, and the remaining six intrepid climbers dropped the thousand feet from Sentinel to the four mile ridge to Porter, arriving there about 1 PM and back to Sentinel about 5 PM. We then raced sunset down the ridge to the Wyoming mine, but it beat us. We groped about for a time locating the mine with a GPS waypoint that I had put in on the way up, and then walked down the road to PC, arriving at about 8 PM.
We had a leisurely start on Monday morning but were away by about 8:30 AM. We had more fun getting down the canyon (this time we discovered a lovely secluded fern grotto) and were back to the cars by noon I would like to thank all of the participants for their help, cooperation and sense of humor, especially during the vine detours that I treated them to both up and back down Surprise Canyon! That, and the climbing, is what makes desert peaking so much fun.
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