Ascent of Sand Dune Furnace Ridge on 2019-05-04

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Karen Musser
Date:Saturday, May 4, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sand Dune Furnace Ridge
    Elevation:5340 ft / 1627 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ok be careful with the GPS track. Here is how this one goes. We wanted to hike the loop to see the many arches in the Sand Dune Arch area north of the Fiery Furnace area. We were disappointed to see that you can hike in the Fiery Furnace area but after seeing the fins up close I understand why. You could get very lost in that labyrinth of fins. You can not climb up to see where you are as they are mostly upper class 5 vertical walls and they are in rows with occasional passes and cracks that interconnect them. So, we went up to see the arches which is at the head of the Fiery Furnace area. just before the parking lot I spotted a mound of climbable sized eroded boulders that was at the head works of the Furnace and thought that could be hiked/scrambled safely. As it turns out, that spot was one of the few places on the topographic aerials that looked like you could scramble up 200 feet and get one hundred feet of prominence without ropes. Peakbagging in this area is such a challenge.

So the plan. We were going to hike the entire loop from the parking lot, see all the arches, then come back and do a quick scramble from the road to see if there was anything worth peakbagging in the one area where the furnace features were not fins. So first we took the designated trail to the first arch, which was actually withing the fins off the parking lot. This area is amazing, cool, breezy, with tons of red sand like being at the beach. After getting the photo of the arch inside the fin, we noticed that a bunch of people were scrambling in that fin towards the direction of the small peak I wanted to check out. What if you could pass all the way out to the other side and then bag the small summit? So we tried. Lots of fun exciting scrambling in there with many younger people having a great time. All true class 3 and many areas you had to get on top of micro-fins inside the fins and climb them and the rock was pretty exposed with falls of up to 20 feet on the microfins. Karen and I proceeded out on some class 3+ perhaps class 4 with a group of twenty year olds and the we saw a flat valley in the bottom of the fin that might go right to the base of the hike I wanted later. On that last microfin we had one last downclimb and we were through easily to the other side when we noticed this downclimb was at least class 4 if not class 5. It involved a lot of stemming for about a 16 feet, but the last 10 feet was pretty darn vertical. Everyone that ventured that far in to the belly of the fins backed off as that down climb would be best with a small rappel or at least someone of better climbing ability.

Re-climbing back out of the fin, we gave up on my pursuit of the class 3 rock pile to the south and went back to see the rest of the arches. This hike is very nice, one of the best in the entire park. meandering terrain of varied vegetation and rock formations and when you get to the Broken Arch the trail goes inside and through the arch with a nice little class 2+ exit. We followed the trail around and up to some slabs that were very attractive and saw cairns. We should not have followed them as they did not take us back to the loop trail. This section is poorly marked and we missed the loop and instead found some heavily used loop trail that bypassed the campground and swung us back to the parking lot prematurely. Now mind you, this heavily used social trail had nice backcountry views and meandered around more towers and smaller fins.

Once near the parking lot, we saw another use trail that wound around the outside of the sand dune formation fin/arch, where many people explore the outside of the feature. We followed that social trail through thick red sand and up a deer trail and could see the formation I wanted to climb earlier. It has a nice ridge of class 2+ and class 3 and sand. Finally, some class 3. The rock is crumbly at the sides but very firm at the top boulder. The final scramble is an odd movement easy class 3 step up over a small drop but the down climb would be an awkward step down over an exposed fall. Doable, but as it turns out there is an easier class 2+ escape down the back side. That leads you to the second candidate peak which is kind of a tiny micro-fin scramble easy class 3. I am not sure which was higher. We sat on the big boulder and had a great view of the parking area, the sand dune fins, and the valley and ate and enjoyed the sun going down as our last hike in the park. Then from this side we decided to avoid the class 3+ exist and down climb through more microfins and sandy valleys with only one class 3 area and back down to the Fiery Furnace Fins on the backside of the Sand Dune Arch. We were not very close to where we abandoned our attempt earlier.

I explored some of the backside entrances to the fins and found of a maze between fins and found what would connect to the last floor we wanted to try earlier in the day. A very impressive area of geology that was awe-inspiring. Then we hiked out. When we were done all of this additional climbing up and over micro-fins added up to a total hike of 800 feet of gain and nearly 5 miles where if we simply set out to hike up this small class 3 feature we could have done it in a 1 mile RT but that would not have given us the full experience of this very interesting area of the park.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:815 ft / 247 m
    Total Elevation Loss:645 ft / 195 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.8 mi / 6.1 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:730 ft / 222 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 170 ft / 52 m; Extra: 560 ft / 170m
    Loss on way in:560 ft / 170 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:see GPS track
    Start Trailhead:Sand Dune Arch TH parking  5170 ft / 1575 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:85 ft / 25 m
    Gain on way out:85 ft / 25 m
    Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
    Route:see GPS track
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

This page has been served 35 times since 2005-01-15.

Copyright © 1987-2019 by All Rights Reserved. Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page Terms of Service