Peak 2,747ft P300
Peak 2,975ft P300
Peak 1,269ft P300
Shore Line Butte P300
Peak 1,614ft

Sat, Jan 22, 2022
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3

Continued...

My second full day in Death Valley was a blustery one. The wind had started up the previous afternoon and wasn't forecast to run its course until later this evening. And "blustery" is a bit of an understatement - it was roaring to the point that I had trouble standing up on the summits. It was hard to reconcile this with "fun". I had some longer hikes in the 6-10mi range in mind, but decided those wouldn't give me an easy out if I wanted to abandon the effort. I thought about heading home early, but with my wife off in Southern California, it would be pretty lonely by myself sitting around the house. No, I needed to tough this one out, and to make it easier, I decided to do a series of shorter hikes connected by drives that would give me some respite from the wind. This seemed to work well enough and overall I ended up enjoying the day more than I had expected.

Peak 2,747ft

This was the last summit I had left to do in the Dublin Hills, a minor point with just over 300ft of prominence, less than a mile south of SR178. Because of the wind, I slept in a bit longer than I had the previous day, and though I had camped only a few miles from my starting point, it wasn't until nearly 7a that I got started. It was a short climb from the northwest, going up a rocky gully in a fairly direct line to the summit. When I got to the top in 20min, I noticed there were two more points to the northeast that looked like they might be higher. I spent 10min traversing the summit ridgeline to the other points, eventually figuring they were indeed higher, though I couldn't tell which of the two was highest. Later, I would get LoJ to update the summit to the middle point. I went back down from the northeasternmost point, which filtered into a different gully than the one I'd ascended, neither proving obviously better. I was back to the Jeep an hour after I'd left.

Peak 2,975ft

This summit is also found on the south side of SR178, some miles to the west of the first summit. It is tucked behind some folds in the hills, making a direct approach from the highway a little tricky. I was happy to find a cherry stem into the Death Valley Wilderness that I could drive to a saddle a mile and a half east of the peak. It would have the unusual property of a starting point that was higher than the summit I was after, though barely. The route follows the continuing road, now in the Wilderness, down to a wash that flows past the peak on its south side. It made for one of the better outings of the day because the wash was partially blocked from the wind blowing south over a ridgeline on that side. Once near the peak, I climbed up a steep embankment to reach a saddle on the peak's east side, then followed class 2 slopes up to the summit, taking about 45min from the start. It was blowing strongly over the summit, so I didn't stay much longer than it took for a few photos and to leave a register. On a calmer day, I probably would have followed the undulating ridgeline back to where I'd parked, but it was far too windy to be enjoyable for that length of time. Instead, I dropped back to the original wash and followed that back to the Jeep.

Peak 1,269ft

This minor summit is found west of Jubilee Mtn and Jubilee Pass, about 3/4mi south of SR178. I parked along the road northwest of the summit and started from there. This was an easier ascent, taking just over half an hour up one branch of the NW Ridge. I would take the adjacent branch on the way back. There is a good view of Jubilee Mtn to the east from the summit, and a fine overlook of the immense Death Valley to the south, west and northwest. There was still plenty of snow to be seen on the flanks of Telescope Peak on the west side of Death Valley. I left a register at the summit before starting back down.

Shore Line Butte

This standalone summit rises from the floor of Death Valley, a few miles southwest of the Ashford Mill site from where I started. The hapless stampmill was used to crush gold ore from the Ashford Mine, about five miles deep into the Black Mtns to the northeast. The mill changed hands several times, but never seemed to become profitable and was eventually abandoned. The ruins are one of the minor NPS attractions in the park. The hike begins with a gentle descent across the sandy valley, crossing the Amargosa River (all underground at this point, normally), before hiking to the base of Shore Line Butte. The butte is really a collection of folded terrain, generally rising to something not quite butte-like, but flat enough that the name seems quasi-appropriate. The northern part of the butte is dark volcanic vomit that looks exceedingly tedious - essentially slopes completely covered in toaster-sized rocks. I chose to follow up a wide and obvious alluvial fan that narrows to a sand and rock wash going up the middle of the butte on the east side. I found mule and people tracks to suggest others have thought this the better way, too. By taking the appropriate branches as one climbs higher, this wash-becoming-gully can be followed nearly to the summit. I wasn't paying close attention and climbed out of the wash to the northwest a little too early and paid for it by climbing extra elevation and a slope that was half-treacherous, half-annoying in its steepness and looseness. The true highpoint was another quarter mile to the west, but once off the steep slope, this was an easy hike - normally. The wind seemed to have hit its maximum as I was traversing between the wrong and correct summit, making me pause regularly to brace myself against the buffeting, then moving again in slow, jerking motions. It was so loud and disorienting that I could hardly think straight. At the summit an hour after starting out, I found a register left by Barbara and Gordon in 2006, filled with 15 pages of entries. It was a struggle to photograph the pages with the wind whipping them about, but I managed to get most of them in focus before putting it away and heading back off the summit. I descended directly to the east into the start of the gully/wash, the route I should have used for the ascent - so much easier. It would take only 45min to make the return trip, by which time the winds were beginning to ease some.

Peak 1,614ft

Found in the southern part of the Black Mtns, Peak 1,614ft made for the most interesting summit of the day, having some bonifide class 3 scrambling, though only a smattering. From the Ashford Mill site, I drove back south to the junction with SR178, then further south on the well-graded dirt Badwater Rd that cuts through the Wilderness. From a distance, the peak looks difficult, with cliffs that needed to be avoided and some route-finding challenges. I parked off the roadway about 2mi southwest of the summit and started from there. The first half hour and change was spent hiking across the not-so-flat desert flats, with lots of rocks and uneven terrain to make it more difficult than the usual desert crossing. The wash I ascended on the south side of the summit was equally taxing and I was none too happy to finally get to start climbing out. I found a decent subsidiary ridge that I climbed north to gain the more formidable SW Ridge. The SW Ridge had some actual scrambling. This part was pretty enjoyable until I hit an impasse that I thought might have me in trouble. There was a 30-foot drop to a notch that I could not easily see a way down. Bypassing it looked difficult on both sides, but after a few minutes I discovered the south side had a few class 3 options to get me to the notch so I could continue on the ridge. I had to bypass other obstacles on the north side of the ridge, but the last 1/3mi or so went nicely right up the spine of the ridge, now all class 2. There seemed to be two points vying for highpoint at either end of the short summit ridge. LoJ has the spot elevation at the eastern end as the highpoint (the topo map shows an additional contour there), but after visiting both, I think the western point was the highpoint, and it was there that I left my last register.

On the return, I found an alternate descent route off the south side of the SW Ridge, down a gully just before I had returned to the notch I'd struggled with earlier. The gully was all class 2, but slow going due to steep and loose terrain. Once back down off the mountain, it was another half hour through the rough wash section to get back to the Jeep. It wasn't until after 4:45p when I finished up, only about 15min before sunset. I had hoped to do one last easy summit, Round Mtn, about 10mi to the south, but it would be well after dark before I would get there. I broke out a beer as reward, and had an enjoyable drive south to Round Mtn where I would spend the night. I got to cross the Amargosa River where it was flowing above ground, easy enough in the Jeep, but it would have undoubtedly made me nervous in the van. With the wind finally settling down, it was a quiet, lonely night in this remote part of Death Valley under a broad sky full of stars - not a bad place at all to rest up for the next day...

Continued...


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