DEATH VALLEY BUTTES (3,017'), COFFIN PEAK (5,503'), NOPAH (6,394'), AND AVAWATZ MOUNTAIN (6,154') March 10-14, 1999

Having signed up with the DPS for two peaks which I needed, I left to enjoy another long drive south on U.S. 395. Taking some photos along CA 136 and CA 190, I enjoyed the soft dusk light.

Coming to Death Valley, I shot photos of the morning light at Mesquite Dunes, with a quick visit to the Devils Cornfield, and then motored to the start for a short hike of the two Death Valley Buttes. I had read of this short hike in a major paper, and it seemed easy enough to try alone. So close to the highway, one could probably shout to a passing car and even be heard!

I found a use trail, and topped on the highest point after 1.3 hours. The views were a bit bland, but I took photos anyway.

While headed east on CA 190, I shot a picture of Pyramid Peak (6,703'). One wouldn't guess this spectacular view after seeing the peak from its other side.

I then drove the 40 miles or so, from the parking for Death Valley Buttes, to Dante's View (5,475'), where the view down into Death Valley is awesome. A small peak nearby can be easily hiked from the parking lot up here.

I shot a lot of pictures. This was my first visit up here, and the views were as good as from many desert peaks. At Dante's View, signs explained the natural features. Many tourists come up here, since the road is paved. A mine, with colorful rock, is passed enroute, and that prompted me for a few shots. This is one park where mining was allowed. Plans for another mine to open in designated wilderness were presented recently.

After motoring back down the paved road a short bit, I parked at the RV lot and hiked eastward.

I climbed nearby Coffin Peak, which took about an hour. It had good views south into Death Valley. I had fun reading the register in the cairn on top.

With a fast photo stop at Zabriskie Point, and going back down to the main road southward through the valley, I enjoyed the orange light as the sun set. Camping near Shoshone, CA, I met the group the next morning.

We carpooled a bit to the end of the short 4WD road to hike to Nopah. This peak is the range highpoint of the Nopah Range, of course. The usual geology made a nice picture, and we topped out after about 5 hours. I was pleased that I had done the 4,200' gain so nicely. The views were fine, and I had a nice time on my descent.

Back to the cars at 5 p.m., with a view back to Nopah, we headed for Tecopa Hot Springs. We had a good soak. Finding a place nearby to camp, we feasted on the potluck dinner, with lots of salad.

The next morning, I was able to secure a seat in another climber's truck for the long, rough ride to the Avawatz Mountain roadhead. Without a good 4WD vehicle, this would make another 8 miles or so each way to hike. There was a wash-out shortly before we reached the furthest that we could go, so we parked our trucks and began hiking.

A dirt road is followed, then a cross-country climb up to a ridge leads to the summit. Our time to the top was about two hours and forty minutes. The overcast sky made all of the photos grayish, but I needed the proof of our climb.

We hiked back the same way, and drove back out to the paved highway by 4:20 p.m. Again, I made the long drive home, this time with lots of daylight.

My total hiking stats were some 21 miles with 9,500' gain.

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