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.