Searles Peak

27-Nov-98

By: Erik Siering


Dick, a black poodle accompanied by his masters Walt Wheelock and Polly Conable, scouted Searles Peak on March 29, 1959. One of the high points of the Slate Range, Searles Peak, was added to the DPS list

40 in May 1959, only to be dropped ten months later for reasons unknown. It was difficult to get information on this most obscure of the peaks discarded by the DPS (the others are Coso, Funeral, Marble). I'd been intrigued by Searles years ago on reading of it in Bill T. Russell's forward to the Peaks Guide, 3rd ed. The peak was likely near Trona and Searles Dry Lake, but the name appears on no map or USGS database. Neither Bill T. Russell, the Desert Magazine archives, or Ron Jones' old Sage files could solve the riddle. Then I happened on a recent article by Bob Rockwell in the China Lake S&R; newsletter that revealed the peak's elevation and location. Bob Sumner and I thus ventured to the Slate Range during the Thanksgiving weekend. Searles Pk is the local name for the 5,093 ft benchmark Manly, due south of another at 5,049 ft named Slate (Copper Queen 7.5 min or Manly 15 min topo). Sparse registers reside on both rarely-visited summits We scaled them in an enjoyably steep class I loop from a mine site (3,000 ft) on the western flank of the Slate Range, south of Manly Pass. The Trona 15 min topo would have been helpful. 4wd is required to reach the mine, which has many interesting adits and shafts to explore. The distant glowing lights and plumes of Trona warmed our campsite.

We ascended an east-west ridge, at times following a distinct trail that traversed the range. This path likely continued to the January Jones mine on the distant east side, south of Goler Wash. Bob and I dubbed this the "Horny Miner Trail," speculating with our skills as amateur sociologists that the January Jones' miners of old regularly trod the path to enjoy the favors of Trona city nightlife

Turning south on the crest, pass a few minor rises before the Slate BM, distinguished by a sizable cairn, is attained. Searles Pk is a half-mile beyond. Both offer expansive vistas of the Panamint and Maturango Ranges, as well as of the Trona chemical processing plant. A more level return route can be had on the eastern side of the crest, before descending the ridge to the parking area. Roughly 8 miles, 2600 ft gain roundtrip.

Driving directions are as follows :
0.0 mi Trona Chevron station, head north towards Panamint Valley;
4.9 mi Valley Wells Rd, turn east on pavement, becoming a graded dirt powerline road (NE);
7.2 mi continue right (NE) at Y; road coming in from the west is an alternate approach;
7.5 mi fork, turn left on P68 road, graded dirt, some sandy stretches ahead ;
9.1 mi fork, turn right on 4wd road (left fork is signed P68);
9.5 mi pass through mine gate, stay on principal wash road, ignore side tracks;
10.1 mi good parking and level camp to the right below an ore feeder; track peters out beyond.


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