The colorful Last Chance Range forms the stunning backdrop for many pictures of the Eureka Sand Dunes, and I have always wondered what a hike up one of the rugged ridges would be like.
Starting east of the dunes, the shadows made it difficult to pick the best route up the peak. I could see that the ridges each had three or four major cliffbands, but I had no idea about the quality of the rock or the possible detours.
Nearby, Sandy Peak sees many ascents from desert peakbaggers.
I wonder what I will find as I approach the steeper sections.
The cliffs are far more solid than I had imagined, and the climbing was quite pleasant. The snow covered Inyo Mountains emerge over the Saline Range in the background.
Barrel Cactus clings to a crack in a small cliff face.
Spectacular ridges with dryfalls keep my camera busy on the way up.
The cliffbands near the top break just enough to allow passage, and the solid grippy rock makes for fun scrambling.
There was still a little snow near the top from the late December storms.
It was cool to see Eureka Dunes to the west and Ubehebe Crater to the south from the ridge.
There was no register on Peak 6450. My intended route was a traverse south along the Last Chance Range to Peak 6993 then south to easier slopes down to Dedecera Canyon. Maybe I'll see some familiar names in the register at Peak 6993.
The register on Peak 6993 was placed in 1979, and had ten names in thirty years. None of the names that I expected to see were there, just a geologist, a couple peakbaggers, a few wilderness researchers, and some potheads from Saline Valley. All were traversing the Last Chance Range, and none had hiked peak 6450. Perhaps I was the first on that one. Naw.
Note: The rocks on the mountain are now about 550,000,028 years old.
Parts of the ridge south of 6993 were smooth enough for running, which I did as it was now time to race the sun to the bottom. Many side canyons tempted me for descent, but I knew they all cliffed out. I stayed with my original plan to head south to easier ground.
As I started down my chosen ridge, a large cliffband stopped me near the top. Not seeing any sure way through the mess of cliffs below, I started down a series of gulleys to a wash with several dryfalls.
I climbed down or around a few dryfalls until I was stopped by a huge dropoff. I backtracked up the canyon and over a ridge to try my luck in another drainage.
I found a vantage point where I was able to work out the options for the maze of cliffs below. I traced the possible routes with my finger until I hit a cliff, then I would trace another route. All the routes ended with a large cliffband at the bottom of the slope. I decided to head down the best route that I could see through the upper cliffs, and hopefully I could find a break in the bottom cliff.
I got lucky. I took a look back up the slope from Dedeckera Canyon, and spotted all the spots I had cliffed out. The sun was dropping fast, so I jogged the four miles to the dunes.
Peak 6450 looks pretty sweet in the evening light, and it looks like there are a few more ridges just itching to be scratched.