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To the following members, please note that your membership will expire this month:
TELESCOPE PEAK - BYO DIAPER, CONDOM PROVIDED
So it's the end of summer. We've survived another seemingly endless run of 100°+ Vegas days. I don't know about the rest of you, but by late September I was frantically looking for places to cool off. A hike up Telescope Peak (11,000’) with two nights of camping at Mahogany Flat (8000’) was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Meyer family left on a Friday around noontime in a brand-spanking-new Toyota 4Runner 4x4 that we were eager to test out on the dirt road to the campground/trailhead. Kenny was strapped in the back seat, Chris was lounging in the passenger seat, and I assumed the role of driver. We knew Colin Okada, Rich Yost and Dave Luttman were 20 to 30 minutes ahead of us on US 95. I have a reputation for driving fast, and I did not disappoint on this day. We nearly blew past Dave and the gang well before US 95 goes from four lanes to two. A quick stop in Beatty gave us a chance to say proper hellos (exchanging frantic waves and goofy faces on the highway didn’t count), top off our gas tanks, empty our bladders, and fill out the ubiquitous LVMC release form.
Shortly thereafter we entered Death Valley, and with a couple more hours of drive time across the park, we found ourselves at remote and serene Mahogany Flat campground. The last portion of the drive is up a rough dirt road that has been known to challenge some LVMC members in the past -- I hear tell Joel had to take a late-night journey down the hill once to rescue a couple mountaineers whose vehicle was not up to the task. Apparently the road had recently been graded, though, and we found it relatively easy to pass. We’d have to push the new 4Runner another day.
We claimed a couple campsites, set up our tents, and prepared and ate our dinners. As evening fell, it got noticeably cooler on the ridgeline that served as our temporary home. As the night progressed, though, it actually got warmer. It was downright toasty by 4:00 am. Rich said he had heard the warmth that accumulates in Death Valley during the day has a tendency to creep up the mountainsides and envelop the Mahogany Flat campground. Sounds like a good theory to me.
In the morning, we took our time getting up and getting started. We found ourselves on the trail to Telescope Peak, which starts from the campground, a little after 8:00 am. Ahead of us lay seven miles and about 3000 feet of elevation gain to reach the summit. Nobody was in a hurry, since we’d be camping at Mahogany Flat again that night. We went up and up and up, leveled off for a while, and then really went up and up and up. Or maybe it just felt steeper at the end due to the rising elevation and our tiring legs. Four hours in, all six of us had reached the top, Kenny on his daddy's back included. It's well-maintained, easily-navigated trail the whole way, with a minimal amount of switchbacks, which suits this author just fine. There's little in the way of shade, especially after the first thousand feet or so, but that means there are no pesky trees blocking the amazing scenery.
On the peak, we marveled at the contents of the sign-in box. Besides the requisite logs and pens, we found a one-dollar bill, breakfast bar, rancid bottle of water and a condom --all one needs for a memorable night in Pahrump. We also changed a diaper (Kenny’s that is – Chris dealt with the elevation just fine, this time), took a bunch of pictures, ate some lunch, and soaked in views that seemed to go on forever. It was a wee bit hazy, but you could still make out the Spring Mountains to the east and the Sierras to the west. Below us was Badwater, a whopping 11,300 feet lower in elevation. The temperature on the peak was a refreshing 55°, while the temperature at Badwater was a scorching 110°.
The hike down took about three hours – I slowed the group’s pace due to a bum knee. We all made it off safely, though, and remarked on what fabulous experience it was as we sauntered (and in one case limped) back to camp. That night we lounged in our camp chairs with cold beverages in hand and a zillion twinkling stars (and the occasional passing satellite) overhead.
DEEP WITHIN THE CREVASSE
“Yes, but everybody knows that there are two kinds of stories, true ones and false ones. How do you know this story is true?”
“Well, when you listen to the story, you’ll know for yourself if the story is true or not. People have been telling this story for many years. It has been passed down to me from my father and it was passed down to Grandpa Ueller from his pa. Why don’t you sit right down there and let me tell you the story. It is about a man named Chester and his adventurous and dangerous trip.”
“Okay!” Johnny scuttles his bottom around on the shiny wood chair in grandfather’s leathery den.
“A long time ago, back when wagons and sleds were all that men had available to them for hauling things around, a wealthy old man shipped a cargo of treasures up north, to store them in a safe place. There were many guards and horses to transport and protect the treasures, as well as a driver for the trip, named Chester. The driver, Chester, knew much about the area they were going into and the safest way to navigate through the difficult mountains.”
“What’s navigate Grandpa?”
“Pick a path. Chester knew how to pick a path. He was a mountaineer! A man who lived his whole life climbing up and over mountains. He was chosen as the best man around to haul these valuable goods across this great distance to the north. There were many hazards. Once the group would no longer be able to travel by wheel, using the wagons, they would have to hitch the horses up to a huge sled and continue on. They would use the sled to make it through the great areas of snow and ice in the north. The most dangerous part of the journey would come when they would have to cross huge glaciers of ice. But Chester is a mountaineer, so he knows how to do these things. Do you know what a glacier is Johnny?”
“A glacier is a giant slope of ice that is sitting on the side of a mountain. Glaciers have big cracks in them. Some of them could be as wide as this room and hundreds of feet deep! These cracks are called crevasses and they are not always visible because they get snow blown across the tops of them like a big lid. These crevasses are dangerous because you can’t always see them and can fall into them.”
“Chester knew the trip was going to be dangerous. He was worried about having to cross the glaciers. It was one thing to cross a glacier with a couple of men but the thought of crossing a glacier with a team of horses and a giant sled made Chester nervous.”
“Being the great mountaineer that Chester was, he managed his way on his route without a problem. When they got to the snowy part of the journey, he switched the horses and the treasures from the wagons over to the giant sled that was waiting for them.”
“But it wasn’t long before they started having troubles. First the horses’ hooves were sinking into the snow. The mountains are a very dangerous place, Johnny, and you never know what the weather is going to do. One minute it is nice and clear, and the next minute you are being rained on or snowed on like crazy.”
“On the third day out on the snow and ice, they found themselves beginning to cross their first glacier. The glacier was covered with snow but it seemed firm and solid. The going was slow and the horses were struggling along when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a violent storm blew in.”
“Chester couldn’t see anything in front of him. The snow was falling faster than he had ever seen, and the conditions were getting worse and worse by the minute. He knew that he must get the horses and the guards that were riding in the open sled some shelter. It would be dangerous to get stuck out on the glacier in this storm.”
“The storm blew and blew. And when the horses could go no further because of the deep snow, Chester decided that the smartest thing to do was to turn around and try to go back the way they had come.”
“‘Downhill would be much easier on the horses,’ he thought, and we could all use some rest. Just as he started to turn the great sled around to go back down the mountain, -C-R-A-C-K- the ice under the snow broke out from under them with a loud POP, and the sled with all the horses started dropping down into a hole in the glacier! Into a crevasse! Since Chester was driving, he was sitting on top of the sled and was able to see what was happening.”
“At the last moment, Chester jumped off the sled to safety. He leaped out of the driver seat and landed on the edge of the crevasse and watched as the sled plunged into the dark hole in the glacier. He listened to the screams of men and the crashing of the sled as it disappeared down and down and down deep within the crevasse. It went on for many minutes as the sled fell hundreds of feet before finally hitting the rock mountainside at the bottom of the crevasse, shattering into a million pieces. Chester sat on the edge of the crevasse not moving. He had just survived a very close call. Now the snow was falling even heavier than before. He knew that he could not stay there for long before the snow would blow in all around him, freezing him to death.”
“Being a mountaineer, expert in rock and ice climbing, Chester carefully climbed down into the crevasse. He climbed down out of the wind and snow which gave him a place to think. He thought about his situation for a while and decided that his best option was to climb down to the sled where there were blankets and food.”
“It took him quite a while, but eventually he got down to the sled and gathered up the supplies he needed. He realized that he couldn’t climb back up out of the crevasse because it was too far, and he knew that he couldn’t stay with the broken sled because he would soon freeze to death. He decided to go downhill along the rocky bottom of the crevasse and try to get down the mountain from underneath the glacier, by walking through the halls of these giant crevasses.”
“As he prepared to leave the sled and dead men and horses, he realized he was leaving a valuable treasure behind too, under a deep dark glacier that no one would ever know was there. He knew he needed to make a map so that if he got out, he could come back and get the treasure and take the valuables home so that he could be rich!”
“It took Chester three weeks to find his way out and back to safety. He had made a very detailed map of exactly where the treasure was hidden. He kept that treasure map with him always, everywhere he went. But he never made it back north to that mountain to get the treasure Johnny, because one winter he got very sick and he died. But right before he died, he called his son into his room.”
“This man Chester was your great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather Johnny!” Johnny’s eyes were already large before hearing this news. Hearing this brought his eyes full open. He scooted around on the wood chair a bit more and leaned so far forward he looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy the way he was sitting and leaning so far forward with wide open eyes. He looked bent in half.
“Well, Grandpa Chester wasn’t too happy about not getting to see his treasure again. But he loved his son so he told his son he would give him the treasure map so he could go get the treasure for his self. Just as he told his son these words, he died.”
“When his son tried to get the map from his father’s hand, it wouldn’t come out! Chester’s hand wouldn’t let go of the map! Finally, after trying everything he could think of, his son chopped his father’s hand off so he could get the map and find the treasure. He kept the hand and map in a safe place but knew he was no mountaineer and couldn’t get the treasure alone. He needed a real mountaineer to go with him to get the treasure. He couldn’t find anybody he trusted with such a task, so he never went after the treasure either.”
“That hand with the map in it and this story, have been passed down from generation to generation, down to my grandfather, to his son, who was my father, and my father passed it onto me. I need you to become a mountaineer Johnny. Since your father died, you are now the one to go find this treasure!”
Johnny’s eyes were now so round and wide they looked frozen. He was afraid to blink he was so absorbed with what he was hearing from his grandpa.
“Now you must take the map.” And with that, Grandpa took an assortment of twigs that he had glued together and painted white to look like a hand of bones with a map clasped in the fist, and slowly passed it to Johnny.
Johnny crapped his pants then jumped and turned to run out of the den at full tilt only to run his forehead straight into the edge of Grandpa’s open door, knocking him back, then off his feet, to flop onto the floor next to Grandpa.
“Happy Halloween Johnny!” yelled Grandpa.
Johnny M. Ueller was never the same after this incident with his grandfather.
CLICK HERE FOR LVMC EVENT SCHEDULE
Las Vegas Mountaineers monthly meeting this month
Paul Des Roches
Prepare to explore these ever-changing Jules Verne-esque worlds of wonder. Glide through swirling waterways of sculpted rock, some slots over 100 feet deep, on this surreal photo-journey of four local canyons. Learn rope skills and about available gear specific to this sport. Allow yourself to be humbled by the inconceivable injury statistics, the dynamic nature of the challenges, and the awareness of the dire consequences of any miscalculations. Then go take a course like I did.