Telescope Peak

With all the forest closures, I wasn’t sure where I might go hiking. As fortune would have it, I found myself driving up to Mahogany Flat campground to tackle Telescope Peak. My wife had volunteered to help a family friend, so she would be busy for part of the weekend. I made the drive to the campground, which sits at just over 8,100 feet, with no issue. I set up my tent and relaxed. There was a bit of a breeze but it was fine. I watched the sun set across Death Valley to my east and had my dinner. As the evening fell, the winds began to pick up, & I moved my car to provide a bit of a break. I had planned to enjoy more of the night sky but retreated to my tent. The winds would rattle my tent all night long, waking me from time to time.

I woke just before dawn and captured a gorgeous sunrise, then made my breakfast and began gearing up. About 7:30, I signed my name in the trail register and set off. This hike can be thought of in three parts; the first 2 miles up the ridge near Roger’s Peak, the next 2 miles or so across the meadow, then the final climb to the summit.

Knowing this, I kept a measured pace as I made my way through the various pine trees. Sweeping views of Death Valley would show themselves to my east. Over these first two miles, I would gain almost 1,500 feet. Once at Arcane Meadow I found the cairn that makes the use trail up to Rogers Peak, as well as a small campsite. It was here that I would get my first glimpse of Telescope Peak. I certainly had some climbing ahead of me.

The trail turned mostly south, wrapping around Bennett Peak. My view had shifted to the Panamint Valley to the west. Far off in the distance stood Mt. Whitney. The next two miles went quickly as the trail was mostly flattish, allowing me some time to recover from that initial push.

As Telescope Peak drew nearer, some Bristlecone Pine began to dot the landscape. I took a short break before the last mile or so to the summit. There were about 11 switchbacks ahead of me and another 1,400 feet of gain. Between the thinner air, a less than restful night of sleep, and a poor choice of breakfast, I was struggling. I would pause frequently to catch my breath and focus my energy.

Finally, the summit came into view! The trio of hikers I had been leapfrogging had arrived just a bit before me. I dropped my pack and sat against the rocks. The views were tremendous, as there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Mt. Charleston could be seen to the east, Mt. Whitney off to the northwest. After eating my lunch, I snapped my photos, signed the summit register, and began my descent.

The wind was still blowing at times, taking the edge off the sun exposure. I looked at both Bennett and Rogers peaks. Initially, I had planned to bag them as well, but I was a bit wiped from that last mile to the summit and opted to skip them.

I took a break at Arcane Meadow before the last push down. My energy levels were a bit low, so I kept focused on the trail ahead of me. The miles would slowly tick down until the trail register appeared once again. I checked my watch and the 12.2 miles had taken me 8:18. Once back at the campsite, I decided to pack up and head home. Unlike when I drove up, I did stop at the Charcoal Kilns and take a look around. I am glad to have had a successful summit and am ready to tackle my next big peak!

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.