Telescope Peak

Cloud Surfin

When the alarm goes off at 4 am, I have no clue what we’re in for. We throw breakfast, lunch, and gear together in a blur and are in the car by 5 when we discover the car windows are iced and the defroster doesn’t work. Not the sort of thing we noticed while the highs were still above 100 in October. After a lot of scraping and scrubbing we get enough visibility to drive to Ted’s.

Ted is there by his truck. He thinks he’s driving, and we both sit there for a minute waiting for the other one to load their gear. There’s some bickering before we settle on my car. Ann saves the argument by agreeing to sit with Jezze in the back so Ted won’t get (dog) hair on his butt. It looks like we might fight all day.

The drive goes quicker than I remember. It’s about 70 miles, the last 15 on potholes with bits of road in between. The car engine smokes and stinks of oil burning, but makes it up the hill. The last bit is steep dirt road covered in a few inches of snow. We start to get excited, and worried.


Ann has nothing but her mesh running shoes, only slightly better in snow than sandals. Jezze is thrilled to be somewhere where her black coat isn’t a punishment, and she struts and plays with unusual confidence. She even seems less afraid of Ted. Ann decides to see how far she can get before her feet freeze, and takes off.

Ted and I start up about 20 minutes later. We both have reasonable gear for snow, and hope to make the entire 7-mile, 3000-ft hike to the summit. It’s glorious to be out in a cold, snow-covered world. Death valley looks serene and remote below.

More than an hour passes before we catch up with Ann. By that time she’s about ready to turn around. Clouds are starting to form around the peak. I get nervous that it might be the beginning of more weather, and I urge Ted to make good time.


It’s much less windy than the last time I did this hike in February of 2002. The clouds make for dramatic views, casting doppled shadows on the desert valley floors. The hiking is hot or cold depending on the amount of sun, wind, and the steepness of the trail. On the last mile, I manage to stay on the trail in a spot where I wandered off onto the west side of the ridge before. The east side trail is much easier going, with gentle switchbacks up to the summit.

When I reach the top it is one bright island of snowy rock in a sea of clouds. The sunlight is dazzling, and a steady wind makes it cold. I add some layers, take pictures, and sign the register. No one has made an entry since October 3. The clouds are breaking up a bit when Ted arrives, and we get a few pictures with land in the background. I like the cloudscapes though, for the truly other-worldly sensation they give.

The hike down is quiet and peaceful. The clouds continue to break, and some of the snow has melted on the south-facing slopes. Ann is glad to see us when we reach the car. The round trip has taken us almost eight hours, a few hours longer than she expected. All is well, and everyone notices my driving is much mellower on the return trip.

7 responses to “Telescope Peak”

  1. who took the best pic? i did… it’s the one you put on your site. .. and you were worried about the contrast. heh. i think that makes up for any bickering.

    the car thing was weird. back when i started talking about Telescope Peak.. like over a month ago.. i said i’d drive. then when it get re-brought up, i said i’d drive again. i had the car perfectly packed the night before too, i really didn’t want to unpack it and repack in your car.
    wound up forgetting only one thing (hat with a visor), so that wasn’t too bad.
    also, i was ready to Rock and Roll by 4:45 am.. out the door and waiting. dylan/ann/jezz didn’t show up ’til ~5:30… so i was a bit anxious at that point and NOT wanting to fukk with all the stuff in my truck.
    i guess that makes up for all the times that i bog before we go on a trip!

    the hike was great. i had been out bustin’ around in the local hills the day before and was still a bit sore. i coulda moved quicker, but that’s relative. say you can move at 80% capacity… well, my 80% is still slower than dylan’s 80%.

    hot cold is right. i was too hot most of the hike. but i didn’t want to go with light fleece and heavy duty shell.
    the sun/wind thing just varied too quickly and I decided to go with the “too hot” option.
    at the summit, i took off/put on my gloves a couple of times. my hand wound up getting too cold.. the only time i got a bit worried.
    i broke my own cold weather rule of TOUCHING things without some layer of protection (i wear glove liners). that’s what got me. alas, i recovered sans frost bite, which bites.

    trip back was easy. THAT’S when i was glad i wasn’t driving.

  2. It is a good pic. I like the way the cloud and I look like we’re facing off.

    I can remember you volunteering to drive now. It was the half hour I spent scraping windows, wrestling with the defroster, and finally rubbing the windows down inside and out with paper towels to get my car roadworthy that formed my attachment to it. It wasn’t a conscious thing, just a reaction. If I had remembered the plan to take your truck, I would’ve just called you to come pick us up as soon as I saw all that ice on the windshield! Alas, I was just eager to get going.

    Running used wreak havoc on my feet and back. But, maybe it’s time to try again.

    I get huge differences in body temperature depending on whether I’m moving or not. In motion, usually just a shell is enough. Standing around, I need bigtime insulation. The gear I took turned out just right this time, but would have been a bit light with less sun and more wind.

  3. ice on the windshield.

    in Organ, it reminded me of when i was in high school woodshop classes scraping the copious / excess amounts of wood glue off another project. i mean.. it doesn’t just come off.
    of curse, if you have a defroster, you can kick that on at 5 minutes later it’ll peel right off.

    ice on the windshield.

    my cousin keith’s girlfriend…. she tooke a steaming tea kettle out to her windshield one morning and dumped it on there… BANG! spider-webbed the entire windshield.

    ice on the windshield… yeah, there’s a things i don’t miss about being in Oreegone.

  4. the temp thing..

    i was prolly 97% of the time right on the clothing thing snowboarding up in Bend. but the other day, i was pretty much off.
    i went for the non-layer approach. a good mid-weight anorak and a good midweight fleece woulda been perfect.. pretty much what you had! though i woulda recquired a hooded fleece (for the neck).

    some truly wind proof gloves woulda been perfect. GEAR GEAR GEAR GEAR GEAR!!!

    i’ll tell you what, from my perspective, hiking with you is great. there is NO WAY you are going to be the one turning around.
    i feel like i said that to someone on the way up… yeah, i told ann that. i remember seeing you trot off and thinking,,, “Yeah, he’s goin’ to the summit… you better get your ass up there too.”

    i am stoked on the whole thing. i was more leary than weary. having the trail broken was a big deal. there were no mis-steps.

    we must hike up Whitney Portals as far as we can this winter. GET SNOWSHOES!!

  5. i get some things from my dad. When I go out hiking or skiing with him, I know I’m the one who will suggest turning around. Even if we summit, he’ll propose a ridge traverse to the next one…

  6. Running used wreak havoc on my feet and back. But, maybe it’s time to try again.

    LET’S GO THEN!! i am headed out in a few minutes. i have been looking for someone to flog trails with.. alas, no takers for this brutal sport.

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