Grapevine Peak, Mount Palmer
By: Owen Maloy
I planned on climbing Palmer on Saturday so we'd have the easier peak on Sunday. We met at 6:30 at the gravel pit which everybody found, and wasted half an hour finding the right road out. We left the 2 WD cars lower than the mine because the road looked bad, but we could have gone all the way to the mine. When we reached the mine shaft (quite a ways above the mine proper) the road was blocked by snow. We lost another half hour hiking to the saddle. The shaft is at 6~00', the saddle at 7500', so that added another 600' of gain. We ran the participants into the ground on Saturday , so that the almost all left after getting Grapevine. There are some weaknesses in the Peak Guide to correct.
We left the saddle at 9AM, still barely OK if the 9 hour RT time was good (sunset was at 6PM). But as a result of talking instead of looking at the map I missed the sharp right turn at 8000' onto the subsidiary ridge and went ESE for about half an hour. Nothing looked familiar (a pinyon is a pinyon, one rock looks like another, etc), so we stopped to regroup. Sitting with our maps, the leaders and more savvy participants realized that the bump way over there was Mt Palmer. OOPS!
When it was obvious we would never make Palmer it was after noon, and one should be on the summit of Palmer about noon to make it back before dark so we climbed Grapevine instead. Several inexperienced people had leg-cramp problems, so the time we lost was a blessing in disguise. If we had gone down the ridge to Palmer we would have either to abort or leave group people scattered all over the mountain, possibly with a lot of gain to get them out. Nobody complained of not having enough conditioning and several said it was a nice hike. What more can a leader ask? There are people who huff and puff, jogging every day, and they never get a peak at all. Some people just don't know what's important.
Even at our roadside camp at 5900' it was cold and windy, and the usual DPS ceremonies were bypasses for a quick dinner and a warm sleeping bag. The next day most participants elected to return to L.A. rather than climb Palmer and stay up all night driving home. George Toby and I left camp at 6:15, left the saddle at 7:15, made the summit at 12:30 after loosing half an hour trying to find the route, and were back at the saddle at 5:55. We had dinner at 9:30 in Beatty (Bronco Casino, very good, and a good natural western feeling, none of your phony Las Vegas stuff). I got back to Mammoth at 4:45 AM after sleeping 3 hours along the road and having a 3AM breakfast at Jack's Waffle Shop in Bishop. Corrections to the Peak Guide for Grapevine and Palmer:
Roadhead instructions: The instructions are too vague. Beatty, Nevada is a big place and "1.3 miles N. of Beatty" depends on where you set your odometer in Beatty. There are a number of roads about 13 miles out -- it is very confusing and everybody had trouble. Recommended Change: About 11 mi north of Beatty there is an exit on the E side marked "Springdale". Go 1.3 to 1.5 mi N from this exit to a road on the W side. This is THE road. About 1.3 mi N on the W side there is another exit that goes to a gravel pit. There is plenty of parking here for sleeping overnight. Both the actual road and the gravel pit have barbed wire gates with signs reading, "Please close gate".
Driving Instructions OK, except the road above the place marked "shaft" on the topo is for high-clearance 4-WD only. Low clearance cars such as my Subaru probably can't make it (which is saying a lot). We didn't try it as it was blocked with snow.
Camping Instructions: Should include Park Service prohibition against ground fires. Recommend taking hibachis and charcoal instead of firewood. 2WD cars can make it to the mine, and there is lots of parking there.
Climbing Instructions: OK for Grapevine, but not for Palmer. The 9 hour round-trip lime is too short for the average group (Mantle & Co took 4.5 hours to make the summit and there is gain both coming and going). The difficulty is not flagged well enough. Furthermore the route on the summit is not very obvious. This is not a beginners peak. Beginners should be advised to be satisfied with climbing Grapevine.
RECOMMENDED REVISED INSTRUCTIONS: Hike MT PALMER: Strenuous, not for beginners. 10 mi, 500' net gain, 3,200' total gain. Hiking time from the saddle (excluding time on the summit) about 10 hrs for the average group. There is a clear use trail most of the way. Head S up to 8,000' highpoint. Participants having problems should abort here because there is a lot of gain coming back. Then head SW down a subsidiary ridge dropping down two saddles & climbing 2 bumps, then head SSW across a deep gully and up an easy ridge to the final gendarme to the summit massif. At the last saddle, climb up about 50' on a loose scree trail, then look for a track right. Go right to the second gully, down-climb loose talus 50'or so and bear left into a narrow gully filled with talus. Look for ducks here and climb gully about 100 feet and exit right. Follow use trail to the summit
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