By: Pete Yamagata
In the vicinity on the Friday before the DPS outing for Nopah and Avawatz, I chose to do some easy exploring. After a night's sleep at Stovepipe Wells campground ($10), 1 motored a short way to catch the dawn light on the dunes, then drove east toward Beatty to park at the Hell's Gate rest area (elev. 2,262') and begin a short hike to the tops of the two Death Valley Buttes. I headed for the low saddle to the right of the buttes, then climbed up and left to the main ridge. There is a use trail that goes up and over the first, lower butte, then onto the higher second butte (3,017'). Some high class 2 scrambling is needed to cross a rocky section below the top. The trail is not discernable in this rocky area, but basically follows the ridgeline. There was no register. I was tempted to leave one, but didn't wish to upset the Park Service, as the USFS is up north with my placements in the Northern Sierra. The views are O.K., with Corkscrew to the north and the dunes below to the southwest. I followed the use trail back over the lower butte, and determined that it fades out on the east side about 200 feet above the playa. To catch it from the beginning, head for the closest (eastnortheasterly) part of the buttes and head up for the main ridge. My total round trip time was 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Motoring over 40 miles or so to Dante's View, I took a short hike to "Dante (5,702')," the highest point in the area' which had use trails running all over it. This is the point just north along the main ridge from the parking area. Driving a half mile or so back down the paved road, I parked at the restroom, and parking lot for trailers (elev. 5,200'---Desert Peaks Guide, Part 11, Walt Wheelock, editor), to hike up the highly nondescript bump of Coffin Peak (5,503'). 1 headed roughly east to the first highpoint, then was presented with the slightly higher, further bump. A use trail runs along the ridge, past some crags, and with a fine view down Coffin Canyon. The register was interesting, and went back to "Jan. 5, 1968," placed by Bob K? of the "Rockatornics Stamp Club." The largest visitation was made by "Rose Certini and 23 others" on a Sierra Club National Outing on "3-4-96." My total round trip time for Coffin was one hour and 14 minutes. My total stats for the day were roughly 1,600'gain over 5 miles.
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