On January 24, 1952, a crew of six people bailed out of a SA-16 Albatross Plane. The Albatross was headed for San Diego, when one of the engines quit over Death Valley. After the crew safely abandoned the plane, it continued flying and crash landed on a steep slope west of Towne Peak, with one engine still running. After reading other accounts of those who have visited the Albatross Plane Crash Site, I decided to undertake this difficult hike in the Spring of 2006. I rank it as one of the harder hikes I have ever done in my life. Ryan, Robert & myself started out one morning by parking at Towne Pass. The entire hike is cross-country, so we started hiking up the rocky ridge on the north side of the road. After over an hour we came to the summit of that ridge and got our first view of the Albatross far off in the distance. The route to the Albatross was clear, we would need to to take a semi-circular route around the mountain ranges, which included climbing to Towne Peak (7,287 feet). There were U.S. Geological Survey markers along the way, which helped to guide us from one peak to the next. Eventually, we make our way to Towne Peak and signed into the log book and then continued down to the Albatross, where we also signed into a log book. We spent a good amount of time exploring the ruins of the Albatross, all the time being careful because it rests on a somewhat precarious slope. The slope is quite dangerous to walk around on because it's on the edge of a cliff. My estimate is that the hike was over five cross-country miles each way. What made the hike even more difficult, is that it got dark and extremely cold on the way back.
SAFETY ALERT-- This hike contains sections of climbing, exposed bypasses and/or high dry falls and requires safety ropes & equipment in order to complete the entire hike. Those without the proper training, experience, and safety gear should stop and view the Albatross from a distance since it rests on a precarious slope.
Starting point for the epic hike is at Towne's Pass:
We parked our car in this gravel parking area and headed north cross-country directly up the mountainside:
About an hour later we reached this first ridge and enjoyed a grand view:
Visible at this first ridge were both Towne Peak and the Albatross, which was resting on the mountain:
As we worked our way around the ridges, the Albatross was always visible:
We stopped at Towne Peak for a while to sign in and get a few pictures:
Next, we began descending towards the Albatross:
We finally made it after a scary scramble down some slippery rocks on a very steep slope:
Steve getting his picture taken in front of the Albatross:
Look to the left in this picture and you can see that the back of the Albatross is resting close to a cliff with a huge drop-off, and certain death for anybody who slips right here:
The final seven pictures show a variety of views of the Albatross and ruins from the crash:
After we were finished, we actually took a different route back, descending first into a canyon and then back up, thus bypassing Towne Peak. This proved to be a mistake, as it took a lot more time than we were expecting. Rob and Ryan joined me for this hike, while Flemming waited for us at Towne's Pass all day.