By: Sue Holloway
About' 4 years ago, I read about the climb of Panamint Butte via Lemoigne Canyon, typically done as a two day backpack. Those were the days, however, when I was list driven and I had to climb two peaks a week-end so I climbed Panamint Butte the first time as a dayhike from Towne Pass.
Things are different now so I got together with my regular co-leader, Mary Motheral, and scheduled the backpack up Lemoigne Canyon. Initially, all I had to go on were a couple of write-ups on the DPS website and, using those and my 7 1/2 minute topo, I had a good idea of the route. I decided to e-mail Campy Camphausen about a month before the climb to see if he could provide me with a few more specifics and that he did. Using his copious notes, there was little uncertainty as to the turnoff, the drive in, the route in the canyon and the place we would camp.
After a y~ windy Friday night camp at Emigrant Campground at the intersection of Hwy. 190 and Emigrant Canyon Road, the group gathered on Saturday and we were ready to roll at the scheduled start time of 8 a.m. We drove north on 190 about 2.8 miles to the faint dirt road on the west side. Just as Campy had told me, there was a small sign indicating the road. The drive in was straightforward but the road was rough. There were some tight squeezes that were especially difficult for the larger 4WD trucks. Finally, the road ended at what was to be our trailhead and there was adequate parking for all our vehicles.
Packs were heavy since we were carrying all our water. Christine Mitchell was busy weighing everyone's pack and, if she had been giving prizes for the heaviest, Cliff Jones would have won hands down. Her scale didn't measure that many pounds; his pack maxed it out!
The route goes up the wash which then becomes a narrow canyon and then widens again. Everyone went at his/her own pace and we regrouped at our break and again at lunch. It really was a lovely hike, even with our heavy packs. After about 5 miles and at 5000' elevation, the wash divides with a fork to the west. It's spacious and sandy and ~ place to camp so we dropped our packs and spread out to set up our various 'accommodations'.
Later we regrouped for happy hour. Since I had wanted my backpack to be heavy (in preparation for a long backpack in July), 1 had carried in a 5 pound Duroflame log so we even had a campfire while we enjoyed happy hour, socializing and then dinner. It was early to bed for all, however, as our primary objective (the peak!) was still ahead of us.
It was windy, cool and cloudy Sunday morning as we set off for Panamint Butte. The climb is straightforward... basically a walk in the wash to the base of the northeast ridge. By the time we reached the summit, the skies looked threatening and it was cold. Ken and Brydon Barr had brought a kite and they had no trouble getting it airborne! We didn't stay on the summit long because of the conditions; rain looked imminent. Soon we were back at camp and packing up. The storm didn't materialize and our hike out was uneventful. We relaxed at the cars for a bit, said our good-byes and caravanned back out to the highway.
I agree with those who have done this route before that it is a good one and is an easy way to climb Panamint Butte. I think this route should be written up and included in future editions of the DPS Peaks Guide.
Thanks to all the participants for joining me in this adventure: Cliff Jones, Rayne Motheral, Dave Boyle, Ken Barr, Brydon Barr, Christine Mitchell, Ron Bartell, Sara Wyrens and John Strauch. Special thanks to my coleader. Mary Motheral, and also to Campy!
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