Telescope Peak From Shorty's Well In Death Valley

  • Updated: November 13, 2010
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 13th, 2010
Telescope Peak (11,048')
[Pics] [Map]

Telescope Peak is the highpoint of Death Valley towering an impressive 11,049' over an area which includes the lowest point in the US.

Most people do Telescope starting at Mahogany Flat where a trail runs 14 miles and 3,200' round trip.  That seemed a little pedestrian so we decided to do it the hard way and come up from the east where we'd start below sea level and climb over 11k in 24 miles.

Since going up is the fun part we made things a little more reasonable by planning to leave a car at Mahogany Flat so we could walk down the trail and save ourselves another 8k of knee killing descent.

The long painful car shuttle

Christine and Barlow had driven out the day before and done the hard work of dropping off a vehicle at the Mahogany Flats trailhead and then driving all the way back to Shorty's Well.  I found them sleeping there when I arrived at 2 am still suffering from a flu that has knocked me out for most of the week.  But hey, it was time to hike!

We started set out from the cars at 6:54 am just as it was getting light.

Looking up at Telescope from a long way down
The first 8.5 miles was along an easy jeep road heading into Hanaupah Canyon.

Looking back at Badwater

End of the Jeep road
The road ended 8.5 miles and 3400 ft of gain later.  We'd been hiking for just over 3 hours.

At this point there were use trails to some of the mine remains in the area but we soon found ourselves bushwhacking in an attempt to reach the ridge we were aiming for.

Our route through the vegetation drew some blood as the edge of the leaves were sharp sliced into our hands when we grabbed them or tried to smash through.  At least it was short and finally we were on the ridge.

We were 4 hours in now and still feeling pretty good.

We gained the ridge north of Hanaupah Canyon at 5k and followed it up until it met the trail along the ridge at 10k.

Along the way we found Pine Nuts on some of the trees which made for a nice snack.

It was long and grueling but the terrain was fairly pleasant.  Personally I found this to be a much nicer hike than the more famous Cactus to Clouds in Palm Springs.

Another 7.5 miles and 8k gain brought us up to the normal trail at 10k.  We'd been hiking 11 hours at this point.

Looking back at what we'd just climbed

We surprised a group that was returning from the peak along the trail and they couldn't believe we'd come up from below.  They took our picture and we staggered on.

James was feeling bad enough he elected to skip the peak and head directly down the trail to the car.  Christine and I were somewhat more stubborn and figured we'd come this far and intended to finish.

The trail was covered in ice in a few places but we were able to pick our way across.

We were on the summit at 7 pm 12 hours after leaving the car.

From there it was an easy hike back down the frozen trail in the dark.  We didn't have enough left in us to do Bennett or Rogers Peaks which are right along the trail so we had to settle for one rather long peak for the day.

I admit I passed out in the back during the long drive back to Shorty's.  We stopped at Furnace Creek along the way in the hopes of some hot food and could only find a single bar that was open.  The sympathetic bartendress listened to our story and managed to turn up some turkey sandwiches and a fruit and cheese plate from the back.  Not quite what we were craving but we appreciated it.

At this point we were so tired everything felt slightly surreal.  This included the gentleman in a long sleeved red shirt and suspenders with a big white beard and a large gut that was attempting to hit on two attractive European women at the bar.  We all swore he looked like Santa Clause.

We eventually made it back to the cars and crawled into bed driving home the following morning.

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