Palen and Big Maria Range Highpoints Trip Report

Palen Range Highoint (3,848 ft), and Big Maria Range Highpoint (3,381 ft)

Dates: April 29 and 30, 2006

Heat was an issue on these two peaks. Basically, we were at the practical end of the climbing season for these desert peaks. The daytime high in Blythe was forecast as 92° F on Saturday (Palen); and 98° F on Sunday (Big Maria).

Edward Earl and I drove Friday evening to a road junction where Bob Packard and Andy Martin had already arrived. Starting at 7 p.m., we came to Blythe at 11, and I was not in bed until 12:15 a.m.

Both prominences (on the California 2,000+ foot list) required four-wheel drive on the final approach. Hence my truck was chosen over Edward's.

Both climbs were enjoyable, largely - although, again, the heat became an issue on the late morning descents ... especially for Big Maria.

The question arises as to whether the northern of three peaks in the Big Maria Range is a contender for the range highpoint (and hence the 2,000+ feet of prominence). Consensus has it that only the south and middle peak are contenders - especially as a survey by Richard Carey resulted in his claim that north peak is 2-4 feet lower than middle peak.

Using distant Whipple Range highpoint to the north as reference, the north peak is seen from middle peak to lie at the same angle of elevation when the viewer is 5 feet lower than middle peak's highest summit rock. A one-foot shift in viewer elevation is sufficient to perceptably move north peak's elevation angle relative to the Whipple highpoint summit.

With account taken of earth curvature, and as modified by atmospheric refractive effects; detailed calulation indicates that north peak is from 1 to 5 feet lower than middle peak.

I enjoyed a well-earned pint of Breyer's coffee ice cream as we drove back home. I resumed the driver role in El Centro for the balance of our return trip to San Diego.