Day 13: Hike Wildrose peak, bike to Panamint Springs - Death Valley 2011 - CycleBlaze

April 6, 2011

Day 13: Hike Wildrose peak, bike to Panamint Springs

Today will be a long hard day if I successfully bike and hike up to Wildrose peak, then bike to Panamint Springs.

50F (10C) at 6:30 AM. I left my campsite at 7:25 with 2 panniers on the bike, going up Wildrose road to the Charcoal Kilns. 7 miles (11 km) with a 2600 foot (780 m) climb. The last 2 miles is gravel. It took 2 hours.

The sky was overcast and the temperature was in the 50's. But the grade is 8-10% and I got soaked in sweat even as the temperature dropped while I climbed.

I parked my bike out of sight in the charcoal kiln nearest the trailhead.
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Being soaking wet didn't matter much until I got to the Charcoal Kilns. It was 50F (10C) and I didn't have any dry clothes. I knew I would dry out eventually, but it was a cold 30 minutes.

The Wildrose Peak trailhead is 50 feet from the first of ten charcoal kilns. I parked my bike out of sight inside the first kiln. It still smells a bit smoky inside. The trailhead is at 6750 feet (2050 m) elevation on the edge of a Piñon forest. The trail climbs 2300 feet (697 m) to 9064 feet (2747 m) elevation.

Looking west down Wildrose canyon. Sierra Nevada mountains faintly visible in the distance.
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The first mile of the trail is gentle uphill with expansive views to the west. The Sierra Nevada mountains are visible, but so far away that they almost disappear in the haze.

After a mile the trail starts to climb steeply towards the saddle. The saddle is about the halfway point, with the first partial view looking down on Death Valley to the east. Wildrose Peak rises to the north, while Bennett Peak and Telescope Peak rise to the south.

Almost all of the Wildrose peak trail is in a Piñon forest.
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Ice axe and crampons are required to get to Telescope peak which is 2000 feet higher than Wildrose peak.
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The trail continues north along the spine of the Panamint range. Mostly uphill, but with one small downhill from a minor summit. The last half mile is bare along the ridgeline, but forested below where the wind is calmer.

No trees on the windswept summit ridge.
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The wind was 10-15 mph, the temperature was 50F, and it was partly cloudy. Definitely cold when the sun wasn't shining. The east side of the summit had patches of snow in shady areas.

The rock pile doesn't provide much of a windbreak for this couple from Quebec. Telescope peak can be seen protruding above Bennett peak.
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I only stayed on the summit for 40 minutes. It's kind of cold to just sit there, and I still have a long day ahead.

Looking down on Death Valley from 9064-foot (2747 m) Wildrose peak. Furnace Creek is the green spot on the right.
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A lower peak to the east partially obstructs the view of Death Valley. But Furnace Creek is visible to the northeast and the Badwater salt playa is visible to the southeast. Less than 48 hours ago I was at sea level in Stovepipe Wells!

Panorama of Death Valley from Wildrose peak. Badwater is on the right.
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Telephoto view looking west past the Inyo mountains to the distant Sierra Nevada mountains. Contrast increased to make it show up better.
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The descent was very fast because the trail is well graded and doesn't have much loose stuff. Total time for the 8.4 mile (13.4 km) hike was 5 hours.

Charcoal Kilns at the Wildrose peak trailhead.
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Wikipedia: The Charcoal Kilns were built in 1867 above Death Valley in the Panamint Range, and were used to reduce Pinyon and Juniper tree wood to charcoal in a process of slow burning in low oxygen. This fuel was then transported to mines in Death Valley to feed smelting and ore extraction operations.

The road was downhill all the way to the Wildrose campground, but descending the 2 miles of gravel was slow. I quickly packed up my tent and sleeping bag. I'm already tired, and now I ride fully loaded down Wildrose canyon to the Panamint Valley, then up the valley to Panamint Springs.

Descending to the Wildrose campground.
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The map shows that Wildrose Canyon has 4 miles of gravel. But it's mostly still paved, but being allowed to revert to gravel.

Descending to Panamint valley.
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Coming out of the canyon the road is paved, but with large rocks in the pavement. Kind of rough. The valley was in the sun, but ahead I could see dark gray clouds over the Inyo mountains.

The temperature rose to 81F (27C) by the time the road descends to 1500 feet (455 m) elevation in the middle of the Panamint Valley. 7500 feet (2270 m) lower than Wildrose peak! Then I turned north on Panamint Valley road. Gentle uphill with a tailwind and the sun about to sink into the dark clouds to the west. For a short time the pavement was wet and I could smell rain. What a delight.

Panamint valley south of Panamint springs.
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Panamint Valley road ends at US 190 where I turned west towards Panamint Springs resort. 3 miles uphill, now with a steeper grade. I was exhausted before I started.

I arrived at 6:15 PM. Not bad. At least an hour before dark. A campsite cost only $7.50, with shower but no table at the site. After setting up the tent I went immediately to the restaurant for dinner. They were busy and I waited a very long time for a very expensive burger. $35 for a salad, half pound burger, onion rings, one beer, tax, and tip. Through giant windows I watched the sunset on the Panamint mountains to the east. The best part was the changing twilight colors for 45 minutes after sunset.

Panamint Springs Resort seems to cater mostly to off-road motorcyclists. I can only recommend camping at Panamint Springs Resort if you are deaf. The resort is off the grid and they run a very loud diesel generator 24 hours a day. Several times during the night I woke up thinking I was about to be run over by a truck. A very annoying ending to an otherwise awesome day. Perhaps the noise would be tolerable in a motel room or motor home.

Distance: 42.4 mi. (68 km)

Climbing: 3591 ft. (1088 m)

Average Speed: 9.9 mph (15.8 km/h)

Maximum Speed: 38.5 mph (62 km/h)

Hiking: 8.5 mi. (13.6 km)

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 463 miles (745 km)

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