Last Chance Mountain was my second stop on the way from my home in Medford, Oregon to a long awaited hiking trip with my buddy Dean
in Arizona. The previous day I had hiked Tin Mountain
. After hiking Tin Mountain, I headed back down into Death Valley, stopped and looked into Ubehebe Crater and continued down to Death Valley Road. I turned north on Death Valley Road and headed towards Last Chance.
Death Valley Road soon deteriorated into a wash board hell. The entire width of the road was severely wash boarded. I had to slow down to 15 mph, and then to 10, and then slower still. What a miserable road. Soon, I noticed other travelers had been using the berms on each side of the road to get some relief from the constant vibrations. After a few miles of this torture, I too was driving on the berms. I had to be careful not to drive into the drainage ditches, but I could actually drive up to 15 mph with at least one side of the vehicle on the berm. There were a couple wash outs on the road also that extended at least half way across the road. This drive was not fun.
At long last I got to Crankshaft Junction and the road improved as it climbed up to the pass over the Last Chance Range. I found the turnoff at the sulphur mine and headed back into the mountains north of the mine. The road deteriorated a little past the mine, but nothing too extreme. The road entered a small canyon and then opened up into a small valley. I was looking for the small road labeled as 4WD on the topo and I drove by it 3 times before I saw an old road track heading up the drainage. This road was a rougher still, but still not really 4WD even though it was sandy in spots. I drove up the road/wash until I encountered a real wash out in a little narrow canyon. I explored a little bit and saw that beyond the washout, the valley opened up again and headed north towards last Chance Mountain. This is where I parked and car camped for the night.
Early the next morning I shouldered my pack and headed up the road. It was easy walking up the little valley. I was following an old road bed that turned into a dry wash coming off the ridge ahead. My plan was to gain the ridge at the low spot that I could see from the valley. As I approached the road kind of forked left and right. Right seemed to go a little south and I knew the summit was north so I took the left fork. This wasn’t a wrong decision, it is just that going right would have been a little easier.
I was soon climbing cross country towards the ridgeline. Soon I reached the ridgeline at about 7,400 ft elevation instead of the saddle at 7,300 ft. Here I also found a faint climber’s trail. I turned north and followed the trail and ridgeline up and over my first objective point 7853 on the topo. From there I could not see the summit only the next highpoint along the ridge, point 8259. The ridgeline is not a straight shot to the summit. Instead, it meanders around heading off to the east a couple of times.
I think I hiked up and over and down a total of 6 of these knobs before getting to the final push up to the summit. The last hill was mostly white in color and had many trees on its slopes. The climber’s trail disappeared at times, so I just stayed close to the top of the ridgeline. The footing was very good, nothing difficult at all, and there were very few places where it was very steep. I found a few patches of snow along the ridge above 8,000 ft elevation but they didn’t create an obstacle. I kept moving and soon I was enjoying the great views from the summit. I could see the sand dunes in Eureka Valley, I identified Mt. Whitney, Mt. Muir and others in the snow covered Sierra’s, I identified snow covered White Mountain Peak to the north, and I could see Tin Mountain that I climbed yesterday. Wow, the views were great. I signed the summit register. I couldn’t find a benchmark on the summit.
Soon, I had to head down and continue my trip to Arizona and meet up with Dean. I returned to my truck the same way I came up except I went all the way down to the saddle at 7,300 ft before leaving the ridge and descending back into the lower valley. The summit is only about 1,800 ft above where I parked but all the ups and downs on the ridgeline added almost 1,000 ft more in elevation gain. My GPS indicated the route was 6.64 miles round trip and it took me 4.5 hours.
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