03 April 2016

Last Chance Mountain

Death Valley National Park




After another downright delightful night at the edge of Death Valley with the Desert Peaks Section group, it is again a short drive up to our start point, although a fair bit rougher than the drive on the previous day. The start is a cluster of mines in an area where there are quite a few mines. This one has many holes that look to be in quite good condition, one big enough to drive into. They are probably all the more dangerous for looking so safe. Holes in the ground are not our target anyway. We are heading north to a nice, high peak. And so we take off up an old mining road into a wide valley looking to gain a ridge and keep on walking. The road ends, for the most part, quickly at a set of large cairns. There is evidence of someone trying to find the way along it further up, but even that would not gain us much.

truck around the end of the road
Plenty of mining went on to give us our access point.

a little road walking
We get some pinon pines along the side of the short road walk.

The old road turns off into the valley again, but we continue to climb. This one is a little steeper than yesterday, but still gives pretty steady footing. There is almost a trail under our feet, but it is nothing that has ever been maintained.

the uphill portion
And we climb and we climb. Out of the valley and its mine road system.


We hit the top and keep on climbing. I keep feeling like the short route would be around on the east side while the leader is tending to the west, but mostly right over the top. The slope of the hill is a little easier on the west side and there is something quite nice about level ground under the feet.

mountain side of pinon pines
Lots more pinon pines by the side as we climb. Off in the distance is a mesa in Nevada that caught my eye yesterday. It is probably Mount Jackson.

Eureka Valley
Another boring ridge. Looking out over Eureka Valley.

Sandy Peak
Yesterday's peak seems to have a shadow echoing its shape behind it from here. The sand dunes sit below it.

We hit a peak, but it is still far from the peak we are aiming at. It is a short day, so we rest and snack before continuing on. Continuing means down, losing that elevation we worked at. There are many small peaks on the way to our destination. We cannot even see it yet.

hikers ahead along the ridge
Ever onward along the ridge we hike.

Death Valley
Still climbing. Death Valley vanishes into the distance to the southeast.

Eventually, there is a white topped peak ahead of us. It is distinctive from the previous one by the color.

white top
There is a white topped peak ahead. It is not as distinctly white as the snow topped White Mountain behind it, but still noticeably lighter than the surrounding stones.

hills northeast
Meanwhile, the valley landscape to the east is changing quite a bit.

ridge line hills
Back the way we came.

Whitetop
The final push to the top.

Then we are on the top. It is an even grander peak than the one yesterday. I go hunting down the benchmarks. The reference marks are not immediately obvious, but eventually I have found two of them. They point to a gravel covered area that does not contain a station. There are rocks nearby that look like they were probably part of a large cairn once, but there is no benchmark under any of them either. According to the information in the NGS database, there should be a station in a large boulder, but I cannot find it. Meanwhile, we have a few runners taking off who have not hiked quite enough and are finding the bright white shoulder to the northwest too attractive. They come back reporting that the view is even more amazing from out there.

overlooking the Eureka Valley
Eureka Valley stretches out impressively below.

Wasim on the shoulder
One breaking away from the group to see the landscape from another vantage point.

Sandy Point
Sandy Point, the climb yesterday, is a pointy bump past the round topped bumps we traversed today.

The land drops off quickly to the north of us, but then climbs again. There are many more mountains to climb that way. We make an attempt to take it all in. But how can it all be taken in? There is just too much. We have to give up in the effort eventually and turn back to retrace our steps.

hiking downward
And down again.

Again, our route is not a perfect retracing of the route up. We go a little further around one peak and a little closer around another. Eventually, we even find ourselves in a slightly different drainage down into the valley. None of the variations mean much, though.

purple flowers like a vase
The flowers today are much rarer. This tiny delight is smaller than my fist.

healthy cactus
This rather happy looking cactus has a few deep red buds and is almost ready to bloom.

These two with Telescope Peak mean I have now completed about the only somewhat easy peaks on the DPS peak list.  Still, there may be more.




©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 8 Apr 2016

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