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Scott and Iris were to meet me on the north side of Joshua Tree near Clark Pass in the early morning. There was no sign of them at my camp spot shortly before 6a, so I drove off to find them at the designated starting point. I had no cell reception where I'd slept and likewise none at the starting point, but somehow a text came through on the drive between the two spots. Scott had driven to the wrong place - Chiriaco Summit on the south side of Joshua Tree - and would be an hour late. He was terribly embarrassed by the mixup and beat himself up to no end (and little good), Iris bearing the brunt of his verbal self-flagellations that went along the lines of "I'm so stupid!! I can never make this up!" The one text that got through turned out to be key since I knew not to wait for them. It would actually work just fine since the first hike I had planned wasn't very long and not terribly interesting compared to the more demanding outing to follow. I would simply do the one on my own and look for them upon my return.
We started at the northeast end of the chain since that would make for less driving (we were heading east on SR62 afterwards), though it was about 300ft lower than the other spot. We started by hiking up a small drainage on the north side of the range, nicely shaded from the warm sun for most of the approach. Upon gaining the crest at a saddle just west of Peak 2,936ft, we found ourselves back in sunshine and looking at some of the better stuff the Coxcomb Mtns have to offer. The range is primarily granite, though often of a rough and crumbly nature that makes for mixed results. We had a fine class 3 scramble up to the first summit on solid rock, but it was fairly short and took but five minutes to complete. Not surprisingly, we found no register here, but we left one of the three I had brought with me. We rested here a bit before beginning the hardest part of the day, the traverse along the crest to the next three peaks.
Though less than a mile to the southwest, it would take us the better part of two hours to find our way from the first peak to the second, Peak 3,625ft. We stayed close to the crest for much of this, reaching an intermediate bump before seeing that the final climb along the ridge to Peak 3,625ft was going to be quite difficult. Instead of following the ridge directly, we pitched off to the left, onto the sunnier southern side of the ridge before finding a suitable way up to our target. We had all sorts of interesting scrambling through a mix of rock quality before eventually gaining the summit. There were some arranged rocks found here, but again no register, whereby we left another of the ones I had brought.
The third summit, Peak 3,756ft, was another half mile to the southwest and would take us another hour, again with significant divergence from the crest and again favoring the south side. There was a short section of slab climbing, unusual in this range, that caused some trouble for Iris and afterwards she was a bit more cautious, not having liked the small jam she'd gotten into. From the LoJ logs, we knew that Gordon had been to these last two summits on the same day in 1981, but upon gaining the top we found no register here as one might expect. Perhaps Gordon was caught out carrying only one register that day? In any case, I didn't leave a register here in case we came up empty on the last, highest and most prominent of the four summits.
Another 30min and a good deal more scrambling saw us to the final summit, Peak 3,835ft. From the previous summit, a half mile away, it looked somewhat difficult, but with some creative route-finding along both sides of the ridgeline it went more quickly than the previous summits. It was almost 2:15p by the time we stood at the day's highpoint and we realized it would be close to dark, perhaps after dark, before we'd get back. This seemed to perk Scott up some, who is fond of saying "I have a headlamp!" with a smile and perky voice that tells you this is no inconvenience to him. We finally found one of the MacLeod/Lilley registers we'd been looking for. Richard Agnos had been with the dynamic duo in their 1981 ascent. The only other party to sign in was the undated entry of Smatko/Nelson/Schuler. We added our own scrawl, ate more of the food we'd brought with us and contemplated our return. We could see the road we were aiming for about a mile to the northwest, noting several options for the descent. We ended up choosing to drop west into a narrow drainage between two subsidiary ridgelines angling to the northwest (either of those ridges might have made a good descent option as well), and followed the sandy wash back out to the north. We eventually found the road and followed this for the last three miles out to the highway. The moon rose and the sun set while we were walking across the desert flats, a tarantula found along the way providing a rare desert wildlife photo opportunity. It was 4:45p by the time we got back to the edge of the Wilderness at the highway where we'd left our vehicle, not yet dark enough to need headlamps.
We had about half an hour's drive east to our camping spot for the night off SR62 at the junction with Cadiz Rd. We had dinner there and were early to bed, tired from the long day in the Coxcomb Mtns. Michael was to meet us here sometime during the night for an adventure in the southern Old Woman Mtns the next day. And so the fun continues...
This page last updated: Thu Dec 14 14:14:35 2017
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