Palen Mountains High Point (3,848')
When: November 2nd, 2013
Where: Near Blythe, CA
Who: Matthew Hengst, Kristen Lindbergh
GPS Track: [Map]
After yesterdays slightly overlong stroll up Granite #2 the plan was for the slightly easier Palen Mountains High Point followed by a leisurely drive home.
However the fact we again woke up a bit on the late side and our decision to camp near Granite #2 meant we had a good hour and a half drive to get to the Palen trailhead before we could actually start walking.
Good thing I like headlamps...
The road is basically as described on climber.org complete with endless ruts and frustratingly clear sections of road running right beside the one that you're driving on. It's mocking but best to avoid the urge to hop over the small berms as the side roads are inevitably short and blocked off by rock barriers when they rejoin the main road.
There's a few different trailheads mentioned in the climber.org and Sierra Club DPS Guide. We initially stopped a bit before our Palen Park waypoint (see the short branch off to the left) after finding the road clearly blocked by rocks. After poking around I noticed a rather clear series of tracks going around this and continuing further in. With no signage indicating any sort of wilderness boundary we continued on a short way to a rise right before the road drops back into a slightly rough wash.
In reality we could have made it on as far as the DPS TH waypoint where the fairly decent road is cut off rather decidedly by a deep erosion rut but we decided to stick where we were.
The plus side of where we parked is easy access to an abandoned hut off to the southwest.
We could see other mine remnants all around us but never managed to get close to anything overly interesting due to time constraints.
As far as the hut all that remains is a fairly standard collection of detritus peppered with the occasional smattering of bullet holes.
We stuck to the DPS C route (which according to Tina Bowman's register sign in stands for Cat's Claw) which entails aiming for a chute of white rock that didn't look overly appealing from below.
In actuality it's surprisingly decent boulder scrambling and quickly turns into nice solid rock.
From the top of the white bit you're in a canyon that's largely hidden from view from below but runs between Palen and the clear pinnacle to the right. Other than the occasional dry waterfall the scrambling continued to be of surprisingly decent quality. (It's possibly I was overly appreciative of this after the pain in the butt that was Mormon Peak the weekend before)
We did do some high second class / very low 3rd ish bits here and there but as a general rule if you hit anything that feels sketchy look around as there's likely a much nicer alternative.
The above picture was what I thought had the most exposure of anything we'd done (here's the view from the top) Kristen however barely batted an eye here but really hated a lower section that we ended up bypassing completely on the way down after seeing a trail of ducks.
Approaching the saddle up top the way got a bit less pleasant and we found the Cat's Claw we'd heard about. I took us off to the left out of the main canyon on what looked to me to be easier going. This proved to have less crumbly sections and less vegetation woes than continuing up the main wash but did have a few steep loose sections Kristen didn't overly care for.
Again the summit register was filled with people I knew including one climber who sadly died in a climbing accident in the Sierra this year.
The views off in the distance were again hazy but we could clearly see Granite #2. (It's off to the left in the background of the picture above)
I'd intended to drop us down the B route mentioned in the DPS guide but as we were clearly looking at a somewhat limited amount of daylight left followed by a drive home we decided to head back down the way we'd come.
The descent down the canyon was far nicer than coming off Granite the night before though it was enough to make Kristen a big believer in getting a bigger headlamp before the next outing.
Returning to the jeep we could see headlights bouncing around in the distance though it was hard to judge just how close they were to us. Oddly enough when I turned on my headlights their's went off almost instantly.
The drive out was long and mostly just annoying as we had to cross back across all those endless ruts and microwashes now in the dark.
I was tired enough we actually pulled over along the dirt road for a short nap before driving the rest of the way back into Blythe.
We went through Blythe late enough our only real food option was the somewhat less than impressive local Denny's but the waitress did do a reasonable job of keeping our cracked mugs filled with depressingly weak coffee. (I'm convinced Denny's buys those things pre cracked it's so rare to get a whole one)
The drive back from Blythe to OC was fairly reasonable and there was no repeat of the epic midnight traffic snarl of the previous weekend. Still it put us home at 3 or so in the morning by the time we pulled back into OC.
And sadly that would be it for desert weekends at least for a few weeks due to a combination of work and health issues. However, the big annual Thanksgiving trip was looming...