One way to (somewhat) beat the heat during the hot months (April – October) in Death Valley is to go up to one of the higher hikes, like Telescope Peak or Wildrose Peak. Having already hiked those, we cast around for another higher altitude option and came upon Mount Perry (5,716 feet). The well-defined 4.3 mile use trail (it’s actually as good as some built trails) from road’s end at Dantes View to Perry runs down and up and down and up along the crest of the Black Mountains at around 5,000 feet. The first half-mile to Dantes View Peak (5,704 feet) is a popular short hike (seemingly called the Dantes Ridge hike) for those wanting yet more of a view that they get from the observation platform at road’s end. There are spectacular views east and west from all along the trail, and to the north from Perry’s summit.
It was 66º F when we left the trailhead at 0700 and there was a nice cool breeze flowing over the crest. Parts of the trail were still in shade and this made for an easy walk to Dantes View Peak.
We had been expecting a poor use trail or even cross-country from here on but, as noted above, instead found a very easy to follow trail. We were aware, however, that we’d have to descend almost 1,000 feet from Dantes View Peak, then climb about 800 feet up to Perry, then regain that 1,000 feet on the way back.
At the low point, the trail crosses a boulder field and this was the only spot where it got a little hard to follow – but there was a cairn here and there to help.
Past the boulder field, we came to where the trail climbs across a slope of biege-white rock, which is a striking contrast to the dark chocolate rock that forms Mount Perry.
Past the white rock, we reached the darker rock of Perry and the trail got a little steeper and rougher as it climbed to the summit ridge.
By now, the cool morning was but a memory and the air temperature was heading toward the 90s. The earlier cooling breeze was now a warm one that was sucking the moisture out of us like a beef jerky maker. The LovedOne found a (small) piece of shade and said she’d wait while I pushed on to the summit.
I got to within a half-mile of the summit before my common sense light came on – signaling that it was now quite hot, there was no shade, I had a quart of water left, and we had that 1,000-foot return climb waiting for us. So, leaving the “death” in Death Valley for someone else, I bailed, rejoined The LovedOne, and we started the walk back.
Going downhill in the cool morning had made us overlook the fact that the 1,000 feet we had to regain featured three false summits – The LovedOne was not amused.
We got back to the trailhead just as our water ran out (but there was plenty more in the car). It may be cooler up at 5,000 feet but not cool enough. We’d have needed to start earlier and carry more water in order not to tempt fate. Even though we didn’t reach the top of Perry, the hike was excellent (OK, maybe not the false summits part) and the views were expansively extreme all along the way.