By: Jon Inskeep
My son Dan and I went to Death Valley a day early for Igor and Suzanne's Third Annual Death Valley Bike Ride so I could spend my birthday somewhere besides work. I was curious to see if we thought Canyon Peak would be a worthy addition to the DPS list (we now do!). Our climb was pretty much like the one Dale Van Dalsem did the month before and reported in Sage #206, with one major exception. That exception would probably have caused him to' give a more favorable recommendation for list addition and is the reason for this report.
We camped Thursday night next to the road to Cottonwood Canyon about 8.5 miles in from Stovepipe Wells, just before it drops into the main wash. Nice big open spot. Overnight camping is not permitted for the first 8 miles. We have used this area on other trips to Death Valley as it is both legal and isolated from the crowds.
4WD is not required to reach the end of the road below Cottonwood Springs, but the rocky upper part would be hard on vehicles without high clearance. There is both shade (it was 95 degrees at Furnace Creek) and running water at the parking spot. The gully leading west, starting just above the parking area, goes directly to the base of the peak, but we climbed up the steep bank to the top of the first ridge south of the gully and followed ridge-tops to the peak. This had the advantages of cooling breezes and a clear view of an approach that avoided Dale's horrible sand slog up the final 1700'. The secret to avoiding the amazingly steep sand and thus making this an enjoyable outing is to reach the summit area by climbing the noticeably darker rock of the ridge immediately south of Canyon (the last one on your left before reaching the base of the peak). The talus slopes are relatively solid and the top of the ridge can be followed right around to the summit of Canyon. Canyon has a nice summit view; we could see snowcapped peaks in three directions: Telescope, Olancha, and White.
The descent route is quick and direct. Just plunge down the sand to the bottom of the prominent gully and follow it out directly to the cars. We could only shake our heads at the still-visible prints of Dale's group ascending those slopes! It took us three hours up, with several photo stops (I never call climbs "leisurely") and an hour and fifteen minutes down.
By the time you read this, Canyon's fate will be decided. We hope it made the list; it's a nice peak in an interesting area.
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