Ascent of Washtucna Benchmark on 2012-03-24

Climber: Craig Willis

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, March 24, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Washtucna Benchmark
    Elevation:1634 ft / 498 m

Ascent Trip Report

This area was initially off my radar, but I ended up going to Washtucna Benchmark for two reasons:
Reason #1: My family and I were already driving near the general area. This would only be a minor side-trip from our intended route.
Reason #2: Some people like to dictate to other peakbaggers the legitimacy and necessity of visiting so-called "error-range" peaks and so-called "other CoHP contenders." Several times, I have taken the bait... and each time the already-recognized and/or widely accepted highpoint has always been the real one... not the fantasized one. I strongly did not believe that Washtucna Benchmark was the Franklin County Highpoint. I wanted to make Washtucna Benchmark a brief pet-project to yet again reinforce the silliness that some peakbaggers demonstrate by preaching the necessity of visiting such "possible highpoint contenders" without first trying to seriously verify the legitimacy with in-person/real-time testing, themselves. But if I was wrong, I would own-up to such things.

My wife dropped me off at the grassy unsigned road junction. The junction was quite easy for me to locate, using maps and especially satellite images. In fact, none of this summit route had *any* signage or prohibitive markers at the time of my visit. In retrospect, our car probably could have driven to the saddle NE of the summit, although possibly scratched underneath and on the lower sides. I saw a coyote on a nearby hill, who watched me intently as I walked by. I saw no people and no active farming or machinery, although there was some old piping (for irrigation?) next to the road at the forementioned saddle. Once at the saddle, I hiked offroad and uphill in a southeasternly direction. I was thankful this hillside did not having annoying thorny barbs (cheatgrass?) like what I had encountered at the Franklin County HP several years ago.

At the ridgetop was a fenceline with a large, intentional opening. The opening was manmade, not a fallen section of fence. On the other side of the fence was a large field which appeared to be used for wheat. I made a concerted effort to limit disturbing any potential crops. A farmhouse could be seen in the far distance (to the west?). The views were great; rolling hills and treeless valleys could be seen for many miles. I find this type of terrain to be scenic but boring.

Once at the summit contour, I checked my maps, GPS, and altimeters (which I had pre-calibrated, and verified several times beforehand). I walked all over the summit contour. The lowest elevation I found within the summit contour was 1628'. The highest point I found was 1635'. Most of the readings I noticed within the summit contour were 1632'. I also took some photos of those various readings. Satisfied with my findings, and not suprisingly firmly disproving (at least in my mind) the assertion that this is a highpoint contender for Franklin County, I retraced my route. The fenceline appeared slightly higher, and I walked along it to verify, but that turned out to be an apparent optical illusion. The fenceline area was actually a little lower than the summit area.

I then headed down the grassy slope to the road-saddle, and then jogged back along the old road to Palmer Road. My wife was not there... she had apparently driven to the actual town of Washtucna for a mocha coffee... but she showed up soon enough. In the meantime, I walked down Palmer Road and looked at the old rundown farmhouse that apparently marks the southeastern (and private?) homestead entrance to the field road. The old rundown farmhouse had a sign on it that said something like "Zedley Hestor Homestead - 1901".

I am glad to have visited Washtucna Benchmark for one reason, and one reason only. If somebody wants other peakbaggers (myself included) to visit a possible highpoint contender that differs or conflicts with an existing contender, then that person really needs to visit that other contender himself/herself *and* make an attempt to give in-person/real-time efforts while there... *before* telling others that they must visit that peak, based on an assumption or self-pride. Unless a possible contender is proven in-person/real-time to be just that, I figure such a location is not even worth bothering with.

Unless you are a peakbagger who happens to be on/near Palmer Road, or possibly unless you are a USGS Quadrangle highpointer, in my opinion it is not even worth bothering with Washtucna Benchmark.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:260 ft / 80 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Eastern Field Road & Open Country
    Trailhead:Palmer Road  1374 ft / 418 m
    Quality:1 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:0 Days 0 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:0 Days 0 Hours 15 Minutes

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