Route: Telescope Peak from Shorty's Well (CA)

Location
California, US
Description

Gregory Wagner posted the route:

The landscapes of Death Valley National Park are some of the most awe-inspiring in North America.  It is a land of extremes, of low and stark desert, twisting canyons, crumbling crags of barren rock desolation, vast wilderness, and solitude.  The lowest point of Death Valley itself is Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in North America.  It is also where the hottest temperatures on Earth ever recorded by man were measured.  The basin is a salt-crusted wasteland.

Part of what makes the basin so hot, besides its low elevation, are the massive mountain walls which confine it on east and west.  On the east is the Amargosa Range.  On the west is the Panamint Range -- the highest range in Death Valley -- whose highest point is Telescope Peak, rising to 11,043 feet.  The upper reaches of the mountain are rocky and barren, graced by a sparse collection of ancient and gnarled bristlecone pines, and often buried in deep snow in winter.  The peak was so named because of the vastness of the summit vista, from Charleston Peak to the granite wall of the Sierra Nevada.  Moreover, with just a bit of determination, the mountain can be ascended directly from the hadean depths of Badwater.

An ascent of Telescope Peak from Badwater Basin involves gaining 11,240 feet -- the second greatest gain possible on any peak in the United States, after Mount Rainier.  The commonly accepted route for this adventure is to start at Shorty's Well, just off the West Side Road, at an elevation of -200 feet.  According to one GPS recording, the round trip distance is 29.7 miles and 11,800 feet of gain, taking into account a few minor ups and downs along the way.

The route is for the most part straightforward.  From Shorty's Well, the summit aspirant first must jog up the Hanupah Canyon road a little more than 8.1 miles to its end.  From there a faint trail follows a wash, generally staying to the right (north) side of the canyon.  Within a mile, a small creek which originates from Hanupah Spring farther up canyon will be heard gurgling (the water must be purified due to contamination by burros).  After about 1.1 miles from the end of the road or about 9.2 miles from Shorty's Well a cairned route leaves the canyon and climbs to the crest of the ride high above Hanupah Canyon on its right (north) side.  Any route can be taken to the top of this ridge, really, but the cairns mark what is probably the fastest and most efficient route.  The route continues up the ridge above Hanupah Canyon to where it meets the crest of the Panamint Range, and follows the trail leading left (south) to the summit of Telescope Peak.  The distance from Hanupah Canyon to the trail on the summit ridge of the Panamints is perhaps 4.6 miles and 6,300 feet of gain, and from there about 1.1 miles and 1,100 feet of gain to the summit.  From the summit, steps are retraced.  The summit ridge is often snowbound in winter, and the snow can be deep, or hard and icy.  The view is one of the finest anywhere and encompasses the highest and lowest points in North America, from Charleston Peak to Mount Whitney, and the greatest wilderness in the lower 48 states.

A good description of the route and trip report can be found here:

cedarandsand.blogspot.com/2012/02/shortys-to-telescope-peak-death-valley.html

I propose that a Fastest Known Time for this route be established for the total return trip, going to the summit and back from Shorty's Well, by the fastest route.  Unsupported trips are simple because of the availability of water at Hanupah Spring.  The route is interesting for an FKT, since it involves both potentially fast running on the road to and from Hanupah Canyon, as well as cross-country travel, and surprisingly little bushwhacking.  There is a bit of route finding required where the ridge spur leading to the summit ridge becomes somewhat vaguely defined.  On the descent, care must be taken in these sections not to drop down into a side canyon.  While the ascent is massive, it is the descent which is perhaps the highlight of the journey, since for those with the necessary skills it is essentially runnable for almost the entire distance from summit to basin.  Another special aspect of the journey is that the summit of Telescope Peak is visible from almost the entire route.  The unbelievable scale, remoteness, and beauty of the route should attract all lovers of landscape and mountain.

 

FKTs