Round Mountain
Peak 1,272ft P300
Peak 826ft P300

Sun, Jan 23, 2022
Round Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


My last day in Death Valley was abbreviated by the need to drive home, an 8hr affair that would occupy most of the day. I had to pick my wife up at the airport in San Jose, so I had a fairly rigid deadline to get home. I was camped off Badwater Rd in the southern end of Death Valley, next to Round Mtn, my first effort of the day. Wanting to get in a 6mi hike in the Saddle Peak Hills afterwards, I figured I needed to get up before sunrise and do most of the hike in the dark. So I was up around 4:40a and out the door by 5a.

Round Mountain

The entire hike took place in the dark, and though I wore a headlamp, I didn't need to use it save to peruse the register I found at the summit. The waning moon had not yet reached the halfway point, which proved sufficient light to see by for the hike. The previous day's wind had subsided, leaving calm air and making for a very pleasant hike. Starting less than a mile from the summit, the first 1/3 of the hike was across desert flats, then slowly gaining altitude over the remaining 2/3. The summit has little prominence and is hardly more than a bump rising from the desert. It was not hard to find the summit cairn by moonlight, next to which a benchmark is found. The USGS datasheet for this has it stamped as "GOSA", but it looks like they stamped it "COSA" and then did a little extra work to change the "C" to a "G". The register had been placed only a few weeks earlier, but is unlikely to collect many entries since they failed to leave a pencil. It was still dark when I returned to the Jeep though the eastern sky was just beginning to grow light - it was still an hour until sunrise.

Saddle Peak Hills

I spent the next 30min driving to the southern tip of the Saddle Peak Hills where I would start the 6mi hike to two unnamed summits, Peak 1,272ft and Peak 826ft. In a somewhat backwards methodology, this last one would allow me to claim all the Death Valley summits under 1,000ft of elevation. It was nearly 6:30a when I started out, still another half hour until sunrise. The two peaks were clearly visible to the north in the early light. The initial effort would be an easy walk along the base of the range on its eastern side for a little over 2mi. This was easy enough on compacted sand and included a crossing of the Amargosa River where it flows above ground. I found a spot that I could just jump across with the aid of my poles, though it would have been only a minor inconvenience to take my boots and socks off if needed. The river flows gently and not more than a few inches deep here. The sun came up as I was making my way past Peak 826ft - I would leave the nearer peak for the way back. I knew from my research that it would be easier to not start up from the toe of Peak 1,272ft's South Ridge, so I skirted that on the right side to find an ascent that would bypass a local highpoint along the ridge. I probably could have skirted around the base of the peak even further for an easier line, but the class 2 gully I ascended worked well enough. It took me across the east shoulder of the intermediate point, after which I made an ascending traverse to the point's high saddle with Peak 1,272ft. All of the scrambling turned out to be class 2, and by 7:50a I had reached the summit. There was a large cairn, but no register that I could find. Andy Smatko had been to the summit in 1972 and may have left one, but it was far from obvious. I left a new one at the top of the cairn that should be easier to find.

After taking a few photos of the views, I turned south for the second summit. This time, I bypassed the intermediate point on the west side, sidehilling my way to its SW Ridge, then down to the desert floor again. There are some old mining roads encountered, partially buried in the shifting sands, but easily identified by the road cuts into the base of the hill. There were a few newer tracks, too, but as this is now all Wilderness, they probably shouldn't be here. The mining roads lead to various prospects and mineworks about the range, including one on the SW side of Peak 1,272ft that I only discovered from the summit of Peak 826ft. My route to the second summit was as straightforward as it was easy, taking about 45min from the previous summit. I took a pretty direct route up from the very low saddle between the two summits, but any route will do. There was a smaller cairn and a survey stake atop Peak 826ft, again no register. Candace Skalet had been to this one two years earlier, I found out only later.

I continued south across the summit, then southeast down a sand slope to return easily to the desert floor. It would take another 30min for the remaining mile and a half back to the Jeep. It wasn't yet 9:30a by the time I'd returned and I was an hour and a half ahead of my deadline, but without any short objectives remaining the area, it was time to head home. It was a long way back to San Jose, but I managed to get home not long after 5p. Another successful desert trip in the bag...

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