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A Snowflake's Chance In Hell: Snowboarding Death Valley's Telescope Peak

Backcountry Snowboarding Death Valley Devin Overton Splitboarding Telescope Peak Venture Venture Snowboards

By Devin Overton

Following an enormous first week of splitboard touring on my road trip to the Eastern Sierra, I opted for a short solo detour into Death Valley National Park with the intention of resting my legs and being a common tourist as a windy storm passed through the mountains. I began checking off a few of the roadside attractions listed in the visitor’s guide before seeking out camp that afternoon. Avoiding a gross lot full of RVs on the main highway left me with one option for legal camping in the park. Located at the end of a curvy thirty mile road that climbed over 8,000 feet from the valley bottom stood the Mahogany Flats free campground. I parked my truck in one of the many available spots, then contemplated what to do with the remaining few hours of daylight. Above my camping spot I noticed a hillside with scattered patches of snow; just enough to make a few novelty turns, so I threw together the bare necessities to snowboard and left camp.

I began hiking up a well-established trail that apparently led some mountain called Telescope Peak. I knew nothing of the area, but the trail seemed to head in the proper direction. Then about a mile into the excursion I saw it, Telescope Peak, a legitimate snow-capped mountain floating alone in the center of the Mojave. Suddenly, I forgot all about the puny hill I had been aiming for; I absolutely needed to summit Telescope. With the sun quickly setting, I kicked my internal motor into high gear and forgot just how tired my legs felt from the week prior.

Seven miles later I stood alone at 11,043 feet with dysfunctionally cold fingers and phone shutting off due to the frigid wind chill. It was quite the stark contrast from the scorching upper 90's just hours earlier. I quickly transitioned from tennis shoes and shorts into my snowboarding attire, eager to catch the last beams of light on my run. I strapped my feet into the bindings on my Venture Euphoria, howled out like a coyote, and began to slalom bristlecone pines from Telescope's summit. Fifteen hundred feet of euphoric wiggling in golden corn finally came to an end in a canyon well below the trail. A steep bushwhack through sage and talus and under the glow of a headlamp got me back on the trail and descending towards camp. Carrying my snowboard and boots on my back for 14 miles didn't exactly fit the "rest day" agenda in preparing for Mt. Whitney, but I couldn't have asked for a more unique addition to my road trip than a spontaneous sunset lap in Death Valley.  

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