Our last day in Valley of Fire was to be a short one. Eric wanted to start
heading back to New Mexico with Leroy by noon, but this didn't mean getting
started in the morning any earlier. Like the previous two days, I was up earlier
than the others to get a decent hike in to satisfy my primal urges, then around
mid-morning we headed into the park.
This limestone summit lies a little over a mile north of White Basin Overlook,
a P1K that I climbed a few months earlier. I had hoped to do Buffington at the
same time but had run out of daylight.
I spent about 45min driving from camp up to
the same turnout I'd used for White Basin Overlook, on the west side of the
crest, near where the road climbs to its highest point. The road getting there
from the north is pretty rough, but having done it on that previous occasion,
I knew the jeep was up for it. It was about 7a when the hike,
taking just over half an hour to find my way to the top. The distance is short,
about 3/4mi, but the elevation gain is over 1,000ft. is less
than 20ft lower than White Basin Overlook and there was of
it from Buffington's summit not long after sunrise. I took an alternate route on
the way back, funneling into that had some fun scrambling.
Just after 8a when to the car, I would spend more time
driving on this one than actual hiking.
When I got back to camp the boys were just about ready to start breakfast and
still had some packing to do before we could head to the park. When all the
morning chores were completed, we headed out in two cars, Eric driving his so
he could exit the through the east entrance of the park on his way home. We
drove to the end of the main road at White Domes to start our hike from there.
Peak 2,431ft was the last sandstone peak in the park that appears in Purcell's
Rambles & Scrambles
I had yet to visit. It lies about a mile WNW from
the White Domes parking lot, not far beyond The Orphan, another Purcell summit
that had been a very fun scramble a year earlier. We started off on the loop
trail heading counter-clockwise, leaving it soon after passing through the first
rock gap by the road. We followed a semi-random into the
sandstone hills, going around the south side of The Orphan. The tenajas were
filled with water from recent rains and Leroy enjoyed drinking from them and
even . We hiked only about 30min before we'd reached
turnaround point to get Eric back to the parking lot on time for his departure.
We took of our little group before saying our goodbyes. Steve
would hike back with Eric while I continued on, Steve and I then catching up
a few hours later back near the start.
I did some class 3 scrambling to get out of the current drainage and into the
next one to the west. This would lead more readily to the south-facing gully
described by Purcell. This easy leads to
on the west side of the summit where cliffs appear to stop further progress.
Continuing through the notch and around the corner leads to a suprisingly easy
break in the cliffs up leading to the top, no more than
class 3. A register had been left by some CO climbers with only
a single other entry from 2018. After taking in looking
, I returned back via the same route to the bottom of
the south-facing gully.
Peak 2,411ft (fail)
I next turned my attention to this slightly lower summit about half a mile
further west. I was a little surprised that it got no mention in Purcell's
book as he seemed to have gotten all the other points with significant
prominence covered. I would soon discover a possible reason why. Although it
was fairly straightforward to get from the base of one peak to the other via
typical VoF sandstone scrambling, looked to offer no easy way
to the top.
The view of it from the south was imposing, and though there looked
like routes that might
work on that side, I dismissed them as likely
needing a rope, gear and partner. I decided to go around to the west side and
see if something more reasonable might not present itself. This one also had
a south-facing gully leading up to the west side, and I dutifully followed it
though it did not look promising above. And indeed, this turned out to be the
case. I was able to scramble some class 4 and low 5th to climb another 100ft
higher than the top of the gully, but I was ultimately confronted with an
that wrapped around the north and west sides - there
would be no this way.
Upon returning back down to the base of the peak on its south side, the next
obvious line of inquiry would be to try one of the routes I had considered on
the south side. Doing so would have put me past the time to meet back up with
Steve so I decided to leave this for a future endeavor. I took
of this side before leaving, still uncertain that there is any scrambling route
up it. I spent the next hour+ through the
, finally having a chance to do the larger portion
of the White Domes Loop Trail that I had not done on two previous visits. It's
, taking in some and a
through towering rock walls on either side. There's
even of a rancho from a western movie set,
constructed and filmed many decades earlier. Steve was not back at
as I had hoped when I arrived shortly before 2p. I would have to wander back
out on the trail we had started on hours earlier, climb a small overlook and
search for him. I spotted him about a quarter mile off across the open wash
area, and after a few minutes of waving got his attention. He'd been hanging
out in a quiet spot where he'd expected me to return past.
Not quite ready to leave the park, Steve wondered if we couldn't find a nice
rock to hang out on for an hour or so. We drove back out on the road a few
miles, finding some
south of Gibralter Rock that would
do nicely. We had enjoyed a few beers with the views, whiling away an hour or
so before it started to get chilly.
After returning to the van, we drove back to the Visitor Center to get more
firewood for the evening and I suggested to Steve that he might enjoy the short
scramble to nearby Balanced Rock. I had done this on a previous trip, finding
the formation had an improbable route with a class 4-5 crux move that I figured
Steve could manage. And so we paid it a visit, following
we'd used before, Steve enjoying
at the very summit. I had to do a
bit of extra scrambling up and down to both get the hero shot and get back to
coach him ,
but it was all good fun. A couple out for a
walk around the feature while we were in the process of ascending it looked up
nervously at us. Steve called down to them, "I suppose it's not going to be
very enjoyable watching someone die." They gave a half-hearted laugh but kept
going - I suspect that's exactly what they didn't want to ruin their vacation.