FKT: Ashly Winchester - Corkscrew Peak (Death Valley NP, CA) - 2021-12-26

Route variation
up & down
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
2h 34m 26s
GPS track(s)

Photos on Strava :)

Corkscrew Peak captured my attention from my very first visit to Death Valley. I've always been so busy with other objectives in the area that I never researched the route to the summit. So when I came back to the area with no major objectives, I was stoked to find the route on the FKT website.

I chose to start at the Corkscrew Peak sign and take the well-traveled, well-cairned trail instead of the "ridge route" that is located about a quarter-mile away. I did scout the two routes the night before my attempt, and while the lower route seems to be more direct, I do tend to choose to stick to well-traveled trails and I prefer to start at more permanent structures, like the sign. From what I could tell, the gpx files available for the lower route all seem to start near the top of the embankment off the side of the road, not at any permanent structure.

The trail from the Corkscrew Peak sign travels up a sandy/rocky wash and over interesting, rocky terrain, eventually diverting out of the wash to climber's left up a small dry fall. The trail continues through neat rock formations and climbs steeply towards the summit, sometimes switchbacking and sometimes going directly up. I found the trail easy to follow all the way up to the summit.

The temperature dropped as I climbed and I was stunned at how cold it was up high considering it was 60 degrees at the start. My gloveless hands went numb and I was grateful for the hand harnesses on my Leki poles so I didn't have to grip the poles! The views from the summit are arguably some of the best views of Death Valley. I had the entire route to myself, which was nice considering it was a very busy holiday weekend. The steep descent was made a little spicy with the marble-sized rocks on top of hard-packed dirt. I usually pride myself on being able to manage steep, technical descents, but I felt like I couldn't trust my foot placement on this terrain.

I highly recommend this route, if not for an FKT, but for a challenging and off-the-beaten-path hike in Death Valley. A true gem.

I took about 700ml of water with Gnarly Nutrition Fuel2O.