Porter Peak, Sentinel Peak, Maturango Peak
By: Linda McDermott
Phil Reher pulled in just past 6:00 AM to gather our motley crew to do Porter and Sentinel as a day climb. We took a dirt road beyond the turnoff to Cooper Mine, parked, then climbed up a minor ridge to the main ridge up Porter. We parked among pinion pine trees, and I picked up a bag full of nuts which we ate during the trip. We avoided the boulder fields on the way up, caught the main ridge to the top of Porter in about two hours, and waved to a group of CMC climbers led by Scott Jamison who got to the top of the peak just before we did.
From the top of Porter, Igor led the group up the crest of the Panamints for another 4 miles to the top of Sentinel where we caught up with the CMC group. Because daylight was a factor, we spent little time on top of the peak and got back to the cars just before dark, about 4:30 p.m. It was a long day, but exciting to get two DPS peaks in one day. Most of the remaining group drove over to get closer to Maturango on Sunday.
I rode with Phil Reher to the roadhead for Maturango, to be sure we found the same dirt roads Phil and I had followed last year. Maturango was a grudge peak for Phil and I - last December he and I alone had tried to get Maturango and ended up climbing Parkinson instead. Secretly, Phil and I both believe that Parkinson still deserves to be on the DPS list. To be truthful, getting Parkinson instead of Maturango has been the source of endless laughing and campfire stories I'm sure all our buddies are tired of hearing.
To camp, we followed the regular directions to Maturango, turning on the signed Nadeau Road, but following it about 8 miles to a dirt road (Knight Canyon Road) going left (W). If you miss the turnoff, about .2 miles beyond it, there is a main dirt road (unsigned Red Slate Road) leading to the right, so you can turn around there and backtrack to the correct dirt road. We went up about 2 miles to the mining area to camp, up Knight Canyon. Lo and behold, Phil and I whizzed past a lone figure with a headlamp plastered on his forehead who was camped and had a campfire going. My thought was, "Gee, thatfellow must be surprised to be surrounded by six strange vehicles, and is probably downright angry that his solitude has been broken." We went a few hundred feet farther to park and less invade his territory when we pealed out in laughter. The poor soul followed us in his vehicle, immediately got out of his truck and made comments like, "What are you guys doing here? Didn't you see the campfire I had ready for everyone? I have chili already heated up. Didn't you recognize me? DID YOU FORGET ABOUT ME?" It quickly dawned on me that Tom Sumner was meeting our group out there to do Maturango with us, was eagerly awaiting our arrival as we sped by him, and we just left him in the dust. As with all DPS stories, all this just adds to the flavor of our memories. Hopefully Tom will forgive us.
The next morning, we had a smaller group ready to go at 6:15 am. Then our story began. Phil led the group up the road he and I had taken last December. Less than a mile up the road, there was a large locked gate and wilderness boundary marking. There was no way around the gate, and we had no time to go any other route. My heart sank as my first thoughts were that the trip wouldn't go. That thought obviously didn't cross anyone else's mind because the group immediately got smaller, and those remaining immediately began putting on their boots. I began remembering last year's struggle, and the limited daylight, and got my boots on as quickly as I could.
Our group dwindled to Phil Reher, Neal Scott, Tom Sumner, Jim Hinkley and me. I needed this peak to stay on schedule to finish the list in January, and everyone knew it. We started the climb at 6:30 am.
Less than a mile into the trip up the dirt road, Neal told the group that he didn't want to hold us up, his knee was bothering him, and he wanted to give us his food, water, and headlamp to aid in our climb. We gratefully took his offered equipment, which turned out to be a godsend (especially to Tomas). This was starting to look like an expedition. Tomas added to the flavor of the trip as he worried about bad weather coming in, even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky. His worries were founded, however because mid-day, clouds began appearing though we never did have threatening weather. This trip really turned out to be magical for me, a trip I will never forget. When we started realizing the magnitude of what we were doing (having just done Porter/Sentinel the day before), it was astounding. The walk up the dirt road added almost three hours to the trip (round-trip). We left the road in about 1-1/2 hours, making it to the small gully leading to the minor ridge. We scrambled up the steep ridge, toward two saguaro cacti at the top that (according to Vic) look like they are almost kissing. Shortly after getting on top, I pointed out Parkinson to Tom. He gasped when he saw where we went, to the left of Maturango.
We allowed ourselves about three minutes per hour to rest in our race against darkness. The only real danger was going down the steep ridge in darkness. Part of the magic began when Phil made sure I ate and drank water at every rest stop. Another wonderful thing was how Tom caused less guess work for leader Phil as he recalled being the one to punch steps in the snow up the correct gully when he had done the peak before. About an hour before getting to the top, I started fading and going slower, so Jim took all my heavy gear. Everyone in the party was making sure we all made it to the top of this peak.
We went up the gully, then up the summit rock pile on the left of the main gully, reaching the summit about 1:15 PM, almost seven hours after we began. I told Phil if I weren't so tired, I would cry because it meant so much to finally get that peak. We quickly took pictures of Phil and I pointing to Parkinson, signed the register (there was a register), and left about 1:30 to get down. About half way back, Tom discovered that he had been carrying Neal's food bag. Needless to say, he started exploring it and next thing we know, he had a huge biscuit in his mouth, looking up at us. Phil immediately asked for a part of it, so Tom guiltily broke off pieces for each of us.
The trip off the peak was quick, and we made it down that beautiful ridge, off the steep part, and to the poor dirt road about 4:30 PM. We hiked back toward the cars, which seemed like an endless task. About 5:45 PM, as we rounded one bend, we found headlights shining. Another magical moment occurred when we saw Richard Whitcomb (who had climbed Telescope that day) and who returned to be sure we got out all right. The climb turned out to be about 7000' of gain and almost 20 miles round-trip.
I have told several of my dear friends lately that it isn't bagging the peak that has become so very important to me lately. In the process of finishing this DPS list, it is the journey, the friendships, the camaraderie, the events and stories, and memories and the caving about each other that has really become apparent to me. My heartfelt thanks to all those wonderful] people who have played a part in my mountain climbing goals.
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