Glow In The Dark Desert Peak Section List Finish #1 On Nelson Range HP (Try #2)

  • Updated: December 03, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 3rd, 2016

This was the final peak I needed of the 99 that make up the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section List.  (Actually there's 96 now since 3 have been delisted since I started)

I hiked my first DPS peak in 2010 and as I got near the end everything I had left was either far away or trivial.  I settled on Nelson Range HP which is an easy peak near Saline Valley which is relatively close as desert peaks go.  And since *one or two* of my adventures have been known to involve headlamps what better way to make it interesting but to do it in the dark!  And why limit it to headlamps?  And thus was born Nelson Range HP (7,696') In The Dark / Matthew Hengst Glow In The Dark DPS List Finish #1 of 2015.  People signed up and it looked to be a huge gathering of friends and a fun weekend.

Which I promptly had to cancel on account of my unanticipated knee surgery.  One year of slow recovery later and it was *finally* time for the Nelson Range HP (7,696') In The Dark / Matthew Hengst Glow In The Dark DPS List Finish #1 (Try #2).

I almost thought I was going to have to postpone again when I awoke to blinding dental pain Friday morning before the trip.  But one day and one quasi-emergency root canal later we were off!

Since I wanted to time things around sunset it made it hard to climb anything else that day.  So the trip became a leisurely party trip and we left Saturday morning instead of the usual Friday night scramble to get out of town.

To the desert!  We come prepared!

Kristen spent most of the drive putting the finishing touches on an old hiking shirt of mine she'd attached EL wire to.

My pockets were stuffed with 4 battery packs and it didn't look so good in the daylight but at night...

We stopped for lunch at the Ranch House Cafe near Olancha since it was pretty much the only option.  While we were there three other cars filled with friends came by having reached the same conclusion.

The food was decent and Jack got to run across the road and visit with the horses.

Nelson is off the Saline Valley Road and the peak is easy to pick out if not the most remarkable peak.

I'd scouted a campsite a few weekends back on the way to the Death Valley Racetrack (which you can reach from here via Hunter Mountain Road or Lippencott Road) so everyone already knew where to go and that any high clearance vehicle would be sufficient.

When we arrived we found a number of vehicles already there and more streamed in while we were visiting.

It was a bit cold and windy as we started to prep for the hike.  And of course by that I I mean assembled our glow in the dark gear.

I didn't plan to use the trailhead written up in the DPS guide as that was more of a Jeep road towards the end.  Instead I'd found a better option that led to an old mine at the southern tip of the peak.  The road was a little rough but with care any high clearance vehicle can make it to where we parked.

We parked at a turnaround at the end of the road.  We fit but just barely.

We had 29 people with us and left the cars at 3:25 pm planning to reach the summit just after dark.

The route was an easy 2.8 miles and 1500 ft round trip and took us 4 hours in total.

Admittedly we weren't exactly hurrying...

As the sun went down we lit up

The last bit before the peak I could look back and see the multicolored lights stretching behind through the trees.

When we reached the summit we tagged it, grabbed the register, and retreated to a protected spot out of the wind.  At which point out came many bottles of champagne and we were soon filling cups and posing for pictures in somewhat chaotic lighting conditions.

Jack Kieffer had been with me on my first DPS climb back in 2010 when I lead Eagle, Smith, and Corkscrew as a Sierra Club M-Rock Provisional and on countless trips since.

Jen Blackie had been on more peaks with me than anyone.

Steve Eckert came out all the way from the Bay Area and his custom lighted headgear made quite the impression..

It was a colorful display and I was grateful for everyone who came out.

Everyone in the group minus Tohru who was taking the picture and two others who tried to join us but got lost coming back from Saline Hot Springs and were driving back and forth on dirt roads in the distance.

The traditional Desert Peak Section List Finisher Picture & Flag

The champagne eventually ran out and we headed down to camp where we had food and a warm campfire waiting.  We'd set out glowsticks on the way up and could partially follow them down (Note to self: next time don't get the cheap bulk glowsticks for this application!)

The group was difficult to count but easy to keep track of!  It took us about an hour and a half to get everyone down.

When we reached camp we soon had a nice fire going and started on the food.  And margaritas, wine, beer, and other assorted libations.

Mat & Tanya making tamales

Not even all the food

We ate until we were stuffed, drank until we were happy, and talked until the fire burned low and it was just Jen, Kristen, Steve, and myself.

After cleaning up we had a pleasant night's sleep where it got just below freezing.

I slept like a log and woke up well after people were moving around camp.  Paul had graciously provided his breakfast burrito special for everyone which is always a good way to start off the day.

We didn't have anything planned but some others were climbing or heading for other peaks.  Paul Garry actually left the night before because he had a marathon to do in Ridgecrest.

People filtered out slowly until around 9 am it was just a few of us left.  We made sure everyone's car started and made our way slowly over the brutal washboarding.

We stopped at the Rubios in Adelanto which I realized was the same place Jack, myself, and a few others had eaten after my first DPS trip.  Symmetry!  And we were back at a decent hour with plenty of time to plan the following weekends desert adventure.

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