Peak 1,896ft P300
Peak 2,040ft P300
Peak 1,952ft
Gyp BM P500
Peak 1,722ft P300

Sun, Dec 6, 2020

With: Karl Fieberling
Tom Grundy
Iris Ma
Tom Becht

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


After leaving a couple of Coxcomb summits untrammeled a few days earlier, I had put them back on the agenda for the last day, as a way to have a shorter day to allow Karl and I to make the long drive home in the afternoon more easily. Alternatively, there had been discussion of the Palen and Granite Mtns to the east, both of whose highpoints I had climbed some years ago with Matthew. None of the others had climbed Granite Mtn, a P2K, DPS summit, and range highpoint - lots going for it. There were some other summits around Palen Pass I could easily substitute for the Coxcomb Mtns, having no real preference for one over the other, but the 10mi outing to Granite didn't really excite me. Complicating the choice was that today was my birthday and the others thought it improper to leave me hiking by myself. They'd already spent the last 2-3 days following me around on my obscure agendas, so I didn't see it that way at all. So off to Palen Pass we went. We left two car vehicles at SR177 and took the two jeeps in to Palen Pass from the east. It's a long drive, more than an hour each way. The five summits I was after are all located around Palen Pass, not far from the roadway, making the hikes to reach them fairly short. Chris Kerth had been to the first three, combined with a climb of Granite Mtn on the same day - well done Chris.

Peak 1,896ft - Peak 2,040ft - Peak 1,952ft

We drove both vehicles to Palen Pass and then almost a mile further on a spur road to the north that gets one closer to Granite Mtn. There are various road thread options, some easier than others. We did a poor job on the way in, but on the way out it was easier to choose the best path. I was able to hike with the others for the first mile as I made my way west towards the first of these minor summits. I bade the others goodbye as they turned north towards Granite and I dropped a short distance into a wash continuing west. I followed this for only a short while before going over a low shoulder on the left side that would take me more directly to Peak 1,896ft. There was a short drop on the other side before starting up to the summit, a class 2 affair from any direction. I reached this first summit an hour after starting out. The area has some mining history, gypsum and other minerals, though none of them seemed to play out very profitably. There was a mining claim marker at the very summit and others I had passed by on the ascent. Granite Mtn rises much higher to the north as a long ridgeline with many covoluted folds spilling down across the desert. The Palens rise less distinctly to the southeast, owing to haze and their greater distance. The next two summits are found to the east and it would take me the better part of two hours to visit them on my roundabout way back to the jeep. I dropped into various washes, some with colorful walls of soft earth, and across varied terrain enroute, all class 2. It was an enjoyable loop under a blue sky with fine weather for just such an outing. None of the summits had registers (Chris Kerth doesn't seem to bother with such things) and I left none of my own, having exhausted my supply a few days earlier. It was 10:15a by the time I returned, the others still some distance from Granite Mtns' summit. Iris would send me a text with a photo of the register (and my signature) around 11a, her way of letting me know they'd reached the top.

Gyp BM

I drove back out to the main roadway, parking off the road east of Palen Pass, less than a mile due north of Gyp BM. This was the highest of the five summits and the only one with more than 500ft of prominence. The summit is not visible from the starting point, but the navigation is fairly easy and nothing harder than class 2. The summit has some rock scratchings, including the initials "JM" dated "7/68". The benchmark was placed in 1942 by the Army Corp of Engineers. A few miles to the south rises the higher Peak 2,949ft at the north end of the Palen Mtns. It might be high on my list the next time I'm in the area, but today it would entail a few extra hours I'd rather dedicate to driving home.

Peak 1,722ft

After returning to the jeep again, I drove a few miles west across Palen Pass to the northwest side of Peak 1,722ft, the lowest and easiest of the day's summits. I made use of an old mining road, now washed out and unusable by vehicles, to get me to the north side of the peak where I could most easily access it. It took less than 20min to reach the summit, which features a small but easily defeated cliff band in its upper reaches. I finished up by 12:15p while the others were still about an hour from returning to Tom B's jeep. I took a cool jug shower in the open desert before starting on the 8hr+ drive for home. It had been a very enjoyable trip and I would be eager to come back again as soon as practical. Good times...

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