August 10, 2014
Waucoba Summit Panorama
I returned this weekend to Death Valley National Park to take care of some unfinished business, and let me say now, if you like to be alone, have I got a mountain for you! Sheesh what a cruel bastard of a climb this was: no trail, thorns, cactus, brush, and no view aside from great looks at the next pine branch just before you get a stick in the face.
When I finally did get to the top of Waucoba Mountain (at 11,123' the highest point in the Inyo Range), I found a veritable horror show of lightning-blasted timber, plus a very threatening looking sky. I shot this quick clip and then basically made a run for it. Downclimbing much the same unhappy east face, I found myself tempted to write off Waucoba as maybe not the best of destinations.
I think the real problem here is that I was just operating with bad information. You really don't want to do either Waucoba Mountain or neighboring Squaw Peak from the east, as "all on-trail" Anderson's book advises. These are the least aesthetic and most problematic routes up either mountain.
Admittedly, the already-dicey road access is easiest from the east, via Death Valley Road and Waucoba-Saline Valley Road, but after some intensive Google Earth spying this morning, it seems obvious the best way to do Waucoba is from the south, coming up Mazurka Canyon Road (if you can) or via the jeep trails to Papoose Flat.
Another possibility would be to come at Squaw Peak from the north, and then traverse to Waucoba's summit. That looks comparatively decent as well. Once again let me stress that both peaks are very remote, offering steep and strenuously rugged ground. These absolutely exceeded my comfort level for solo travel. If you do decide to come up from the east, be sure to bring a partner so you can properly commiserate. Hope you like cactus!