We did Pinto Peak as the final hike of our Fall 2009 trip.  Up until this hike, we had not done any peaks during the trip, instead we focused on exploring canyons.  Thus, I figured that if I came home without doing any peaks at all, I would be hearing it from the peak hikers.  We actually had a couple of other peak hikes originally planned for the trip, but due to a couple of flat tires we had to call them off and change up our plans.  Thus, we decided to try Pinto Peak as an alternative hike.  Because this was a last second decision, we went into the hike very unprepared.  We didn't have any good topographical maps, Google Earth overviews, or information printed out from previous hiking reports.  I did know that the traditional route started at Emigrant Pass and followed a clearly marked old road, which led to the summit by crossing three valleys with lots of ups and downs, being around 7-8 miles each way.  And I also knew that the alternative route started at Towne Pass and was shorter but more difficult.  My sister and I decided to attempt this route, so we woke up early one morning and parked at Towne Pass for the day.  Without any directions or good topographical maps, we just headed south, working our way through small canyon washes and up ridge lines.  We figured that when we got to the highest point, we would be at Pinto Peak.  And we would know when we were there because there would be a marker and log book at the summit.  In the end, our plan worked out.  But I think we would have enjoyed the hike much more had we been better prepared, knew our present location all of the time, and knew how much farther we had to go.  Oh, and we would have enjoyed it much more if we didn't have the 50 mph + fierce, freezing winds brutalizing us the whole time.  It was so cold and the wind was so agonizing, we were forced to "side-hill" most of the time, which really slowed us down and caused the hike to take a lot longer.  But, you know what?  In the end, I really enjoyed the hike to Pinto Peak.  It has tremendous views and is a very worthy destination.  I also enjoyed discovering a unique feature which I named the Elephant Arch.  You can see pictures of it towards the end of this report.
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Parking at Towne Pass to begin the journey to Pinto Peak in the morning sunshine:
Starting out on the hike and looking back towards Tiffany and the truck parked at Towne Pass:
We hiked southeast from Towne Pass, because it looked like the easiest way to reach a ridge line:
Gaining some elevation now and looking back towards the truck.  Behind the truck is the route leading up and around to Towne Peak:
Approaching a canyon entrance with red colored rocks:
At the canyon entrance there was a dry fall and massive drop-off that prevented entry.  So we bypassed it by heading east and then south:
Tiffany heading up the bypass which was an easy hike up to the first ridge:
Looking off in the distance to the north at the route leading down from Towne Peak to the Albatross plane crash site:
Zooming in as far as possible on the Albatross plane (center of picture):
Steve reaching the first ridge with Mesquite Flat and the Grapevine Mountains far off in the distance:
A pretty hillside just to the southeast of where we were hiking:
We crossed a few small peaks before getting off the ridgeline. We figured that if we dropped back into the canyon below, we could follow it for a while and the hiking would be easier and more consistent:
Once we got back onto a ridge, we looked northwest and had this view of the Sierras and Mount Whitney (which I have summited twice to date):
Off to the west, this cool looking mountain top came into view:
Heading up to the second major ridge of the hike:
To reach the second ridge, we followed this very small canyon and climbed past loose rocks and boulders:
Tiffany climbing up with an epic view behind her:
View of Panamint Dry Lake in Panamint Valley to the west:
Once we made it to the top, we could see the third major ridge off in the distance:
Great views into Panamint Valley continued for the rest of the hike:
Whenever we would hike across open spaces, the fierce wind could come in and completely freeze our bodies, despite the many layers of clothing we were wearing:
It took a lot of willpower at this point to continue, because the wind chill factor had to be below freezing:
The same picture as above, but zoomed out a little bit more to show the terrain we were crossing:
Looking to the west, we could see a canyon below.  I actually had researched this canyon before, and knew that it led back to Hwy 190, as I considered taking it as a route into upper Nova Canyon:
At this point, we are "side-hilling", which means you are not hiking on the top of the ridge line, but off to the side and around the hillside.  We were doing this because it was the only way to gain a little bit of protection from the  wind:
Finally, our final destination came into view.  We knew this had to be Pinto Peak, because we had already reached several false summits:
You can see Tiffany in the upper right corner of this picture, as we are side-hilling to stay off the ridge:
Most of the time, the terrain was easy to navigate.  But by staying off the ridge line, we did end up wasting a lot of time and burning extra energy:
Once again looking up at Pinto Peak and trying to determine the best route to get there:
The best route proved to be a semi-circle around, to avoid dropping too much elevation:
We were regularly passing trees at this point in the hike, as seen in the next three pictures:
The summit was closer now, but the wind had no mercy and was making each step painful:
This tree was quite pretty and provided a moment of protection from the wind:
The next four pictures were taken during the final push to the summit:
Finally reaching the summit of Pinto Peak:
This large rocky area marks the summit and high point.  Pinto Peak is located at 7,508 feet in elevation:
Summit register box and a weapons canister located at the top:
The first thing I did is take shelter from the wind and look over the logbook:
Signing in at the top.  Only time will tell if the next person who summits ends up contacting me to send their greetings:
A large number of wooden boards scattered around the summit area:
The official survey marker has the peak name on it, which is always a special surprise:
And now for some of the views from Pinto Peak.  This is looking north (from where we came from), across to Towne Peak and beyond:
Zooming in for another view to the northwest of the Sierras and Mount Whitney:
Looking northeast towards the Grapevine Mountains:
A nice view of the Funeral Mountains and beyond into Nevada to the east:
But by far the best view was to the southeast.  Here we have Wildrose Peak (left) and Telescope Peak (right) visible in the same picture:
Zooming in on Telescope Peak and reflecting back on our hike there.  Telescope Peak was another hike that my sister and I did together:
Turning our attention to the west to get another view of Panamint Dry Lake:
Steve on Pinto Peak with Telescope Peak in the background:
A picture of Steve looking due north from the peak.  You can see how warm I was dressed, but it still wasn't nearly enough.  What we really needed was a parka for each of us:
If you follow this ridgeline down, you can see the route which I took to the summit:
That is Wildrose Peak in the background.  But the reason I'm showing this picture is that the road leading to Pinto Peak using the traditional hiking route is visible here in the middle of the picture:
One final view of Telescope Peak before heading back down:
I was once again extremely impressed with Tiffany's hiking ability.  Not many people could put up with the freezing wind and keep pushing on, like she did:
And these are the amazing discoveries which I made during the hike-- Mushroom Cloud Rock (left) and the Elephant Arch (right):
Zooming in on Mushroom Cloud Rock.  You can probably figure out why I named it that.  I guess it could also be called New Mushroom Rock:
The absolutely huge and spectacular Elephant Arch.  It's always nice when one of the trip highlights takes place at the very end of a trip:
In this picture, you can see why I named it the Elephant Arch.  I think the name is very fitting:
A wider view of the Elephant Arch.  You never know what you're going to stumble across when you take a route that very few people or maybe even nobody has taken before:
Steve sitting under his newly discovered Elephant Arch:
Saying goodbye to Mushroom Cloud Rock and the Elephant Arch.  And also saying goodbye to Death Valley, as this ended our Fall 2009 trip: