Ascent of Big Daddy Dune on 2022-07-09

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Katrina
Date:Saturday, July 9, 2022
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Big Daddy Dune
    Elevation:2621 ft / 798 m

Ascent Trip Report

After sunrise at Dune 45, we drove to the end of the road to see and hike dunes there. The road switches from pavement to "4x4", and we weren't exactly sure what that would mean. The road turns out to be somewhat deep sand, and we shifted into 4x4 low to get through it. It was only a short drive in these conditions, then we found ourselves at the main parking area for Big Daddy and Dead Vlei. The trailhead had a picnic area and awful smelling pit toilets. The best part of the toilets was the signage: "THIS IS FOR MEN, BOYS, UNCLE".

There appeared to be three main routes up Big Daddy, one that followed the highest ridge of sand the whole way but included elevation loss to a saddle in the middle, one to the left/east where you avoid the first dune and come up to the saddld to finish the ascent, and one route through Dead Vlei and up to the saddle and onward. Of course, we didn't take any of these three routes. The summit was also shrouded in early morning fog clouds, and we hoped they would lift by the time we got up there. To us, this looked like a three or four hour outing, but a group of college age kids chatting at the parking lot thought it would take around 8 hours.

We started by folowing the white pole marked route to Dead Vlei. It was a well trodden sand path and we did it barefoot. Dead Vlei is a salt pan with a dead forest of trees on one side and looks like a Salvador Dali painting minus the melting clocks. We even found a dead barn owl which added to the setting. The pan was firm, but tolerable on bare feet, and it wasn't warm enough to be too hot to the touch. Instead of meeting the saddle to our left where there was ean established trail, we went to the SW corner to avoid crowds and follow what we later realized was a track two people had set just half an hour ahead of us. This consisted of a sideslope ascent which of course was taxing, but higher up we got on a pretty steep section that required walking on all fours, essentially sand dune scrambling. We did see some interesting bugs scurrying around on the sand on this route. We eventaully reached the top in clear skies and had an amazing panorama of seemingly endless dunes with some rocky peaks here and there. Big Daddy Dune is not the highest dune, but may be the highest close to a road in the park. We got lucky and summited around lunch time when most other groups were likely eating, and we had the summit to ourselves for a few minutes.

For the descent, we couldn't help but run down the main face which consisted of a steep ~600ft+ drop, a kind of couloir between the bushes on either side. We ran down it in about 2 minutes, an exhilerating experience. It wasn't hard on the body, and felt similar to a normal 2 minute sprint althpugh it also felt like we left reality... next we crossed Dead Vlei and finished the hike back to the car on the marked path. A very memorable hike.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:831 ft / 253 m
    Total Elevation Loss:831 ft / 253 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.5 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:781 ft / 238 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 731 ft / 222 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Loss on way in:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:2.1 mi / 3.5 km
    Start Trailhead:Sossusvlei  1890 ft / 576 m
    Time:1 Hours 54 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:781 ft / 238 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 731 ft / 222 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Gain on way out:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:1.9 mi / 3 km
    End Trailhead:Sossusvlei  1890 ft / 576 m
    Time:1 Hours 15 Minutes

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