Dante’s Benchmark (W6/ND-144) in Death Valley (NP15)

NPOTA Entity: Death Valley National Park  NP15

SOTA summit: W6/ND-144

Activation Date: Jan 16, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Hike in: Yes

Solo hike: No

ATT Coverage: Great with limitations (see text)

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

Access: Drive 15+ from Furnace Creek to Dante’s View along a paved road.  Hike 1.3 mile roundtrip and 400′ of ascent up to ~5,700′, walk on exposed trail to exposed summit.

Standing a few thousand feet above the hottest place on earth it dawns on me why this is called Dante’s View. Looking directly down into Badwater and scanning left and right you see the quintessential Death Valley view that is arid and dry, that conjures up thoughts of heat and sometimes another world. The Sierra Nevada mountains just west rob points east of water and cooling breezes leading to ambient temperature in the 13oF range only dwarfed by surface temperatures possibly in excess of 200F.

The trail up to Dante’s Benchmark is easy to see from the parking lot at his View. Gingerly walking along a well groomed trail that at points could have me slipping perilously into his Purgatory, I lean heavily in the opposite direction and make good use of my poles. The immediate landscape is painted in shades of umber and punctuated with small sage bushes. California has so much sage; black, white, coastal etc and it smells great. I’m impressed that any plant life can survive in this hostile environment.

SOTA activation have a high chance of a stunning view from the activation zone which is exactly what I experience this day. Views further north along the Amargorsa Mountains and further east toward mountains that seem to have reached up high enough and grabbed a smattering of snow despite Telescope, Wildrose and other Panamint luminaries grabbing whatever the Sierras missed.

View of Badwater (white stuff on left) and view north west
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Salt deposits that are “Badwater” (day after Dante’s Benchmark)

The end fed antenna is up and well orientated for 20m into the US and I settle into my comfy rollup Thermarest seat. This has been an invaluable addition to my kit not only keeping me warm but helping to create a writing table out of my legs. As is so often the case, the LTE badge proudly displayed on my iPhone as I take a few snaps is now replaced by a NO SERVICE badge once I sink into my Thermarest. I keep my fingers crossed that the open frequency I have just found is still that after I have leap up, done a small dance to the cellular gods and transformed the NO SERVICE back to LTE. However, today the gods need more of an offering and I have to turn the phone on and off, sadly to have this little offering repeated for 40, 20 and 10m operations. This all aside it was another successful and enjoyable activation netting 30 plus contacts.

Me Dante
A happy W6PNG having just completed my second Death Valley SOTA/NPOTA activation

This all complete and having just gotten on the outside of a rather tasty omelette, toast and coffee, the Jeep is heading east toward the Nevada state line searching for the entrance to a 27 mile drive into and through Titus Canyon.

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At the highest point on Titus drive looking west. Note the road wraps around and below this point

Part way along Titus is Leadfeld,  now a ghost town made up of a few wooden and corrugated structures and a safe that has been hewn into the mountain side presumably to thwart local bandits or at least make their work harder.


Looking through an abandoned corrugated building at Leadfield ghost town
A safe place
The last section is a series of “S” bends back out to wide open blue skies

I enjoyed the drive through Titus and definitely recommend it. On an equally different scale of beauty and surprise and given we are on the topic of a very arid place, further south in Death Valley at Ashford Mills wild flowers are blooming courtesy of El Nino and were such as contrast to all that is arid.

“Desert Gold” wildflowers at Ashford Mill at south end of Death Valley

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 5.06.35 PMScreen Shot 2016-01-22 at 5.07.04 PM

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~1.2 mile round trip from Dante View parking to Benchmark (W6/ND-144)
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 5.00.50 PM
and a modest few hundred feet of ascent/descent


  1. Paul,
    I really appreciate you posting your excellent reports of your SOTA activities, they are the next best thing to being there. As usual you have terrific pics and narrative that makes you imagine you are almost there with you. Keep up the great work and good luck on all your activities.


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