Seeing Death Valley National Park in California was such a unique experience.
We arrived around 4pm and there was just SO MUCH TO SEE before sunset. We chose to drive out to see the Badwater Salt Flats. It was getting dark and we had no choice but to walk out onto the salt flats in the dark if we wanted to see them (safely!).
We drove back to the main area, found a campsite, and called it a day.
The next day, we went around the park in the morning before starting our day hike.
We then went on to begin summiting Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the park at 11,048 feet. It was supposed to be a 14-mile return, 8-hour hike. Completely do-able by us hardcore hikers! When we went to the Visitor Centre to get some information, they told that us it would be windy with a chance of rain and that we may get some altitude sickness. None of that happened, except that it was indeed windy. It became a crazy, 18-mile return, 11-hour endeavour that included a storm with hail and snow!
As we were getting higher, the clouds began to change. It was clearly raining or snowing in some areas but not yet in ours.
We put on some more layers and had lunch. We were about 5km to the summit. It was getting very windy where we were since we didn’t have anything to shield the wind from us. We had to find a big rock to shield us as we ate lunch. Lighting started to strike from afar. It began to snow and hail quite a bit. We were more fearful of the lighting, so we decided to take refuge in a valley where we would be safe from lighting strikes. The snow and hail came down more violently. We had to abandon our backpacks and come down the valley as quickly as possible. We also had to keep our distance from trees that may get hit by lighting as well as each other.
There we waited until the hail and snow abated and there was no more lighting… about 45 minutes. I was honestly getting bored but this was the safe thing to do. I was getting wet and cold. When we started going back up to find our backpacks, we found the entire mountain covered in snow. We couldn’t see much in front of us so we decided it was unsafe to continue and just started going back down. It felt extremely disappointing while hiking back in all the snow. I had to transform my Merino wool sweater into a face mask because the snow was hitting my face pretty hard.
After about an hour of hiking back (roughly 3-4km), the sky started to clear. The summit was in sight and WE JUST WENT FOR IT. This video says it all.
We hiked up there as quickly as possible. We needed to summit by sunset and get down while there was still light. Oh yeah, and there was snow everywhere that made the rocks extra slippery. We had to be very careful. My husband forgot his camera though, somewhere along the trail in his haste.
The last km was pretty challenging as we were basically just climbing on steep rocks. We definitely pushed each other here… taking it just one step after the other.
We reached the very top by sunset and it was breathtaking. It was just a little knob at the top so we needed to fit on it while taking the video! There was a geocache here too!
We descended the difficult portions before dark. We were looking for my husband’s camera for a while. The rocks were black and so was his camera bag. Yay. He had a feeling of where he left it (one of our water break spots) – and there it was!
Along the way, we found some elk tracks and were extra paranoid about it just lurking near us. We were both tired and hungry by the time we reached our car at 10:30pm. I had no more energy to prepare a meal at camp so we just chomped on peanut butter sandwiches while driving back to the campsite. We just crashed on our sleeping bags when we got there.
We spent the next day exploring other areas of the park, such as the magnificent craters, canyons and sand dunes.
We left Death Valley on April 26th at 2:30pm for a four and a half-hour drive to Rowland Heights, California (just east of Los Angeles) to meet and have dinner with my relatives. I looked forward to nothing but a shower, a bed, and posting our Telescope Peak Summit video on Facebook that night. At least that was the plan.