Lela Peak P500 DS
Malapai Hill LPC
Mt. Minerva Hoyt HPS
Bartlett Mountains HP P500

Sun, Dec 7, 2014

With: Karl Fieberling
Tom Becht
Bob Sumner

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4
Malapai Hill previously climbed Sat, Dec 11, 2010

Continued...

Day 4 of my birthday desert roadtrip saw us doing a mix of obscure summits in the Joshua Tree area. Bob Sumner would be joining us today, planning to meet us at the junction of the Geology Tour Rd with the main park road at 7a. Camped outside the park we underestimated just how long it takes to drive from the southern entrance to Geology Tour Rd, arriving some 10-15min past the meeting time. Bob didn't seem perturbed as our little caravan of three vehicles pulled into the parking lot found there. To keep from having to move too much stuff out of any one vehicle, we took two cars to get the four of us to the first TH.

Lela Peak

This unofficially named summit derives its name from Zdon's Desert Summits book, which took it from the benchmark found at the summit. Bob has been interested in collecting all of the summits in Zdon's book, so it was for his benefit that we made this our first venture. We parked at the Pleasant Valley TH on the south side of the summit which overlooks the broad Pleasant Valley. A use trail leads up to a set of mine prospects at the base of the hill and from there it's a 1,000-foot climb to the summit ridge in about 2/3mi. Though steep, the climbing is not hard and like most cross-country in Joshua Tree, is not hampered much by the sparse vegetation. We spent about 50min in reaching the summit. The peak appears to be moderately popular based on the eight pages of entries in left in 2010. Surprisingly, it wasn't one of the usual suspects that had left it. Older scraps dated back further but these were brittle and in poor condition. Local resident Doug Bear's name was among these. We spent perhaps 15min atop before heading back down, returning to the cars not long after 9a.

Malapai Hill

This LPC summit is located 2.5mi west of Lela, just off the Geology Tour Rd. There is a small area to park off the road east of the summit, making for one of the easiest LPC summits to reach, a little over a mile round trip. Bob and I had cheated by driving the wrong way on the one-way portion of Geology Road, getting us to the parking area five minutes before the others. We started off for Malapai expecting the others to catch up. While Bob went off towards the summit, I made a detour to a nearby rockpile that made for a very interesting class 3 scramble. The pile is composed of some enormous boulders that require some very circuitous route-finding in order to reach the top. There are all sorts of tunnels through the rocks, some of which can be negotiated, others looking like death traps (later, on the way back I spotted a bobcat watching us from this rocky labyrinth. It quickly disappeared inside when I pointed it out to others). By the time I had extracted myself through a tunnel to the north the others were all ahead of me. I caught up to Karl just below the summit, the other two already waiting when we arrived. Even with the detour I spent but 30min to reach the summit. This was a far more popular peak with several register books filled with entries. My previous entry from 2010 was still there. There were just too many entries on a trivial peak to bother photographing all the pages. I took but a few and called it done. This was the last of the Joshua Tree LPC summits for Tom and another one for Bob to check off.

Mt. Minerva Hoyt

2013 saw the addition of two more peaks to the HPS list. Typically these are silly little peaks with almost no prominence, promoted by Peter Doggett or one of the other prolific HPSers needing more places to visit. Mt. Minerva Hoyt is one of these silly summits but it was named not after one of the HPS's own, but for one of the first active desert preservationists and a strong promoter of Joshua Tree National Monument. It was nice that the Park Service broke one of it's own rules about not naming new summits within National Parks, but it was too bad a more worthy summit couldn't be found. The summit is a local bump NE of the park's highpoint, Quail Mountain. The route we would take follows much the same route often used to climb Quail. Our motorcade reconvened at the Hidden Valley picnic area, a rock climbing mecca and possibly the most popular area in the park. The large lot was not quite full when we arrived around 10:45a, and after setting some water jugs out on the dash we started off heading west along the climber trail on the south side of the rockclimbing formations found here. There were plenty of kids scrambing about and more serious climbers plying their trade as we moved west to quieter parts of the park. Our route took us past the Randolph Ranch, a grandfathered inholding on the edge of Lost Horse Valley. There are multiple homesteads here, the newer but unfinished-looking one to the east. A white station wagon sits atop jack stands where it appears to have been left decades earlier. Verne Randolph Jr. is said to still live there (online search), but the place doesn't look to be occupied any longer. If anyone still lives there, it is probably on a parttime basis only. Past the ranch we hiked to the valley's edge, then wandered through a small maze of twisty, shallow canyons in a direct line with our summit. Interesting, but not the easiest way to get to Minerva Hoyt. After half a mile of this we came out upon more open terrain at the base of the summit. While the others followed a deeper canyon to the left, I followed more directly up the SE Ridge that would lead directly to the summit. The others were somewhat confused as to where the summit was, thinking it was at another point further west while I had no such indecision - I had the GPS with the route dialed in and knew exactly where it was. Karl and Bob corrected the mistake before following Tom up the wrong slope but it didn't cost Tom much in the end. He was still the second to reach the summit not far behind myself. We spent just over an hour and a half to reach the top. There were two register books filled with hundreds of names, probably the most popular summit in the park over the last two years since the naming became official. Many were from Sierra Club members out to add the latest HPS summit to their checklist, but there were also plenty of others who came out to pay tribute to Ms. Hoyt, leaving their names and thanks in the register. Tom brought out the leftover birthday cupcakes to share at the summit, along with his mom's "hooch", a coffee-based liquor concoction that goes down pretty easy while adding a little high to the afternoon. After we had finished both of those items off we descended the mountain, none of us having any interest in visiting the higher Quail Mtn to the SW as a bonus (all four of us had already tagged it). We found the easier route to the west of the canyon maze that made the return to Lost Horse Valley that much easier. We paid a longer visit to the Randolph Ranch, examining the dump heap, an outdoor patio, the old Model T and the various buildings, finding all the doors locked. It was 2:30p by the time we returned to Hidden Valley, bringing the outing to a conclusion in under 4hrs' time.

Bartlett Mountains HP

The Bartlett Mountains are a small range just north of the town of Joshua Tree outside the park. Only about 2.5mi on a side, it might have better been termed the Bartlett Hills, but that was not for us to decide. Evan Rasmussen had visited the highpoint a few years earlier and provided the concise write-up that we were to follow, an easy hike of less than 2mi RT on an excellent use trail. These were important points at this juncture as Bob was more than ready to call it quits for the day. Tom and Karl were more used to my habit of getting them to do "just a little more" and made no similar complaints. The dirt access road is found off paved Yucca Mesa Rd, itself branching off SR62 between Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley. Sun Mesa Drive passes through a sparely populated patch of desert to reach some 4WD roads that can take one within a mile of the summit. We parked our two vehicles here (having left the other two back at SR62) and started off around 3:20p. To keep the whining to a minimum, I promised the hike to the summit would take all of 15min. Bob suggested I should buy dinner should I be proven wrong. And so I was - it took us just over 20min on what we all agreed was a fine trail that someone had spent time developing with steps in a few places and a well-cleared path. After going over by a few false summits, the trail took us to the highpoint devoid of survey towers, benchmarks and registers, just a nice little perch to view the surrounding desert. We were back again at the cars just after 4p.

Tom had to head home while the three of us remained for another exciting evening of desert nightlife (just kidding). We found what I thought was a great place for dinner at the Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree. Perhaps a little pricey, but I thought the ahi fish tacos were worth the $14. The others seemed to enjoy their meal as well with an interesting atmosphere and good service. Definitely would recommend the place to others (as I'm doing here). And I picked up the tab to make good on my agreement with Bob. Afterwards we drove east to Gold Crown Rd some 16mi past 29 Palms where we would spend the night. Bob had gotten up at 3a to join us that morning so he was off to sleep almost as soon as we had circled the wagons. Karl joined me in the van for a feature movie and snacks. It's a hard life out here in the desert...

Continued...


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