Bald Peak DS
Dantes View Peak P750 DS / DPG / RS
Mt. Perry P1K DS / RS
Coffin Peak DS / DPG / RS

Thu, Dec 15, 2011
Bald Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


I spent a frigid night comfortably ensconced in the back of my van in a sleeping bag. A down comforter made all the difference with the outside temperature hovering around 25F. I was up before sunrise and eating breakfast while I read Zdon's book to plan my route to Bald Mtn. The route seemed easy enough - hike east up an old road and then climb one of the ridgelines leading to the main crest and the summit. The peak lies just north of Wildrose Peak in Death Valley, at the northern end of the Panamint Range. The higher elevations around Telescope to the south were covered in snow, but Bald would only have a few inches at most - not enough to worry about and no need to carry snowshoes as I had the day before.

Though it isn't obvious from the pavement, it wasn't hard to find the old road Zdon mentions and follow it east into a shallow canyon. Snow began to make an appearance from the beginning, covering the dirt road where shaded from the sun. The road leads to a mine site about two and half miles in where I arrived shortly before 8a. A building that had serviced the nearby mine pit had collapsed long ago. The NPS had placed a benchmark at the site of the digging, though to what purpose I could only guess (an effort to document some of the park history?).

From the mine site I left the canyon and hiked up the West Ridge leading to the main crest of the range. Tucki Mountain could be seen to the north, Wildrose to the south. There was little snow visible on the southern aspects of the former, but a great deal on the north slopes of Wildrose. The sky was mostly overcast at this time, the sun trying to make an appearance on some of the landscape, but with little success. By 9a I had reached the main crest, now covered with 3-4 inches of fresh snow. I was another 15 minutes or so heading south along the crest before I reached the highpoint of Bald Mtn. The summit rocks were likewise covered in snow and I was unable to find a register, despite some effort to dig the snow out. Clouds enveloped most of the summit and there were only a few moments when I could get fleeting views, but none long enough to get pictures. It was particularly disappointing to have no views at all looking east to Death Valley thanks to the clouds that swirled up from that direction.

It took two hours to return via much the same route, with a minor deviation to take a different branch of the West Ridge near the bottom. Views improved as I got back under the cloud layer, eventually providing a decent view of snow-covered Wildrose to the south. I was back at the TH shortly after 11a.

I spent the next hour and a half driving through Death Valley, not stopping at either Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek which were both on the way. It was warmer at the lower elevations, around 60F at Furnace Creek when I passed by, fairly cool by Death Valley standards. I was heading for Dantes View where I planned to do the 4-mile traverse to Mt. Perry along the northern crest of the Black Mountains that form the eastern escarpment of Death Valley. Dantes View is not very high at just over 5,000ft and there would be no snow to contend with the rest of the day. The cloud cover was spotty bu this time, providing for some sun, though weakened by a thin layer higher up.

There were plenty of cars at the popular Dantes View parking lot. The viewpoint overlooks Badwater, more than 200ft below sea level, almost 6,000ft below to the west. Just northeast of the viewpoint is a use trail leading up to Dante BM, the local highpoint with more than 700ft of prominence. This can be reached in ten minutes and is also a popular point to visit. There were several folks milling about the summit area when I arrived around 1p. The views from the summit are much better than at Dantes View, and well worth the extra effort to reach it.

Mt. Perry is almost due north of Dante BM (or Dante View Peak), and only 12 feet higher. But that additional elevation gives it more than 1,200ft of prominence which was what got me interested in visiting it. I had expected it to be a long cross-country hike, possibly returning in the dark. Zdon in his brief description didn't mention that there is a fine use trail along most of this scenic and enjoyable ridgeline connecting the two summits. This makes it pretty much a piece of cake and I enjoyed it tremendously. About halfway along the trail peters out some, only to continue nicely several hundred yards further on. Some well-meaning idiot saw fit to periodically mark the indistinct part with white spray paint. If one simply pauses to look around, you can find ducks marking the best trail through here, but the white paint marks miss it by some ten yards or more. Oh well.

I spent about an hour and a half covering the distance between the two summits. Mt. Perry looks to have a difficult section on the south ridge just below the highpoint, but the trail nicely avoids this by skirting around the east side of the ridge as it makes its way to the top. The views from the summit take in the Greenwater and Funeral Mountains to the east including Pyramid Peak and Bat Mtn, Badwater and the Panamints to the west, and the crest of the Black Mountains looking north and south. It looks like an interesting hike to continue north to Furnace Creek, about 15 miles away. This might make for a very fine one-way hike from Dantes View to Furnace Creek along the crest, perhaps as a future effort when I've got a free day.

It took another hour and a half getting back to Dantes View, returning to the van just after 4p. By now most of the folks had left Dantes View Peak and only a handful of cars were waiting at the viewpoint hoping for a fine sunset. Zdon had another nearby summit in his book, the ominous-sounding Coffin Peak. Little more than a mile to the southeast, it makes for a very short, easy outing. I relocated the van about a quarter mile down the steepest part of the road where a turnout with restroom facilities is found. I parked here and headed towards the peak, not visible until one first surmounts the front ridge. I found no trail until I was halfway to the summit, whereupon a use trail develops leading one along the final stretch of ridgeline leading to the summit. There was a small cairn but no register (I had found none on any of the four peaks today) when I arrived about 4:45p. The sky overhead was mostly free of clouds, but a dark band still hung over the Panamints to the west much as they had done all day. The sun set on the other side of these clouds in an unspectacular way, without the colorful play of light on the clouds that we (I'm including those folks still back at Dantes View) were hoping for.

I got back to the van well after sunset, just before one might need to start using a headlamp. The last few cars were just descending from Dantes View as I returned. It began to quickly grow cold with the loss of sunlight and I wasted no time warming up the van. I drove back to Furnace Creek where I found a way into the shower rooms by the pool at the resort there. Afterwards I drove an hour south along Badwater Road to the mill site near Ashford Junction. I drove into the large gravel lot and found a nice flat area to spend the night away from the road. My dinner was fairly simple, few cans of soup, but sufficient and filling and loaded with sodium to recharge my batteries.


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