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The Big Maria Mtns are a fairly large CA desert range on the AZ border, just north of Blythe. The highpoint is a P2K and DPS summit that I had climbed some years before. There are four other summits in the range with more than 900ft of prominence and it was two of these that I had turned my attention today. Karl, Tom and I were parked off paved Midland Rd in one of the long-term camping sites found here for low-budget snowbirds who can't afford the RV parks along the Colorado River or just want a more out-in-the-boondocks experience. When we awoke in the morning Karl decided he'd had enough peakbagging for one trip and would rather start the long drive for home. We bid him goodbye and very quickly were down to just the two of us.
It was noon when we started out. The first mile up a shallow canyon was fairly easy, going over a low rise before dropping into a larger wash. This second wash was a most tedious affair that neither of us enjoyed in the least, going on for another mile over rounded rocks and crappy footing. We were happy to finally start out of the wash after an hour, finding loose class 2 slopes of the usual sort until about halfway up to the summit. The face grows steeper with some class 3 and non-obvious route-finding. We got turned back at several attempts to get higher before we found a most fortunate gully hidden behind a turn in the rock that climbs up and across significant cliffs that had caught us unexpectedly. The ramp narrowed but continued across a near-vertical stretch before opening up to more possibilities and getting us to the summit in short order, keeping the scrambling to no more than class 3. We both agreed that the wash had sucked but the scramble was a good one. Vitz had left a register in 2007 with only a single visitor, Bob Greer, signing it in early 2009. We photographed the benchmark and improving views before starting down the NW Ridge. This had some fun class 3 before reaching a saddle that offered a straightforward class 2 route down the rest of the way into the ugly wash. Braving that a second time, we then popped out onto a low ridgeline separating it from the initial wash used on the ascent, and for a change of pace we followed this ridgeline with modest ups and downs back to the Jeep. Along the way we came across a memorial cross to a Willis Cawley who had died in 2011 at the age of 80. A register here was filled with entries from family members who have come back periodically to pay him a visit.
Our 3:40p return left us with about an hour of daylight which wasn't enough to try something else so we called it a day. We spent the last hour of sunshine showering and driving some 30mi west to our next campsite found south of Wileys Rest Stop on Interstate 10. There is a state prison found three miles south of the interstate. The paved road leading to the prison gives way to a good dirt/sand BLM road heading south to Wileys Well. We drove only another 2mi to a BLM kiosk and a large turnout where we spent the night. While eating dinner we watched Meru, a mountaineering film about a most difficult Himilayan climb by Conrad Anker and pals in 2011. Watching them freeze their butts off, get trenchfoot, survive an avalanche and other hazards gave us a great appreciation for the relatively benign climbing pursuits the California desert offers. I'll take this any day of the week...
This page last updated: Tue Mar 6 10:05:36 2018
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