Arduous Argus

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November 26-28, 2015
The Argus Range is one of several dramatic desert ranges located between the Sierra Nevada and Death Valley. The highest peaks on the Argus Crest rise to over 8,000 ft while surrounding valleys just a few linear miles away drop to 1,000 ft. The western side of the range drops to ~5,000 ft, bordering the dry lakebed of the enormous China Lake, which contains the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. On the eastern side of the range and 4,000 ft lower lies Panamint Valley- a vast, barren landscape where summer temperatures soar to 120F and winters are often frigid and windy. It is from the east side that the range looks the most impressive, containing several 7,000 ft elevation differences in distances shorter than 6 miles.

The Argus Range first caught my attention in June 2013 while sitting in a car going over Towne Pass (roughly 25 linear miles northeast of the highest Argus peaks). As we came over the west side of the pass, an incredibly imposing mountain range containing countless folds, creases, and sharp ridges dominated the western horizon. It was late afternoon, and the sun was not far over the range, creating a multitude of dark and mean looking shadows which danced across the range. As the range eventually faded into the distance, I made a mental note to take a look at it.

Now, over two years later, I suggested the Argus Range to Mason after another traverse we had planned on had fallen through. The Argus traverse would go in a south-to-north direction and cover all peaks on the main crest between Parrot Point and Zinc Hill. Most of the crest lies within the boundaries of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, making it a sneak climb, but its remoteness would make a human encounter highly unlikely. We would start from Nadeau Rd in Panamint Valley, head west up Parrot Point's direct east ridge in order to access the Argus Crest. Once we were on the crest, we would traverse north along it to Zinc Hill, then descend the central northeast ridge of Zinc Hill down to Panamint Spring, where Michael planned to meet us at and shuttle us back to Nadeau Rd.

Argus Mountains on the other side of the valley seen from the Cottonwood Mountains, November 9, 2013

Getting to the trailhead: From the junction of Ballarat Rd and Trona Wildrose Rd, head 4 miles south on Trona Wildrose Rd to where Nadeau Rd splits off to the north. Take Nadeau Rd north for 5.5 miles, passing by three well defined dirt roads splitting off to the left, to a fourth dirt road splitting to the left. This fourth split is the trailhead.

Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 36.087467, -117.340136

The table below includes every peak (traversing south to north) on Arduous Argus. For unnamed peaks, I have dubbed names for them which are derived from the names of nearby mines, springs, or terrain features. These dubbed names are in quotes. Peaks without quotes are either officially named by the USGS or were found named by previous parties who had written them in summit registers.

PeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
Parrot Point8,378 ft678 ft36.081712, -117.478063
Parkinson Peak8,744 ft604 ft36.101648, -117.487407
Maturango Peak8,839 ft3,659 ft36.11999, -117.495588
French Madame Peak8,458 ft918 ft36.163074, -117.484165
"The Toes"7,671 ft100 ft36.183264, -117.492878
"Runway Peak"7,496 ft271 ft36.196599, -117.494981
"Golden Lady Peak"7,450 ft430 ft36.207317, -117.492385
"Point Arduous"7,110 ft231 ft36.222188, -117.490711
"Jack Gunn Peak"6,030 ft370 ft36.248443, -117.481356
Zinc Hill5,585 ft485 ft36.296208, -117.495689

Trip report (click on day 1 to begin)

Total Stats
34 miles    14,280 ft / 14,110 ft gain/loss

Maps (Since Blogger does not let me upload this file at full size, email me at for a full sized version of this map)

Approach (6.1 mi / 2,680 ft gain)

the traverse (27.9 mi / 11,600 ft gain)

Weather Forecasts
both trailheads
3,500 ft
5,700 ft
southern part of traverse (Parrot Point to Point Arduous)
northern part of traverse (Point Arduous to Zinc Hill)

Peakbagger Pages
Parrot Point
Parkinson Peak
Maturango Peak
French Madame Peak
The Toes
Runway Peak
Golden Lady Peak
Point Arduous
Jack Gunn Peak
Zinc Hill

Summitpost Pages
Maturango Peak
Zinc Hill

Other Forum

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