Corkscrew Peak, Eastern Death Valley, CA

Harlan W. S.
January 27, 2007

The start of this hike is a fast drive from Vegas, via US route 95 and Beatty (about 2 hrs 15 min from Summerlin). At the stop sign in Beatty, turn left (SW). This road is clearly marked as the route to Death Valley; in some places, it is also marked as route 374, and is also called Main.  From the intersection in Beatty, the start of the hike is 19 miles south on 374.  However, there is a narrow shoulder and limited parking at the starting point of the hike, so you may actually wish to park at 18.7 to 18.8 miles, on the NW (right) shoulder.

Do this hike in cool weather (say Nov—April).  This area is deadly hot and dry in summer.  Take plenty of water.  There is no maintained trail (in fact, no trail at all for most of the hike).  No part needs to be harder than class 2.  Here is the summitpost entry.

A better trip would combine this hike with a climb of Thimble Peak (the latter via the Titus Canyon Road).  For strong hikers, both peaks should be doable in one day. The best bet might be to drive from the Beatty side to Red Pass, climb Thimble, go to DVNP and camp, and drive back on 374 the next day for a climb of Corkscrew.  The Titus Canyon Road is occasionally closed, so enquire with the park service about the road status before attempting that trip.

Go to bottom of the page for updates and more info, including the riveting story of the mystery Corkscrew hikers.



GPS trace (red) on 100k map.


GPS trace on 24k map. I went up the ridge,

and down the wash.  The blue leg is

my actual starting hike; however, one should

just follow the red path for either ridge (right)

or wash (left) routes.


View N toward the peak,

showing the ridge route. At 4700’,

a use trail becomes apparent.





The first steep hill on the ridge route;

bear right.


As one looks up and N on the ridge,

one sees these rough-looking rocks.

Actually, it’s class 2 at most.







Slightly out-of-order slide, showing the

route as it appears from the knob at ~4220’

. There are several class 2 breaks

on the right side of the cliff band.


The Sierra Nevada in the distance.

There is scant snow, unusual for

this time of year.





The only person I saw on top was this

Corkscrewball who insisted on a

variety of odd poses.



Panorama roughly NW, with

Death Valley at left.





View SW.


View SSE, over a ridge into the

approach wash.


Thimble Peak is the sharp banded

prominence on the left side. View NNW.





Panorama ESE.  Daylight pass is at L.


View S.


On descent, another view NNW.












Looking back up (N) the wash.

The terrain is chaotic.


I’m looking down (S) one of very few

Class 3 dryfalls. The falls are easily

avoided by climbing on the side

(W in this case).


Now down the fall, a view back (N).










The mystery hikers: when I arrived at the parking spot at 9:25 AM, there was a shiny 4WD truck, containing the usual assortment of pre-hike gear.  I thought I might catch up to the hikers by cutting directly NNW, rather than start in the wash; my initial hike is shown in blue on the 24k map above.  When I reached the ridge just east of the wash, I did indeed see and hear three hikers traveling up the wash.  I guessed they had walked down the road to the usual starting point, and were hiking the wash all the way to the pass at 4700’.  They seemed oblivious to me, so I kept going up the ridge route (here I hit the eastern red trace on the 24k map).  I turned around several times to note their progress, then suddenly they were totally out of sight; I was puzzled, but assumed they must have entered a hidden part of the wash.


I reached the top, and stayed around for 40 minutes; the other hikers never arrived.  But I had reached the top in 1 hour 45 minutes, and judging by the log entries, most people take at least an hour longer.  The wash and ridge routes are together for the last 1100’ of ascent, so I thought I would meet them by the time I dropped to 4700’.  I didn’t see them, so I decided to descend the wash, sure that I would meet them then.  I did cut off early (high) to enter the wash, so it is possible I missed them in that short stretch (but not likely, since they were making a fair amount of noise before).  Anyway, I went all the way back in the wash… to find their car still parked and empty on 374.


Were they going someplace else? There are really few options for a non-technical climb, and they didn’t seem to have any technical gear.  Maybe they went up the wrong wash at the upper fork, or intentionally took a non-standard route?  I wasn’t too alarmed, since one simply has to reverse direction and go downhill to get back to the road.


During descent, I looked down a dryfall and saw a chilling sight – fresh blood. I hurried down to examine the blood, which hadn’t even soaked into the rock – then realized the blood was my own, and had dripped from an unnoticed cut on my left elbow, as I was peering over the edge of the dryfall.  Somewhere S of the dryfall, I came across several sets of fresh boot tracks – but it is hard to tell how old tracks are in a desert that gets scant rainfall.  So I still don’t know what happened to them.