Death Valley updates Sept 2016

Now that we have returned from our wonderful trip to French Polynesia, it’s time to think about the upcoming hiking season in Death Valley.  The month of October is fast approaching.  I generally view the hiking season in Death Valley as running from mid-October to mid-April (for about 6 months).  Of course, that can depend on the weather, as sometimes it doesn’t really cool down enough to begin hiking in the valley until November.  Also, there are usually some cool enough days in the month of May, if you are willing to head to the park on short notice based on the weather forecast.

As of right now, I’m hoping to visit the park during the holidays in late November for 3-4 days of hiking.  But we will see how everything plays out.  I may not make it out until 2017.  As far as repeat hikes, I have been eyeing a return to Albatross Plane Crash Site.  Being that my first hike out there was in 2006, it seems that a 10-year anniversary hike in 2016 would be a good idea.  Doing that hike would also give me the opportunity to write up a much better, newer-format report.  As far as newer hikes, I’m kind of torn between heading out to Saline Valley to wrap up some hikes out there (including the North Fork of Tafoni Canyon, Marble BM, and Middle Grand View Canyon) or going into the Owlsheads to do some hikes (including a repeat hike of Lost Lake, a new hike to Owlhead BM summit, and two other hikes which will remain off-the-record for now).

One final note.  I recently updated my DV Hiking Recommendations Page.  Every month, that is one of our most-viewed pages here on the site.  As for the updates, I removed one day hike and added three new day hikes.  The hike which was removed was Red Amphitheater.  While it is a nice hike, I just didn’t feel that the quality of that hike was in the same league as the others listed.  The three hikes that were added were the Smoke Tree Slots, Room Canyon, and Kaleidoscope Canyon.  I consider all three of those hikes to be must-do hikes, so I thought it was a good idea to add them.  To read the updates, visit that page here on the site (and refresh your browser if needed to make the updates appear).

FP Hike 7: Moorea 3 Pines Pass

For our seventh and final hike of the trip, we did a fairly easy hike to Three Pines Pass on the island of Moorea.  This was kind of a bonus hike that was not necessarily planned, but we had an extra day free today while waiting for our flight home.  Three Pines Pass starts at the same parking area as Three Coconuts Pass, but it heads in a different direction.  This hike was all about the beautiful trees we enjoyed checking out along the way.  The viewpoint put us even closer to the face of Mt. Rotui and we had an even clearer view of Cooks Bay (which was where our hotel was located here on this island).

Charlie heading out on the early part of the trail

Charlie heading out on the early part of the trail

These trees towered into the sky

These trees towered into the sky

Tahitian Chestnut trees were plentiful with amazing designs

Tahitian Chestnut trees were plentiful with amazing designs

Behind me in this picture is a single Banyan tree

Behind me in this picture is a single Banyan tree

Charlie standing at the aptly named Three Pines Pass

Charlie standing at the aptly named Three Pines Pass

FP Hike 6: Moorea 3 Coconuts Pass

After spending some time swimming and snorkeling with Humpback whales in Bora Bora, we continued on to the island of Moorea for our sixth hike of the trip.  For this hike, we did a 3 hour hike to the viewpoint known as Three Coconuts Pass.  From there, we had incredible views of Opunohu Bay, Mt. Rotui, Cooks Bay, and other surrounding peaks which will be detailed within the hiking report released later.

Passing through a bamboo forest during the hike

Passing through a bamboo forest during the hike

Josh climbing the switchbacks to the top

Josh climbing the switchbacks to the top

Beautiful surrounding mountains and trees in the Opunoho Valley area

Beautiful surrounding mountains and trees in the Opunoho Valley area

View of Mt Rotui and Cooks Bay as seen from Three Coconuts Pass

View of Mt Rotui and Cooks Bay as seen from Three Coconuts Pass

Getting a picture at Three Coconuts Pass

Getting a picture at Three Coconuts Pass

FP Hike 5: Bora Bora Cave of Mt Otemanu

For our fifth major hike of the trip, we did another hike in Bora Bora.  We hiked up to a location high on the mountainside known as the Cave of Mt Otemanu.  Mt Otemanu is the highest peak on Bora Bora and the summit cannot be reached by hikers due to sheer cliffs all around.  However, a massive cave that is located just below the summit block can be reached.  This hike was a little bit easier than yesterday’s because we had an ocean breeze helping to cool us down once in a while.  But it was still difficult, with about 6 climbing sections with ropes.  Here are a few teaser images.

This picture shows the location of the cave high up on Mt Otemanu.

This picture shows the location of the cave high up on Mt Otemanu

Working out way up the mountainside on some of the easier terrain

Working our way up the mountainside on some of the easier terrain

Approaching the entrance of the cave after the last rope climb

Approaching the entrance of the cave after the last rope climb

Birds nesting within dark areas of the cave

Birds nesting within dark areas of the cave

Incredible view of the lagoon looking out of the cave

Incredible view of the lagoon looking out of the cave

Getting a picture inside the cave of Mt Otemanu

Getting a picture inside the cave of Mt Otemanu

FP Hike 4: Bora Bora Mt Pahia

Today we hiked to the summit area of Mt Pahia in Bora Bora. Definitely one of the hardest hikes of my life but at the same time some of the best views ever. Mt Pahia is about 2,000 feet above sea level and dealing with the island heat and humidity is part of the challenge. The hike is extremely steep with probably around 10 climbing sections with ropes. It was good to get back to hiking after doing some snorkeling with Spotted eagle-rays, Blacktip reef sharks, and tropical fish yesterday. I’ll write up a full report later but here are some teaser images.

Mt Otemanu is on the left and Mt Pahia on the right. These are Bora Bora's two highest mountain peaks. We hiked up from sea level to the summit top seen on the right.

Mt Otemanu is on the left and Mt Pahia on the right. These are Bora Bora’s two highest mountain peaks. We hiked up from sea level to the summit top seen on the right.

Typical climbing section with friend Josh seen at the top.

Typical climbing section with friend Josh seen at the top.

Views from the summit were all around and showed the spectacular reef, motus, lagoon, and villages around Bora Bora. This is just one small angle.

Views from the summit were all around and showed the spectacular reef, motus, lagoon, and villages around Bora Bora. This is just one small angle.

And of course the ultra-expensive overwater bungalows.

And of course the ultra-expensive overwater bungalows.

In the distance we could see the beautiful heart-shaped island of Tupai (located 19 km north of Bora Bora).

In the distance we could see the beautiful heart-shaped island of Tupai (located 19 km north of Bora Bora).

There are many more pictures of the views but space does not permit me to share them at this time.

There are many more pictures of the views but space does not permit me to share them at this time.

This is Mt Otemanu seen from the lower summit of Mt Pahia.

This is Mt Otemanu seen from the lower summit of Mt Pahia.

FP Trip Hike 3: Maupiti Mt Teurafaatiu Summit

After spending our first day in Maupiti snorkeling yesterday (with Manta Rays, Sting Rays, and an abundance of tropical fish), we returned to hiking today.  We hiked to the highest point on the island at 1,247 feet in elevation.  The hike was made difficult by the hot humid weather and having to climb some of the steeper sections with the assistance of ropes.  But the reward at the summit was truly breathtaking.  One of the most incredible views that I have seen and experienced in my life.  We had perfect South Pacific weather as we looked out at the lagoon, reef, sailboats, and motus far below us.  As a side note, this is the only hike on Maupiti.  I am considering documenting a walk around the island (it is only 9km around).  But other than that, our next hike (weather permitting, as always) will be on Bora Bora next week.

View of Mt. Teurafaatiu from the beach we are staying near on Maupiti.

View of Mt. Teurafaatiu from the beach we are staying near on Maupiti.

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The early part of the hike provided immediate great views and an overlook of Maupiti’s main town.

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There were some challenging sections of the hike to contend with.

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The views became more expansive as we neared the top.

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These majestic crags tower above the island.

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The hike ends with a breathtaking view from the top of Maupiti.

FP Trip Hike 2: Tahiti Lower Fautaua Waterfall

Today we hiked out to Lower Fautaua Waterfall in Tahiti.  It turned out to be a completely different hike with challenging stream crossings and navigating through the jungle.  The hike ended at the base of the lower section of the waterfall we had hiked to yesterday.

After the hike, we headed to the airport and caught a flight to Maupiti, where we will be spending the next five days.  I’m including a couple images of Maupiti taken as we arrived today.  In addition to all the snorkeling we will do in the lagoon here, we also have one major hike planned, which we hope to do on Thursday.

Lower Fautaua Waterfall as seen from the base of the falls after a grueling jungle hike

Lower Fautaua Waterfall as seen from the base of the falls after a grueling jungle hike

Josh swimming in the pool at the base of the falls

Josh swimming in the pool at the base of the falls

Flying into beautiful Maupiti where our next hike awaits us to the summit of the island center

Flying into beautiful Maupiti where our next hike awaits us to the summit of the island center (seen at top left of picture)

Maupiti as seen from the airport beach

Maupiti as seen from the airport beach

FP (French Polynesia) Trip Hike 1: Tahiti Fautaua Waterfall

For the next couple of weeks, I will be adding blog updates live from French Polynesia.  I am here with long-time friends Charlie and Josh.  We hope to carry out quite a few hikes here, depending on the weather.  We will also be doing other things like snorkeling and relaxing on the beaches.  As I hope to publish full hiking reports later on these destinations, the blog photos included can be considered teaser images.  For today’s hike alone, I took 175 photographs.

To start off our hiking adventures in French Polynesia, we did an incredibly beautiful hike on Tahiti through Fautaua Valley to the top of Fautaua Waterfall.  The scenery, wildflowers, butterflies, and waterfall all contributed to making this an excellent hike.  We spent about 5 hours on the trail today and cooled off by swimming in some natural pools above the waterfall.  (Keep in mind it is only safe to do this when the water level is low enough, when there is no rain on the island, and there is zero potential for flash floods.)

Beginning our hike in Fautaua Valley, Tahiti. Charlie and Josh are visible in the distance hiking.

Beginning our hike in Fautaua Valley, Tahiti. Charlie and Josh are visible in the distance hiking.

Beautiful Tahitian butterflies along the trail.

Beautiful Tahitian butterflies along the trail.

Josh Leard standing on the Fachoda Bridge at the halfway point in the hike.

Josh standing on the Fachoda Bridge at the halfway point in the hike.

Getting a picture in front of Fautaua Waterfall after a long, humid hike uphill.

Getting a picture in front of Fautaua Waterfall after a long, humid hike uphill.

View from the trail lookout point of 443-foot high Fautaua Waterfall.

View from the trail lookout point of 443-foot high Fautaua Waterfall.

There is so much beauty above the waterfall with this cave, natural water pool, smaller waterfall, and ribbon cascade pouring over the top of the cave.

There is so much beauty above the waterfall with this cave, natural water pool, smaller waterfall, and ribbon cascade pouring over the top of the cave.

And also this natural waterslide and lower natural pool leading to the rim of the falls.

And also this natural waterslide and lower natural pool leading to the rim of the falls.