On the Eastern border of California, and near the Western border of Nevada, is an area that is full of mystery, wilderness, and desert solitude. This area is Death Valley National Park. The name alone “Death Valley” transcends time and space, and for hundreds of years has been a beacon to prospectors, explorers, adventurers, and today, casual visitors. While Death Valley is, as its name suggests – a fundamentally hostile environment, with temperatures regularly soaring over 100 degrees from April through October, it is more than a flat wasteland. In reality, Death Valley is one of the most geologically diverse environments on the planet, where the remains of glacial Lake Manly are laid bare, and the effects of active volcanism and erosion are easily visible. Within the confines of Death Valley, one can find tall, uplifted mountains, year-round waterfalls, volcanic craters, sand dunes, eroded canyons, and the lowest spot in North America.
Of the fifty-nine National Parks in the United States, Death Valley is the most infamous, and the least well known. Most people assume that Death Valley is an inhospitable wasteland, with nothing of interest to see or do. However, outdoorspeople, geologists, and adventurers know that Death Valley is a location with interesting geologic features, mining history, tall mountains, sand dunes, volcanic activity, historic structures, and much more. Even if it did not have all of these things and more, Death Valley is a notable location to visit because of Badwater Basin.
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.