Dantes BM/Dantes Peak

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Trail to Dantes BM/Peak

When is a mountain not a mountain? When the mountaineering community says so, of course! Dantes Peak or “Dante’s BM” as it is known in the climbing community will never confuse anyone with Mt. Everest. For starters, at over 29,000 feet, Mt. Everest is the prime diamond jewel in the climber’s crown. At 5,704 feet, Dantes Peak is more like a climber’s emerald toe ring. There’s also the unfortunate fact that Dantes Peak is over four times smaller than Everest, and over two times smaller than Mt. Whitney. Heck, even its neighbor – Telescope Peak – is almost twice as big as it at 11,049 feet. But you know what? Not everyone gets to climb Mt. Everest, and not every mountain has to be Mt. Everest. Sometimes, things should just be enjoyed for what they are. And, for what it is, Dantes Peak is a great beginner’s hike with great views of Death Valley from the Black Mountains. 

Astute readers have likely noticed that I keep calling the mountain “Dantes Peak” and not “Dantes BM”. My reasons for doing so are the following:  if you’re at Badwater, which is at -282 feet below sea level, and you look up toward the East, you see a huge rock wall with a sign perched precariously above (282 feet above) that says “Sea Level”; 5,704 feet beyond that is, you guessed it, the summit. In terms of math, we’re talking about something that stands between 5,704 feet from sea level, and 5,986 feet from Badwater. I don’t know about you, but something that big sounds like a mountain to me. Also, on a personal level, calling it “Dantes BM” for Dantes Benchmark seems a little strange to me. Exactly what is a benchmark? Is it like a butte – or a coral reef? In my book, why not call a mountain a mountain. No one will confuse it with Everest, and there are smaller peaks out there with the same name. So, if you want to tell people you climbed Dantes Peak, be my guest – and tell them I told you to do it. Or, if you want to be elusive, tell people you climbed a benchmark, and wait for them to wonder what you were really doing.

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View from Dantes BM/Peak

Directions: From Furnace Creek, drive southeast for eleven (11) miles. You will then make your only turn; a right turn onto Dante’s View Road, which you will follow for thirteen (13) miles until the road ends. Do note that due to the windy nature of the road, vehicles over twenty-five feet are prohibited on the last section. From the parking lot, walk down the road, until you see the trailhead (which should be readily apparent, even without the above photo). From the road, it is approximately a half mile, all uphill to the summit. During this half mile walk (.5) you will ascend approximately 160 feet in elevation; so it is somewhat of a workout. After a half mile, you will be at the top along a ridgeline. Other than the spectacular views of Death Valley and the surrounding area, and the rocks, there will be two items of note. One is a USGS benchmark that says, “Marker 2” and one is a USGS benchmark that says, “Dantes”. I’ll leave it to you, the reader and explorer to deduce which mark delineates the correct Dantes Benchmark/Peak. Once you have found the correct mark, or incorrect, whichever suits your fancy, follow the route you came back to the parking lot for an easy one (1) mile roundtrip hike.

Tips:If you’re interested in photography, the views from the Benchmark/Peak are better than what you would find at the Dantes View Overlook, a half mile below. They are also usually less congested.