Maturango Peak 2x P2K ex-DPS / DPG
Parkinson Peak P500 DPG
Parrot Point P500 DPG

Mar 25, 2017

With: Brian French

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Maturango Peak previously climbed Mar 7, 2008


Brian and I were in Panamint Valley to do a couple of incursions onto the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in the Argus Range. I had driven into Panamint Valley the night before and found him off Nadeau Rd, about 2mi south of the road into Bendire Canyon. In the morning we left my van where we'd slept and drove into Bendire Canyon to start our day around 7a. We stopped at the Wilderness boundary though it was evident that others have driven around this restriction, saving about 2.5mi of road hiking each way. Our outing wasn't that difficult that we couldn't manage the extra mileage, and besides, bad karma comes to those driving in Wilderness areas. We were here to tag a trio of summits that can be found in Walt Wheelock's 2-volume, out-of-print desert guidebook. All three were within the bounds of the military reservation, though Maturango and Parkinson are pretty remote and unlikely to draw the attention of base personnel. Parrot Point is another story, home to a number of telecom installations with a well-maintained dirt road reaching to the summit. I had been to Maturango back in 2008 when I was chasing the DPS list, unaware of the other two peaks which I probably should have tagged at the same time. Brian had yet to visit any of the three so I was happy to throw in a repeat performance to Maturango while we were there. The weather forecast had a 20% chance of showers but we got only a small amount of hail on the day. And though strong winds had rocked us during the night, the wind was calm in the morning and we had only a slight breeze even while on the crest of the range. The cloud cover was most welcome in keeping the outing cool, and we both thought it worked out close to ideal.

We hiked up the road in Bendire Canyon, following it as it makes a sharp right turn at the 2.3mi mark. The road ends in another mile where an impassable dry waterfall is found not far up the canyon around a bend. Having spent the extra time on that one during my first visit, I knew where to find the old mining trail that switchbacks up to a saddle before dropping back down into Bendire Canyon above the impasse. We continued up the canyon taking advantage of a good use trail that continues for a number of miles. We came across the scattered remains of an old castiron stove, marveling at the enginuity of the guys who got it up here and feeling for the burros on whose back the weight was borne. The trail sometimes climbs up one side or the other to avoid some particularly bad brush choking the canyon bottom that would be quite painful otherwise. It helped that there were two of us to keep an eye out for the trail which we seemed to lose regularly. With careful attention there was no need to bushwhack anywhere in the canyon.

Where a couple of large cairns are found on the left side of the canyon, we began the steep climb out to our first peak, Maturango, still 1,500ft above us. Joshua trees and other desert scrub gave way to junipers and pinyons, typical of the higher elevations in the desert areas. The slopes were sufficiently open that we never had any real bushwhacking to deal with on the day. It took us 4.5hrs to reach Maturango, a climb of more than 5,500ft. The register we found there (in an ammo box bolted to the summit rock) was the same from my first visit, placed by Tom Brown in 2005. There were lots of entries, some 19 pages worth, and it seems that even delisting it hasn't squashed interest in reaching it.

Our next two peaks were both to the south, with about 1.5mi between each pair. There was plenty of snow on the north-facing slopes, but not enough that we couldn't avoid most of it with careful route choices, keeping our boots nicely dry. It took us an hour to cover the cross-country distance to Parkinson, again with pinyon-covered slopes that offered relatively easy travel. We found a second register at Parkinson, this one much older and covering two booklets. The first dated to 1967 and included a number of entries from the 60s and 70s from the older Sierra Club parties, a few with large numbers of participants. The second book dated from the 1990s and showed a marked decrease in interest, though it seems to have picked up in the past few years.

There is an old road below Parkinson that can be taken all the way south to Parrot Point. The first part of this road had a good deal of snow so we avoided it, going cross-country along the ridgeline instead. At a saddle where the road crosses to the west side of the ridge we picked up the road and followed it until we were just east of Parrot Point. Having no real idea if Parrot Point is regularly manned or has a caretaker, we left the road to follow a cross-country route more directly to the point. Better to reach the point first before getting discovered, we figured. We were happy to find no one at either of the two telecom sites. We visited the lower point to the west first, the one shown as Parrot Point on the topo map, then visited the higher point to the east which sported a much bigger golf-ball thingy (Brian said it was like Epcot Center - Argus Disneyland). The highest rocks had been left untouched by the bulldozers and had a third register, this one a Gordon/Barbara book from 1979. This book had lots of entries, almost none of the names recognizable. Most, we assumed, were from guys driving up here to service the towers, one in fact was signed, "David the propane guy".

Having completed our visit to the three summits along the crest, we headed east off Parrot Point dropping more than 4,000ft back down into Bendire Canyon. Not as much sand as we might have liked, but lots of talus skiing in the lower half got us to the bottom of Bendire Canyon in an hour and a half. A little more than two miles on the old road saw us back to the truck by 4:30p, just under our 10hr estimate for the day - not bad! We weren't feeling as tired as we had expected we might, so we held high hopes for another similar day on the morrow. We returned to the van at our campsite off Nadeau Rd and spent a second night there. It was a beautiful late afternoon and evening, watching the clouds drift over the Panamint Range and then watch the sun slowly set across the valley. Good times...


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