Monday, February 05, 2007

Death Valley, Towne Peak, and the Mystery of the SA-16 Albatross (Part 1)

The Ridgeline

Okay, finally, one of my big epic hikes. This is one of those things that I am going to spend a lot of time and entries writing about this month. I have a lot of pictures and a few video’s I have created for this blog. Since this hike was such a unique quest for me, and very few go to this location, I am going all out to detail everything.

First, before I get started, I want to give credit to the one known as Otis Pug for creating his “Klemmer Challenge” in geocaching. Although I had heard about this area before, it was not until I read about this challenge Otis Pug had put out that I decided to go for it! Of everything I did in geocaching, this hike and the hike to Snow Lake were the ones I loved the most. There is one more he did like this that a friend of mine who geocaches wants to do one day. So, I hope to do another one of his challenges in the future.

It was around January, 2006 that my brother and I had talked about doing this hike. Since we don’t like to hike on snow if we can get around it, we waited until May 13, 2006. As it turned out, I do not think the snow would have been a problem at all earlier in the year, but we did not know what to expect.

We drove to Lone Pine the day before. We tried to make the best of sleeping, and for me, it is the worst part of any hike. I never feel I have a good night of sleep before a big hike. When I wake up, I rarely feel good. This was no exception. It took me forever to get to sleep, and then when I woke up at around 4am I felt I had been hit over the head.

We made the long drive into Death Valley. It was very dark and creepy because we were driving into an area we had never been before. We made these long turns and could see nothing outside. Only the headlights on the road showed where we were. It was much more interesting to see what this was like on the way back.

We reached the turnoff at just around 5:10am. We had flashlights and were ready to storm the first 1000 feet to the first ridgeline. However, as I got out of the car the area started to light up a bit. I was glad to leave the flashlights in the car since they would just be more weight.

We went up to the ridgeline in pretty good time. It was 5:50am. Here are some of the shots looking back to the car.

When we came back to this point later it was really shocking to see that small dot and how much we still had to go to get back to the car.

This picture over the ridgeline was taken in a southwestern direction.

Here we finally saw our first destination: TOWNE PEAK. It is one of the high points left of center. There will be more about this later.

Another nice morning shot.
The key to this hike is, after you finally get past the first 1000 feet, you just hug the ridgeline and follow the hills to the top.
Our strategy was to not go directly over the hills, but angle slightly to the right of each of them. Some were easier than others.
This is looking back to where we came from.

I will continue with the next entry in this series tomorrow. There will be many of them and I am still working on all of this as I go. I will do more explaining about the mystery site as we go on. You can actually see the final destination after you get over the first ridge. However, I will save that until later.

(Edit: I did this hike again in 2014. I took a video of it which can be found here: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley).