Peak 1,263ft P500
Peak 1,046ft P300
Ibex Dunes HP
Peak 2,201ft
Peak 2,339ft P300
Peak 3,038ft P500

Jan 21, 2022
Ibex Dunes HP
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3


I was in the southeast corner of Death Valley NP, which is occupied by the southernmost part of the Ibex Hills to the west, the Saddle Peak Hills to the east, and the Ibex Dunes sandwiched between them. I had spent the night camped on the east side of the Ibex Hills where an old mining road climbs west up to the defunct Superior Mine. It was one of numerous talc mines in the area, now part of the Death Valley Wilderness. I would start with the two peaks in this part of the Ibex Hills, then switch to the Saddle Peak Hills (with a stop atop the Ibex Dunes), and eventually end the day some miles to the north in the Dublin Hills near Shoshone. A wind advisory was in effect for the next two days, but it wouldn't really become a factor until later in the afternoon. Totals for the day would be about 12.5mi with 4,500ft of gain.

Ibex Hills

I started the day from where I camped, heading out just after 6:30a, a half hour before sunrise. Peak 1,263ft would be my first stop, less than a mile away. I headed up the SE Ridge, warming myself right from the start with a modest climb. It would take a little over half an hour to reach the top, sunrise coming before I reached it. I had a few brief moments of color on the the higher Ibex Hills to the north before the sun went behind thin clouds where it would stay much of the day. Smatko had recorded an ascent of this peak in 1972, but I was unable to find any sign of a register, so left one I carried with me. The second summit, Peak 1,046ft, was about 1.5mi to the south, and I chose to follow a path roughly along the spine of the range. Upon reaching the Superior Mine on the south side of Peak 1,263ft, I paused to investigate the large excavations that somehow became unprofitable. Later I read that this was the most productive talc mine in the southern Death Valley region, producing 141,000 tons of ore between 1940-1959. It remained in intermittent operation through the early 1960's before going dormant.

I followed one of the old mine roads to the south, bypassing an intermediate point along the crest, then started climbing the NE Ridge of Peak 1,046ft. It took just under an hour to get between the two summits. I left a second register here, thinking there'd been no online ascents recorded. Later I learned that Mason had been here less than a month earlier - small world. My descent route started off the South Ridge, curving back to the northeast before long, then dropping into a wash system draining to the east. Once out of the wash, it was an easy walk north along the base of the range to get back to the Jeep, an hour after leaving the summit.

Ibex Dunes HP - Saddle Peak Hills

I had only to drive a short distance to the east to be in position for these three summits, the Ibex Dunes HP and two unnamed summits in the middle of the Saddle Peak Hills. The Ibex Dunes are one of the smallest dunes in Death Valley. The highpoint is found at the north end of the dunes, about a mile and a quarter southeast of where I started from the road. It took me a little under half an hour to make my way across the valley floor and then steeply up the West Ridge of the dunes to the highpoint. That last five minutes' effort was tiring up the soft, sliding sands. Others had been to the dunes recently, with footprints criss-crossing some of the slopes and along the main crest. Winds periodically erase the tracks, but it has been a few weeks since there have been sufficiently strong winds.

I next turned my attention to the Saddle Peak Hills and Peak 2,201ft about a mile and a half to the northeast. The descent off the leeward side of the dunes was steep and quick, getting me down in a few minutes. Back on the floor of the valley, I continued towards the base of the hills, sand eventually giving way to more solid ground. I followed up a wide wash that narrowed after a time, then started up what might be termed the West Ridge of Peak 2,201ft. From a distance, the upper half of the mountain appears to get steep and perhaps class 3, but it all worked nicely at class 2, getting me to the top about an hour and a half from the top of the Ibex Dunes. I found no register, but didn't expect one on this minor summit without 300ft of prominence. I left one because I thought it was a pretty decent climb regardless - I found it kinda funny that this range was called Saddle Peak Hills, when clearly they were more than hills. The same could be said for the Ibex Hills, too.

The higher Peak 2,339ft was less than half a mile to the north and getting between them was as easy as I could have hoped, taking all of 30min. On this summit I found a Mark Adrian register from 2020 when he'd climbed it on a warm day in April. The wind had begun to pick up strongly now, and I was keen to get off the exposed summits and ridgelines. For the descent, I dropped off the SW slopes into a gully that would lead me down to an alternate wash than I'd used for the ascent. The gully narrowed about halfway down where one might expect a large dryfall, but the drops were short and never more than class 3 to descend. Eventually it widened again to easier ground. I passed by an old Death Valley park boundary marker and sign, some mining detritus and other rusted objects on my way out of the hills. The wind was blowing harder as I crossed the valley back towards the road. I could see the sand blowing over the crest of the dunes to the south - I was very happy that I had not done the route in reverse or I might have been sandblasted in ascending the dunes at this time. It was 1:20p by the time I got back to the Jeep, too early to call it a day.

Peak 3,038ft (Dublin Hills)

I had considered doing another hike in the Saddle Peak Hills, to two other summits further south. The sand and dust I could see blowing off Death Valley and over the southern part of the range was discouraging me and I decided to look elsewhere. I drove back out to SR127 and then north towards Shoshone, turning off onto well-graded Furnace Creek Rd before reaching the small town. I was after Peak 3,038ft in the southern half of the range, having more than 600ft of prominence and only 8ft lower than the range highpoint to the north. A faint spur road (high-clearance required) forks off to the northeast to reach the base of the range, less than a mile from the summit. This saved almost two extra miles of walking each way and made for a much shorter outing. Composed primarily of limestone, this small range has some decent scrambling and this was no exception. I started up the mouth of a wash from where I parked, finding it narrowed where a 20-foot dryfall is found. I scrambled up the class 3 direct line, though there is a class 2 bypass to the left. I continued in the gully a short distance, worried that it would lead to bigger cliffs when it curved to the right. I climbed out of the gully to make a more direct line towards the summit above me somewhere. The upper half of the route was a steep headwall, class 2-3 and fairly decent, no issues. It took about 45min to reach the top where I left a register (no sign of a register from either Karl Fieberling or Bob Sumner who had preceeded me). On the descent, I decided the gully I had left earlier might work nicely afterall, so I dropped into it and found more fun scrambling that I had missed on the way up. It was after 4p by the time I finished up back at the Jeep. I drove back out the way I'd come, and headed to Shoshone where I got dinner at the Crowbar Cafe. It's not the greatest in desert dining, but it was far better than the can of soup I had for a backup. Afterwards, I drove to Greenwater Valley back in Death Valley NP where I found a suitable place to camp for the night. By this time the wind was roaring and the Jeep was rocking from the buffeting. I was a bit smug inside the Jeep, imagining how bad it might be if I were trying to sleep in a tent tonight...


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