Big Maria Mountains, Palen Mountains
By: George Toby, Ron Young
Last minute cancellations, mostly work oriented, reduced our group from 12 to only 5, Participants were George Toby, Ron Young, George Pfeiffer, Hoda Shalaby, and Terry Flood. Sat morning dawned bright and clear but only the leaders showed up at the meeting place at the junction of BLM Road P172 and the road to Palen Pk. We did not fancy only the two of us doing the trip so we went looking. Sure enough, we found the other two vehicles on a side road at a abanded mine. Despite the good directions and a neat road map in the new Desert Peaks Guide, they took a wrong turn in the dark Friday night. We caravaned to the original meeting place, left one car, and continued on in two four wheelers to the indicated 2WD parking area and the start of the hike. The last 2 miles are really 4WD. A 2 wheeler with high clearance and a good low gear probably could make it. (Remember the old pick-up trucks with the "Creeper Gear". Would be great for this road). We climbed Palen by Route "B" in the Guide. We reached the saddle of 920 meters with no problem. Then the Guide says "Turn right (NE) and follow the ridge to the rocky high-point". Well, that ridge is a series of rather steep pinacles, class 3 or more. So we continued around the backside of the ridge (N side) and cut thru a steep loose chute to the S side and up to the summit. I did not like that chute much and was thinking there must be a better way when suddenly a big rock that seemed to come down all by itself just missed us. It pays to be alert and quick at rock dodging. We were very lucky. It gave us a scare.
We returned by a different route, going directly down a big open canyon just SW of the peak. We dropped down to about 800 meters where it joined the main canyon we ascended. This route is not very evident on the topo map. It was a nice quick way down and probably the quickest route either up or down. However Route "C'' in the Guide also looked good. We caravaned back to pick up the other car and drove out to the Midland Road. Then South on Midland 3.6 miles to hang a sharp left turn (N) on Power Line Road P3020 and camped for the night. Of course we all got stuffed at happy hour. DPS tradition.
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