The Route/Conditions: As I mentioned above, I chose Rogers Peak for my snow survey of Telescope because it was an “easy” way to get the information. While access to Rogers Peak is through a fire road, it is worth noting that in winter, nothing is “easy” as it seems. Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Rogers Peak is a 9,994 foot mountain, and like most things in life, “easy” is a subjective term that can mean many things to many people. Finally, for people that are not familiar with the area, Rogers Peak is one of three mountains in the Panamint Range of Death Valley that are generally climbed together – a sort of “three peaks in one day” challenge. The other two are, respectively Telescope Peak (the highest point in Death Valley at 11,043 feet), and Bennett Peak (9,980 feet). While Rogers can be climbed as part of the three Panamint Peak trifecta from the main Telescope Peak trail, it can also be climbed separately as a stand-alone mountain via the fire access road.
Telescope Peak, in my mind, is a hike full of contrasts. In 2002, I solo climbed Mt. Whitney in day at the end of May, and then got in my car and drove into Death Valley to camp at Mahogany Flat. At sunrise, I was up and on the Telescope Peak trail, and after a few hours of vigorous hiking, had summited Telescope, Bennett, and Rogers well before the day was half over. On that day, it felt like the trail positively flew away under my feet. Then again, I suppose anything after Mt. Whitney the day before would seem easy. However, on a subsequent trip to Telescope Peak, the stretch of trail from Arcane Meadows to the summit seemed to me to be the longest trail ever created. Two things are clear about the Telescope Peak trail: first, that it winds up and around to the 11,331 summit of Telescope Peak, which is the highest mountain in Death Valley National Park and the Panamint Range; and second, that it has stunning views of the surrounding terrain.
My favorite thing about Death Valley National Park is the variety that the park provides. The park has the things that everyone expects – blazing hot temperatures, Badwater, and classic desert terrain. But the park also has innumerable things that most visitors don’t expect, such as the Charcoal Kilns and great mountaineering. Yes, that’s right, I said great mountaineering. The most popular mountaineering is on a cluster of mountains – Telescope Peak, Rogers Peak, Bennett Peak, and Wildrose Peak - that are located in the Panamint Mountains. Out of these mountains, Rogers Peak, at 9,994 feet is the easiest to summit, and is a great short day hike from the Mahogany Flat campground.