By: Linda McDermott
Neal Scott and Judy Hummerick needed Panamint Butte to finish the list, so we talked each other into putting together an impromptu trip to do Panamint Butte. I had done the peak via Lemoigne Canyon a beautiful canyon trip that made the peak very easy with its long, gradual ascent, and was interested in doing another route. At least we had choices. Vic Henney sent me the info in case we decided on the Lemoigne Canyon route. Neal called the ranger station in Death Valley to find out about legal camping. We camped two miles off the main highway on Big Four Mine dirt road (from the intersection of Panamint Valley Road and 190, turn right and go 1.9 miles to an obvious dirt road which is just before the "Turn off Air Conditioning sign" going to Towne Pass - go at least two miles on the dirt road, park parallel, just barely off the road, and have no campfires).
Judy Hummerick, Richard Whitcomb, Neal Scott, Jim Hinkley and I all met there on a cool Friday night. The next morning we left there just before 6:00 am and drove to Towne Pass (about 7.5 miles from where we turned off 190 to camp). There's a big parking area there, as described in the Guide. A wonderful addition to the trip appeared when Tom Hill showed up just as we were leaving - he needed the peak also. It was very cold that morning, and he showed up in his traditional shorts. We started hiking about 6:30 am, greeting a cloudless sky.
For a long distance, we could follow the Death Valley Park boundary signs, hiking west from the parking area up the slope to the ridgeline. There were use trails at various points to Towne Peak. Most of us made sure to go to the nearby summit of Towne Peak in case it is added a list of interest in the future! We basically had to hike nearly to the top of Towne Peak, follow the ridge to the right (ENE) to its end , then drop the dreaded 1250 feet (I nearly wobbled on the decision to go forward at this point, but no way wanted to go over the numerous bumps ever again to this point).
We made it over to the summit of Panamint Butte just after 11:45 am, had lunch, took a few pictures, and left about 12:30 pm, enjoying views of the snow-covered Sierras. I found that the pace we kept really didn't tire me too much, for which I was grateful, especially going BACK UP that 1250' extra "peak" to regain the Towne Peak ridge. The views of Telescope were terrific - a lot of snow on the Telescope-Sentinel-Porter peaks. Maggie was along with us, and did great, however needed booties on the way back because of the length of the trip. For those of you who know Tom Hill, he actually put on long pants mid-aftemoon because it was cold, but fortunately very little wind.
Everyone commented on that spectacular views we had from the ridgeline.
It always makes me happy to see everyone get both UP and DOWN safely, and in good spirits. We couldn't have asked for a better group - everyone had a good time and shared beer, cheese and crackers and whatever we didn't eat for lunch once we got back to the cars about 6:00 pm. We all split the scene after that - it was a 5,000' gain, 16 mile peak and I didn't really want to climb anything the next day after going three weekends in a row!
Participants: Jim Hinkley, Neal Scott, Richard Whitcomb, Tom Hill, Judy Hurnmerick and Linda Mcdermott.
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