Ascent of Palen Mountains High Point on 2016-12-21

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Palen Mountains High Point
    Elevation:3848 ft / 1172 m

Ascent Trip Report

I pulled off the highway the night before and camped in my car near the BLM sign in a big turnout. I was already a little apprehensive about the sandy road conditions various trip reports described, and didn't want to try and navigate those roads in the dark. I woke up around 6 the next morning and drove a couple miles on Palen Pass Road to Palen Dunes Road, which took me right to the wilderness boundary sign, which serves as the trailhead for the west side. I've never driven in sand as deep as I encountered on Palen Pass road, but my Subaru Forester plowed right through it without issue. The AWD only engaged a few times, but that was only to keep me from fishtailing. Overall, it was a good road for me to cut my teeth on. I had both tools to extract my vehicle, and there is also 4G signal all the way to the trailhead in case I really got stuck making the stakes pretty low.

From the wilderness boundary, the approach is along an old mining road in great condition. It appears that vehicles are regularly driving 3-5mi in on it, where it is as good or in better condition than the approach road, before a big enough wash necessitates 4x4. There are camp rings and various other signs of human activity out on the bajada. After about 8 miles the road turns north, and the route shortly leaves the road. From here I traversed across several large washes slowly working my way into a canyon slightly to the north of the true summit.

The terrain is rocky, but there is not much boulder hopping to be found. The rocks tend to be football to microwave sized, and shift readily under human weight. I took 3 or 4 good spills. There is the occasional cairn, but there are not enough of them to mark a coherent path. There is however one lone cairn up high marking the southern wash when there is a substantive split. I did not take the northern wash, but other trip reports are consistent with the cairn stating that the northern one is more difficult. I was a little too aggressive in trying to cut the corner and go straight for the peek and ended up on the ridge a bit south of the summit. It however was just a short traverse to the true summit over an almost equal height south summit. I would recommend following my track down for slightly better terrain (bigger more stable rocks).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3415 ft / 1040 m
    Round-Trip Distance:20 mi / 32.2 km
    Route:DPS Route A
    Trailhead:Palen Dunes Road  433 ft / 131 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Calm, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 49 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 48 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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