Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The CIA's Death Valley Albatross (Part 3)

Final Examinations
Some more of the tail:

These types of pictures I like since they show the steep angle and miles beyond:
You can see Telescope Peak in the background on this one. Unfortunatley, it was a little too hazy on this day.
The tip and beyond:
There was an interesting story on this next picture. It looked like some sort of cloth or fabric when you look at it. However, it was obviously metallic when you touch it. I was told that this was actually rubber de-icing boots from the wings that over the years of being there had turned into steel!

This gives you a good idea of what it is like when you approach the aircraft. I will always be amazed it actually stuck there and did not tumble down below. It is sturdy there, and it remains one of the most interesting monuments of Death Valley.
After we got all these pictures and videos we headed back to the car. At this point it was mid-morning, and I knew the trip back would be more difficult. It felt like I encountered more scree on the way back. Then, we finally reached Towne Peak again!

Then we climbed over the smaller peaks until we saw the car. Yet, like one of the first pictures I showed. We still had a long way down. I think I reached the car at some time after 2pm. It was about a 9 hour hike.

When I got back to the car I started drinking. I went through about ten different types of drinks (water, Gatorade, Diet Coke, etc.) that day and still had not quenched my thirst.
That evening I left out some ice to melt into ice water; I just could not get enough. I went to sleep pretty dehydrated. I felt great though about the journey. I felt better the next day, but when I got home I went through two large glasses of water and it did not even phase me! lol! I could have kept drinking.

This ends my epic adventure to this aircraft. I spent a lot of time on this and showed a bunch of pictures since it was such a unique thing.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

The CIA's Death Valley Albatross (Part 2)

Exploring the Aircraft
As I tried to explain in the last entry, after the hike to get here, walking down the sandy scree, and then trying to walk around the aircraft at steep angle, it was not easy moving around. I was very slow walking around. Especially when I was underneath it. An interesting shot:
If you look closely you might see some of the debris below. It was way down there. No, I would not suggest trying to reach the plane from this way. That is seriously dangerous. One of the detached wings:
This was underneath it. Very cramped.
Here is part of the inside of the craft. You can see the chair in there.
The tail of the aircraft:
Stay tuned for my next entry that finishes up the pictures.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The CIA's Death Valley Albatross (Part 1)

The Descent
(GPS: N36 24.610 W117 19.430)
This is actually a continuation of the recent entries, but I got tired of writing the same titles for another three parts. So I decided to give this a different title for the last three parts of this series.

Before I continue, let me give a link to read the historical account of why this plane is here. It is good reading and gives a better explanation than I can on the crash. Please click this highlighted paragraph for the ALBATROSS ARTICLE.

If you read the article, you will notice in the second to last paragraph it mentions it is very dangerous to do the hike, and not suggested. Apparently, you can see the aircraft from some part of the highway. I would only suggest this hike to a person who is in shape, can deal with warm Death Valley weather, and, very important, can deal with scrambling on scree. I don't enjoy walking on scree.

After having the minor victory of getting to Towne Peak in good time we descended to our final destination.

It took us another hour and fifteen minutes to get to the aircraft. We reached the plane at around 8:45am. The final 150 feet to get to the plane is rather rough. It's a scree slope and you do have to be careful going down or you might really go down. My brother said he had a close call in an area where he lost his trekking pole.
The aircraft is rather intact considering the circumstances. It was a miracle that the craft is still here and not completely destroyed. One of the engines of the twin engine aircraft is what caused the problems and resulted in the crash. Here is one of the engines slightly attached, but mostly on the ground. You might be able to see some of the propeller.
Moving around this area above the aircraft was very difficult.
I was tired. I felt good, but there wasn't any rest here for me. I started shooting pictures and using my camcorder right away. The following area was difficult to descend through so I had to go slowly.

Keep in mind I did all of this twice. Once for the camera and once for the camcorder.
The underside! Notice the little "hill" I have to go over to get to it.
In the next entry I will show some of the inside of the aircraft and the tail.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Death Valley, Towne Peak, and the Mystery of the SA-16 Albatross (Part 4)

Lets Get Ready to Descend
We spent some time on the summit relaxing. The summit register at Towne Peak had some interesting notes to read. Many notes went back to the late 60's early 70's. Although some of the pictures you see below look the same as in the other recent entries. The angles of them are slightly different and I like them for that reason. I decided to include some of those.
Below is Telescope Peak in the distance.
Again, if you wanted to head to Trona and Ridgecrest you would go as far as you can see that way. The road taking you to Lone Pine heads to the right of the picture.
This note I read was interesting because it was written in the beginning of September of 1968. The father and boys note they had trouble and had to get a ranger to help them out. I can imagine that time of the year would be very difficult.
Again, this shows you the area we would have to descend to following the ridge.
They SA-16 from the summit.
This will be the last entry on our getting to the summit of Towne Peak. Then we are off to the site of the remains of the aircraft itself.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Death Valley, Towne Peak, and the Mystery of the SA-16 Albatross (Part 3)

The Summit
(GPS:N36 25.190 W117 19.095)

The next stretch was up one of the steeper parts of the hike to the actual summit.
We had to go up this thing.
Once on top of this it wasn't that difficult to get to the summit. We actually made pretty good time to get there. It took us about 2 hours 20 minutes. It was a minor victory as part of the whole hike. Like I mentioned in the previous entry, what was good was doing this early in the morning. The longer the hike would last, as far as the time we would be under the hot sun, the worse things would be. At the summit there was a slight breeze so we were feeling pretty good.
The above is looking to the southwest. Below, we are looking northeast.
It was nice to see Olancha Peak to the west which parallels the 395 highway below it.
Off in the distance we could see the snow capped Easter Sierra Range. Of course, we ended up staying at Lone Pine underneath all that off the 395; it is about 60 miles away.
I can't tell for sure, but I have highlighted two areas with dots below. The first one to the left I think is Mt. Langley. The second dot to the right is Mt. Whitney.
From the summit we could see our final destination again. We would have to continue to follow the ridgeline and descend to it.
In my next entry I shall show a few more shots from the summit before we continue on.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Death Valley, Towne Peak, and the Mystery of the SA-16 Albatross (Part 2)

Moving On Up
We continued along the ridgeline. There were various hills we had to cover. It was still early in the morning. Being in Death Valley one is always concerned about how hot it will get. I knew early in the morning that would not be a problem, but the trip back to the car will be.
I noticed some interesting rock formations as we went along.
This protruding rock seemed like the most interesting thing.
This is leading into one of the more steeper parts of the hike. It was actually easier just to follow the ridgeline to get to the base of the steep part than to walk more directly at it.
This is more looking to the southwest.
The day was a bit hazy looking in each direction. It always seems it is on the days I hike.
Before ending this part of the series I thought I would show a picture of our final destination from where we were at this point of the hike. After you get past the first ridge you can see the SA-16. In the following picture you can barely see it. There is also Olancha Peak in the distance to the right.
It is obvious to the naked eye right as you get up to the ridgeline at the beginning of the hike. However, to get there we still had to get up to Towne Peak first. So, it is time to climb one of the steep spots of the hike.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Death Valley, Towne Peak, and the Mystery of the SA-16 Albatross (Part 1)

The Ridgeline

Okay, finally, one of my big epic hikes. This is one of those things that I am going to spend a lot of time and entries writing about this month. I have a lot of pictures and a few video’s I have created for this blog. Since this hike was such a unique quest for me, and very few go to this location, I am going all out to detail everything.

First, before I get started, I want to give credit to the one known as Otis Pug for creating his “Klemmer Challenge” in geocaching. Although I had heard about this area before, it was not until I read about this challenge Otis Pug had put out that I decided to go for it! Of everything I did in geocaching, this hike and the hike to Snow Lake were the ones I loved the most. There is one more he did like this that a friend of mine who geocaches wants to do one day. So, I hope to do another one of his challenges in the future.

It was around January, 2006 that my brother and I had talked about doing this hike. Since we don’t like to hike on snow if we can get around it, we waited until May 13, 2006. As it turned out, I do not think the snow would have been a problem at all earlier in the year, but we did not know what to expect.

We drove to Lone Pine the day before. We tried to make the best of sleeping, and for me, it is the worst part of any hike. I never feel I have a good night of sleep before a big hike. When I wake up, I rarely feel good. This was no exception. It took me forever to get to sleep, and then when I woke up at around 4am I felt I had been hit over the head.

We made the long drive into Death Valley. It was very dark and creepy because we were driving into an area we had never been before. We made these long turns and could see nothing outside. Only the headlights on the road showed where we were. It was much more interesting to see what this was like on the way back.

We reached the turnoff at just around 5:10am. We had flashlights and were ready to storm the first 1000 feet to the first ridgeline. However, as I got out of the car the area started to light up a bit. I was glad to leave the flashlights in the car since they would just be more weight.

We went up to the ridgeline in pretty good time. It was 5:50am. Here are some of the shots looking back to the car.

When we came back to this point later it was really shocking to see that small dot and how much we still had to go to get back to the car.

This picture over the ridgeline was taken in a southwestern direction.

Here we finally saw our first destination: TOWNE PEAK. It is one of the high points left of center. There will be more about this later.

Another nice morning shot.
The key to this hike is, after you finally get past the first 1000 feet, you just hug the ridgeline and follow the hills to the top.
Our strategy was to not go directly over the hills, but angle slightly to the right of each of them. Some were easier than others.
This is looking back to where we came from.

I will continue with the next entry in this series tomorrow. There will be many of them and I am still working on all of this as I go. I will do more explaining about the mystery site as we go on. You can actually see the final destination after you get over the first ridge. However, I will save that until later.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley).