Panamint Butte DPS From Panamint Valley Big Four Mine

  • Updated: November 05, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 5th, 2016
Panamint Butte (6,584')
[Pics] [Map] [MapWCanyon]
7.1 miles, 4300', 11 hours

AKA a desert crap heap that really shouldn't be on the list when there's so much better stuff out there.

This and Canyon Point are some of the last few peaks I need to finish the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section List.  I've toyed with doing them a few different ways (there's a 4wd car shuttle loop option is apparently spectacular) but it was finally time to just get them done.  And with AMP just finishing I was ready for a good old fashioned desert car camp.

We decided to do Panamint Butte from the west climbing up from Panamint Valley at the Big Four Mine since the route up from Towne Pass was almost twice the distance and likely a bit much to be biting off at this point in my recovery.

We drove out Friday night taking the 395 and splitting off at Trona towards Panamint Springs.  Southwest of Stovepipe Wells we turned onto a dirt road.  Other than a little washboarding it was in excellent shape and we could have easily gotten the Subaru at least as far as our campsite and probably a bit further.

Our campsite was the big flat pullout just before heading up the hill to the Big Four Mine.  There was plenty of flat ground and even a small fire pit though it was completely exposed.  There were several other similar sites back along the road but this was the nearest to the trailhead that I'd really want to stay at.

Desert fashion + morning coffee

Looking up the rough section of the road to the Big Four Mine

After breakfast we piled into the jeep and crawled up the remaining few miles.  The road got a little rough in spots but the jeep handled it easily.

We pulled off right below where a use trail was heading up the hill towards a visible mine adit.  The route description I had said clearly to swing left and make sure you kept on the use trail which it turns out is very very good advice.

We of course got a little too excited and climbed up more directly.  It was pretty unpleasant.

Kristen remembering what she hates about desert season

Once up top it's a pretty standard ridge stroll.

Except for this spot which has a few hundred feet of loose scree where every two steps seems to result in sliding down one.

If this all looks a bit dull and colorless that's because it was.  Once up top near the peak there was a bit more vegetation and some joshua trees scattered about.

The summit was fairly non descript and had a register in a giant ammo box that dated back to the 70s.  It also showed this peak was a lot more popular than I would have guessed though no one was exactly gushing about it.

We only had another hour or two of daylight so we didn't spend much time up top.

Kristen once again remembering what she hates about desert season

As we were coming down that nasty slope I mentioned on the way up Jen and I got ahead a bit since we were more comfortable sliding down the dirt and rocks in a quasi controlled manner.  When we got to the bottom and stopped to wait for Kristen I heard a strange noise from across the way and saw a pair of glowing eyes reflecting from my headlamp.

At first we couldn't tell how big it was and I had flashbacks to a Thanksgiving trip years ago where I'd been stalked down the side of Villager Peak by a mountain lion.  It came towards us steadily and it wasn't until he was almost on top of us that we could make out what it was.

A kit fox!  He came almost within arm's reach before backing off and proceeding to wander around and approach from different angles.  When we got moving again he followed us for about a half a mile or more.

Eventually he peeled off which was a bit of a bummer.

We picked up the use trail on the top of the ridge and followed that instead of our previous track.  It turned out to be a much smoother descent that way.

It went by the adit we'd seen from below.  The rock is all really unstable so we didn't spent much time looking inside.  It went back about 20 ft and someone had placed a geocache back there.

By the time we reached the car we'd already decided to just camp where we'd been last night.

Dinner was made and eaten as quickly as possible as we were all ready to just pass out and the next morning we were moving at first light to hike Canyon Point from Cottonwood Canyon.

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