Peak 3,976ft P300
Peak 4,074ft P300
Peak 3,720ft
Calico Peaks HP P500
Peak 2,749ft P300
Peak 3,620ft P300

Nov 13, 2021

With: Chris Kerth
Iris Ma
Karl Fieberling
Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Calico Peaks

Today's main effort was a 9-mile loop around the Calico Peaks in Death Valley. Calico Peaks form a sub-range of the Black Mtns just north of Salsberry Pass. They are named for the more colorful yellow, brown and red rock that characterize their landscape, offsetting them from the usual dark desert varnish rocks of the Black Mtns. It wasn't a particularly difficult outing, so there were options to visit Salsberry and/or Epaulet Peak. We had spent the night camped in Greenwater Valley, about a mile north of SR178. In the morning we drove all our vehicles to the starting point, allowing for maximum flexibility for the return and afterwards. Kristine decided to skip the hike and do touristy things on her way back home today.

Starting off around 7a, our first stop was Peak 3,976ft, the closest and least calico-like of the bunch, having the darker varnished rocks instead. It was a short walk up the desert flats, then up the North Ridge which grows progressively rockier. Chris was the first to the summit in about an hour, the rest of us trickling in over the next ten minutes. The air was particularly clear today with fine views across Greenwater Valley and elsewhere in the surrounding ranges. The second, slightly higher Peak 4,074ft was only half a mile to the southwest, connected by a saddle. We left a register at the first summit before heading to the second. The descent held more of the same dark volcanic rocks, not the most pleasant of terrains, but this improved once we started up to Peak 4,074ft. We spent 30min getting between the two peaks. It was atop Peak 4,074ft that Chris and Tom decided to jointly take on the bonus Salsberry Peak, a little over a mile to the south. The terrain was probably the most interesting of the day, but they were only ones feeling up to it.

Having already been to Salsberry, I had plans for other bonus summits after this tour of the Calico Peaks. Iris and Karl had not yet arrived atop Peak 4,074ft when Chris and Tom headed to Salsberry and I took off to the northwest, towards Peak 3,720ft. My route followed the divide between Greenwater Valley to the east and Bradbury Wash to the west, going over an intermediate bump, and taking about 50min to reach the flattish summit of Peak 3,720ft. Out of registers, I continued over the summit with hardly a pause (though I did look for an existing register among the likely places), continuing on the same divide to the Calico Peaks HP, another 70min away. I thought the ascent of the highpoint the best of the day, a nice gradient going up a ridgeline from the south, and descending another one to the northeast and east. The summit held a register left by a Henney/Bartell party in 2011. This summit also made it onto Bartell's Death Valley List, which explains why it had seven pages of entries. The descent was equally pleasant, and I was happy to find the the 2-mile trek across the flats went well, too, mostly with the grain and easy walking. I was back to the vehicles by noon and wasted little time getting back to the highway.

Iris and Karl had gone to the third summit, then headed back to the vehicles. They had seen me arrive there ahead of them, but were too far back for me to hear them before I'd left. Karl decided he'd had enough and was worn out, so headed for home. Iris would wait for Tom and Chris to return from their extended outing.

Peak 2,749ft

This summit is located in the Dublin Hills, just west of Shoshone. I had been to this small range on two previous visits. Not located within Wilderness, the BLM area has a number of OHV routes suitable for high-clearance vehicles. I found AR2312 could get me partway up the peak on the NNW side, making for an easy 20min hike to the summit. The top is a bit rocky, but like all the day's hiking, class 2. Mark Adrian had left a register here back in April, not much surprise that I was the only other one to sign it since then. An easy up and down, this one.

Peak 3,620ft

I next drove to Shoshone for a large soda and salty snack, then north on SR127 through Death Valley Junction and west on SR190 about 6-7mi. Peak 3,620ft is located on BLM land outside the National Park. A very good dirt/gravel road goes to a quarry on the north side of the peak. The quarry is signed for No Trespassing, though it appears to be mostly inactive. Just outside the entrance, I found pink ribbons directing one to a rough road in the wash heading southwest. I followed this for about 1/3mi, getting me marginally closer to the peak and well clear of the quarry property. The peak is a combination of desert varnish rubble with lighter-colored rubble in the upper reaches. I had first to cross a few minor drainages to get to the base of the peak, then a standard desert climb to the summit, all in a little over half an hour. I left a register before returning via essentially the same route.

After returning to the Jeep, I showered and put on some fresh clothes, then back to the highway. I had only another five miles of driving west on SR190 to reach Slabby Acres where we planned to camp for the next two nights. There were a few other vehicles spread out over the large remnants of a defunct trailer park (mostly just concrete slabs), but I was the first of our party to arrive. I found a site away from the other inhabitants and waited for the rest of our group to trickle in over the next hour or so...


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