Shorty's well to Telescope Peak. A hike starting in Badwater Basin at -262 feet below sea level and topping out on Telescope Peak at 11,049. This hike is likely the single largest ascent in the lower 48 states.
I am not sure what is more difficult: Doing the hike itself or timing it properly for weather and then working out the logistics to get it done? Both are monumental tasks.
Last year out efforts were thwarted by a 1000 year flood. This year we came back with a vengeance and mother nature was on our side. On this day we came, we saw, and we conquered!
This hike starts out from Shorty's well and follows an old mining road for several miles. Then it enters into a sandy wash that isn't much fun to trudge through. Eventually at about 10 miles in you find your first water source and it is time to head up. The water is coming from a spring just a little ways up the wash. On this trip the water was flowing heavily. I didn't need any extra water but our group collected here and then Scott led us up the steep mountain grade.
As steep as it was it was certainly a welcome change after the sandy wash and the jeep road. Soon views of Death Valley started to really open up. It was amazing and felt fantastic to be finally getting this one done.
Once on the ridge we continued our way up on a faint use trail. It would fade in and out and it drifted over the terrain, thru the sparse trees and up the scattered scree. It was in this area that the 5 of us separated again but we were never far too far apart.
Every break that we took was a welcome treat. This is coming from someone who doesn't like to take breaks at all. We were just packing in the elevation gain and it was taking it's toll. Then with 9000 feet of gain in the bank I started to whimper like a baby. I cried out to Joe, "we only have 2700 more feet to go"! That's a Flatiron I said.
We pushed forward and then encountered what was possibly the steepest part of the entire trek. Just before topping out on the main trail to Telescope Peak there is what Scott calls a "headwall". Whoa this one was rough. Not sure if it is because it was so steep or because I was spent? Probably both.
Topping out on the main trail was a welcome treat. It was an actual trail and the grade to the summit is a manageable one. This distance to the summit is roughly a mile and a half from the junction. Along the way we saw Kathy (Karl's wife). She parked at Mahogany Flats and hiked up to the top from there. She was in good spirits and was making her way up in a slow-and-steady fashion.
Near the top there were a few patches of remaining snow but nothing on the trail. Finally at last we reached the summit where there were about a dozen people. They had all come up from Mahogany Flats. Clearly this is a popular hike from that campground and I can see why. The trail is nice but also the views of Death Valley are superb!
Joe and I were driving back to Phoenix after the hike so our stay at the summit was short lived. As we were getting ready to head out Kathy arrived and we chatted for a bit. Then it was an enjoyable hike down the well maintained trail back to Mahogany Flats. Along the way we would cross paths with the other three as they made their final ascent. It was a great to see them there near the finish line. This meant everyone made it successfully!
Back at the campground we met up with Pam (Outdoorlover) who was kind enough to assist with the logistics of getting our vehicle up to this spot. Thank you so much Pam! She and the remaining group would spend the night at the Mahogany Campground. Joe and I on the other hand had business to take care of back at home so we packed up and drove to Phoenix following the hike.
I have heard many questions and debates comparing this one to Cactus to Clouds in Palm Springs. There is some additional elevation gain on this one. There is a decent amount of off trail and then there is of course the raw logistics of this one compared to that of Palm Springs. To me there is no real debate. This one is more challenging and packs a bigger punch! That said I would be far more likely to do Cactus to Clouds again compared to this one simply do to the logistical ease. Both are BIG winners in my book!!!