Arduous Argus day 2: Bendire Flats to French Madame Peak

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November 27, 2015
After a restless 14-hour night, I was glad to finally see the sky lighting up. I grabbed the camera and walked a short distance over to some cliffs at the eastern edge of Bendire Flats to watch the sunrise. The temperature was hovering at around 10 degrees, making the sun a welcome sight.

After eating breakfast, which for me consisted of a couple frozen donut-looking things, we packed up camp within 20 minutes and heaved the slightly lighter packs back onto our backs. Parrot Point was now just over 1,300 ft above us, and the terrain would be nice and soft amid a forest of pinyons.

The summit plateau consisted of eastern and western highpoints. The western one contained several satellite dishes while the eastern one contained a giant radar dome. Because the western highpoint was labeled as "Parrot Point" on the map, I automatically assumed it was the higher one without consulting the topo lines very closely. Upon reaching it, we found the eastern summit to be higher (which I later confirmed with the map). The summit was a rock outcropping just west of the radar dome.

views from the eastern highpoint

western highpoint

We now turned our attention north towards the higher Parkinson Peak. We headed down Parrot Point's north ridge, which was steep and sandy but still only class 2. Little patches of snow appeared here and there, but they did not hinder progress. Just before reaching the saddle (7,700 ft) between Parrot and Parkinson, we intersected an old dirt road which headed up the south side of Parkinson. We took this road up most of Parkinson to ~8,400 ft, a short distance southeast of the summit. Since the road did not go up to the summit, we left it and scrambled up class 2 rocks to the highpoint, where there was a register dating back to 1966.

Parkinson seen from Parrot's north ridge

Parrot seen from Parkinson's south side

last few hundred feet to Parkinson

views from Parkinson

oldest register entry

After eating lunch on the summit, we began making our way north towards Maturango Peak, the highpoint of the Argus Range. Maturango is likely the most popular peak in the Argus Range due to its prominence and inclusion on the DPS list (It has been officially delisted by the Sierra Club, but because the delisting was due to property access issues, most people still see it as part of the list). From Parkinson, Maturango pretty much looked like nothing more than a giant lump of dirt. The traverse between Parkinson and Maturango was on all fairly mellow class 1 terrain. Maturango's summit block was easy class 2.

Maturango seen from Parkinson

views from Maturango's summit


To the NNE of Maturango lay the impressive French Madame Peak, which was named by Walt Wheelock in 1962 due to the mountain's "beautiful blush-pink color." With 918 ft of prominence, it was the second most prominent mountain on the traverse. After spending some time on Maturango eating and perusing through the register, we continued along the crest towards French Madame, taking note of the several 80-150 ft bumps which lay in between.

As we transitioned out of the pinyon forest and onto the barren ridges of French Madame, the geology immediately changed from granite to bits of yellow/pink slate.

Closer to French Madame, the small 80 ft bumps became more frequent. The sun was now bobbing low on the horizon. We were initially hoping to make it to French Madame before sunset. As the last rays of sunlight vanished from Telescope Peak, we found ourselves sprinting (or trying to sprint, with the bulky packs) up the last quarter mile of ridge to French Madame.

We reached the summit roughly 15 minutes after sunset, locating a cairn with the register which was placed by Burl Parkinson in 1959. According to one of the entries, Parkinson Peak was named in honor of Burl who had died in 1959 shortly after placing the French Madame register.

view from French Madame Peak


It was getting dark and cold fast, and we needed a place to camp. We headed north for a short distance to the next bump, found some relatively flat ground on the east side of the ridge under some pinyons, and decided to hunker down there for the night. Like the previous night, we ate and crawled into our tents at 5:30 pm. It was much colder than the previous day, with temperatures already dipping into the teens. At 6pm, we noticed something going pitter patter on the tents. It was snowing! Even though the sky overhead had been clear just 30 minutes later, clouds had quickly condensed over the mountain and were dropping powdered snow. There was nothing we could do now, except go to sleep and hope that we didn't wake up in a winter wonderland the next morning. Thankfully the snow eventually stopped around midnight, and the sky would remain clear for the remainder of the night.

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