Mars Hill RS
Mushroom Rock
Golden Canyon Peak CS
Kit Fox Hills RS
High Dune RS
Aguereberry Point 2x DPG / RS
Petes Peak P300 RS
Aguer BM P300 RS
South Fork Peak P300 RS

Sun, Mar 4, 2018

With: Iris Ma
Michael Graupe
Scott Barnes
Laura Molnar

Aguereberry Point
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Profiles: 1 2 3 4
Aguereberry Point previously climbed Thu, Mar 15, 2012


Our last day in Death Valley was a collection of short but interesting hikes, a few of which weren't even on the schedule. Most of these were around the periphery of the Valley in the lower hills with the last hike up at Aguereberry Point, more than 6,000ft higher. We used up most, but not all of the available daylight since Michael and I had more than eight hours of driving to do to get home that night.

Mars Hill

This little bump is located at the intersection of Badwater Rd and Artists Palette Drive. We had spent the night parked at the Artists Palette turnout up the road - nice place to spend the night, not entirely legal. In the morning we hiked up one of the canyons at Artists Palette intending to climb up to Artist Palette Peak. We had fun exploring the canyon, but it didn't take long before things got a bit dicey - steep slopes with poor footing - and we ultimately gave it up because the peak is more easily climbed from 20-Mule Canyon on the east side. After we returned, we drove down to Badwater Rd, parking at the junction and hiking to Mars Hill in all of two minutes. We wandered about to ensure we'd found the highpoint, then left a register for good measure. This is the lowest officially named summit in the US, but the next one is the lowest named feature.

Mushroom Rock

Michael noted that the topo map showed a "Mushroom Rock" even lower than Mars Hill, so we drove a few hundred yards north to find it easily along the side of the road. It is not located where shown on the topo map, but a good deal lower, right along the road. One website said the top had fallen off and was lying aside the feature but that is patently incorrect - it simply doesn't look all that much like a mushroom, really, but it might be the only class 3 feature with only five feet of prominence (I stand corrected - see link at the bottom - it really once was bigger AND looked more mushroom-y). We managed to get four of us carefully arranged on top for a photo, then Laura and Iris made a small show of their own. Good fun.

Golden Canyon Peak

This one wasn't on my radar either, but Michael pointed it out from the PB database, and it turned out to be the best scrambling of the day. The starting point is at the Golden Canyon parking lot about 2mi north of Mushroom Rock. This is the trailhead for the popular trail up Golden Canyon. The standard way to get up to the peak is to hike a few hundred yards up the canyon, then turn left into a deep groove that can be climbed to the summit, well-described on SummitPost and elsewhere. A little oblivious to this bit of info, we continued up the canyon for more than half a mile until we were on the SE side of the summit. From here, Scott went up to discover a route that worked, albeit a bit hairy in places due to the poor footing problem many of the slopes around here have. Four of us (minus Laura) went up to the highpoint which has nice views of Death Valley proper and the surrounding hills, left a register at the large cairn just east of the highpoint, then descended the standard route which is fairly easy to find from above if you look for the well-worn path. There were several other parties climbing up as we were heading down - guess they had done their homework.

Kit Fox Hills

Leaving Laura somewhere in Golden Canyon, we drove north through Furnace Creek and then another 15mi to the junction where SR190 turns southwest towards Stovepipe Wells. We drove north a few miles, parking alongside the road southwest of the Kit Fox Hills HP, a bit more than a mile to the northeast. The hike is easy to start up rocky washes, then gets a little sketchy climbing up to the crest along the steep, crumbly ridgeline of your choice. Then, more easy walking over to the highpoint another quarter mile away. We found a register there left by Carey/Adrian/Hanna back in 2002. Ours made for the sixth additional party to sign in since then. Our descent route was far better (safer), descending to the south to gain the lower washes before hiking back out to our car.

High Dune

This is the highpoint of the dunes to the east of Stovepipe Wells. We parked at the NPS lot along SR190, quite popular for folks exploring the dunes. Laura met us here but decided her sore foot wasn't getting any better and chose to head home to Bishop. Four of us soldiered on. Most of the visitors seem to tire of walking in the sand rather quickly, with few venturing more than about a quarter mile. The highpoint is located about a mile due north of the parking lot, fairly close to the point we had marked on the GPSr - seems these dunes aren't moving much, if at all. Walking in the sand can be tiring, especially if there is any sort of slope. The sand reaches a maximum angle at about 34 degrees, at which point uphill travel is very difficult because the sand lies at the angle of repose and any motion can bring down a volume of sand. The trick seems to be to avoid the steepest slopes and weave through the dunes looking for the low-angle routes. There are occasional dry mud flats that make for solid (easier) walking and I would utilize these where possible. It took us almost half an hour to cover the distance to the highpoint - not much point in leaving a register here, we figured. One sand dunes is about enough for one day.

Aguereberry Point

Time to gain some elevation. We drove our cars west past Stovepipe Wells and then south on Wildrose Rd, parking at the junction for Aguereberry Point. We then piled into Michael's Pathfinder for the 6mi drive out on the high-clearance road to the overlook at Aguereberry Point, named for Pete Aguereberry, a prospector who built the first road to this view spot. The sign at the end of the road says 6,433ft, but that seems to be more than 100ft higher than it really is. There is a commanding view to the east into Death Valley, though part of that view is blocked by Petes Peak, one of the four points we had come to tag, all of them found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. We first visited the higher rock outcrop above the parking area a short distance to the east which marks the highpoint of Aguereberry Point - an easy stroll that takes only a few minutes. From there we continued east to Petes Peak, finding a thin use trail that leads down to the saddle between the two points, then a climb of nearly 400ft up to Petes' summit. It's mostly class 2 with some easy class 3 scrambling in a few places. We left a register atop the highpoint during our brief stay there. The views are even better than Aguereberry Point. The roundtrip effort to Petes and back took an hour. A quarter mile to the west of Aguereberry Point is Aguer BM, an easy hike from any direction. I hiked from Aguereberry Point while the others moved the Pathfinder down the road a short distance to make it easier for the return from the last peak. I rejoined them on the way up from the southeast side. At the summit we found the Aguer benchmark and an extremely brittle register from 2001. Seems a fire swept over the summit sometime in the past, leaving the register cooked and dessicated. We couldn't turn the page without bits of paper flying off in the wind. 2/3mi southwest of Aguer BM is South Fork Peak with a 300-foot drop between them (one actually crosses the road at the bottom). This peak, too, is an easy walkup, even with a bit of snow lying on the shadier slopes we climbed. It was about 4:15p by the time we finished up back at the car, the four summit circuit taking about two and quarter hours. Good times. Now for the long drive home...

Terry Morse comments on 03/15/18:
Mushroom Rock was indeed much larger and has been broken apart over the years by people climbing on it. Here is a link talking about the rock and shows photos of what it used to look like.
Gimpilator comments on 05/01/18:
When I gave the "Golden Canyon Peak" nickname and made a Summitpost page for it, I never thought that it would become a popular objective. And now there's a trail. I should have known better. Still baffling.
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