Saturday, March 31, 2012

Five days in Death Valley

I spent the past week on a little solo foray to Death Valley while Chris was in Dallas on business.  (I don't do Dallas.)  My "A" plan had been 10,000+ foot Mts. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in Southern California, but a couple of rainy-down-low/snowy-up-high weekends necessitated a switch to Plan B.  I love Death Valley for its quiet solitude and springtime warmth, and it had been over 3 years since my last visit so I figured it was time for another visit.  After driving some back roads to Mohave, I made my way through Ridgecrest and Trona, arriving at the Wildrose charcoal kilns in time for a Monday afternoon jaunt up Wildrose, elev. 9064 feet.

The 4-mile trail is easy, climbing just over 2000 feet.  It makes for a nice little acclimatization hike for nearby Telescope Peak, at 11043 feet the high point of Death Valley National Park.

After my hike, I drove around the northern end of the Panamints, through Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek en route to Shorty's Well, my starting point for Tuesday's excursion up Hanaupah Canyon.  My goal was to scope out the route up Telescope Peak from the east, a route that climbs over 11,000 vertical feet in ~15 miles.  I've been intrigued by this route for some time:  there aren't many mountains that can claim that kind of vert in one sustained climb!

I made it up to Hanaupah Spring, a sublime oasis in the desert, and spotted a coyote high in the canyon.  What a treat!  At this point I'd climbed about 5000 vert in about 11 miles.  The summit was only 5 miles further, but with another 6000 feet to ascend - and the reality that I'd have to return via the same laborious route (most who ascend this route take the groomed trail down and either get picked up or have a vehicle spotted at Mahogany Flats), I opted to save it for another time.  Okay, I wimped out.  The walk back down to Shorty's Well was sort of monotonous, but the temps rose as I descended.  This was a good thing - I like a bit of heat, and it got up to probably the low 80s, warm enough for a rinse from the solar shower anyway.  That's the Amargosa Range towering over Badwater Basin in the distance.

A quick reality check in Furnace Creek - I got 4 gallons, just enough to get me through the rest of  the week - and I was on my way to Emigrant Campground for the night.

After Tuesday's ~22 miles, I slept like a rock in the Honda Element, waking at 8 AM for a leisurely morning of reading (the excellent and appropriate America's Women:  400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins) over breakfast and coffee (REAL coffee with real half 'n half).  I spent late morning and early afternoon driving west to Panamint Springs and checking out Darwin Falls.  Having decided to do Telescope Peak via the easy trail the following day, I made my way back to Wildrose Campground for the night.  Thursday morning I was up at O'dark thirty for the 17-mile round trip jaunt.  The trail to Telescope is easy and runable, assuming one can properly breathe at 8000-11000 feet elevation.  Since I was carrying a down jacket, wind pants, mittens, food, water, and other safety gear, my pack weight was enough that I happily walked (vs. ran) the entire ridge.

With thankfully mild temps (30s-40s), only slight winds, and just a slight bit of tricky snow traversing, I made it to the summit by midmorning and enjoyed the view... especially the view down into South Hanaupah Canyon, further checking out the route up Telescope from that side, to be completed at a future date...

On the return across the ridge, I encountered 14 other hikers which seemed like a lot of people for midweek in the middle of nowhere.  That's Bennett and Rogers Peaks in the photo below.  I climbed them on my last trip up Telescope 3 years ago.

After catching up on email, texts, and voicemails in Ridgecrest - there is very little cell service in Death Valley National Park save for Furnace Creek - Thursday night was spent in Red Rock Canyon State Park which is about 1/3 of the way back home.  In a bit of an effort to put off the inevitable unloading, unpacking, laundry, and mail catch-up, I stopped for a short run on the PCT Friday morning.  This particular section of trail, near San Francisquito Canyon, was smooth and switchbacked, near perfect for running.  Yeah!!
Chris took the next 3 photos at Point Mugu State Park just this morning.  We had a nice 11 miler in the cool misty coastal air, quite a change from the previous 5 days.

It's nice to be back home.........


Olga said...

I like Death Valley in February, when there is such gentle touch of flowers in this forgotten place:)

Steve Pero said...

Glad to see you're exploring and having fun, Sue!