Peak 3,740ft P1K
Anschutz BM
Alligator

Thu, Jan 28, 2016

With: Karl Fieberling
Patrick
O'Neill

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

Continued...

Peak 3,740ft / Anschutz BM

Karl had arrived at my campsite outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree sometime around midnight. We were both up early to take in a fine predawn sky, but more importantly to meet Patrick at the Red Cloud exit off Interstate 10 about 13mi further east. Patrick showed up about 15min past our 7a meeting time, not too shabby, the three of us then driving together in Karl's Element north along the aqueduct access road. The two were joining me for a climb of an obscure, unnamed P1K in the Eagle Mtns, taking my promise of an exciting climb with a grain of salt. They had hiked with me enough to know that any of these unknown summits may or may not actually live up to my hype. This one did, as it turned out. My expectations had been derived from the satellite views I'd observed beforehand, noting the area resembled the Coxcomb Mtns in Joshua Tree that have some of the best scrambling to be found in the CA desert. We followed the aqueduct road to the base of the mountains but were stopped by a No Trespassing sign on the utility road we wanted to take heading west. We knew enough not to mess around with the Municipal Water District of Southern CA - these folks seem to take their property rights seriously as we'd found a month ago near Parker Dam. We found a place to park and started off on foot down the same road around 7:45a. The roads we drove to get to this point, incidently, were very good and easily driven by any vehicle.

Our route followed the road west for a little more than a mile before turning north up a semi-obvious wash system flowing out from the Eagle Mtns. The wash is wide and sandy to start with easy walking and lots of desert trees milking moisture from far below the dry surface. We shortly passed a Wilderness boundary sign that marks the edge of the national park before running into a mildly brushy section a few minutes later. This was neither hard to circumnavigate nor did it last very long as the brush gave way to the more interesting part of the route. The flattish wash quickly morphs into a boulder-strewn gully, the granite blocks often quite large. Class 2 terrain switched to class 3 with the increasing boulder sizes and tricky route-finding. For almost an hour we were treated to some fine scrambling with dry waterfalls, caves to explore and tunneling manuevers. I was particularly fond of the tunneling opportunities and would try these out whenever possible even though they often led to dead-ends. Some short, sandy sections would periodically offer a temporary respite, but we would soon be back to more scrambling. One particularly challenging section required some awkward class 3-4 work through catclaw which resulted in some slow cautious moves and amusement for the onlookers. It was the first time that I can recall pulling on catclaw branches to allow progress, a rarity for an otherwise dreaded desert shrub.

Not long after the most difficult section that had consumed the last hour had been negotiated, we began to notice clipped branches in the wash that became more frequent. Someone had taken the trouble to cut down bushes growing in the center of the wash, some of the branches up to two inches in diameter. We also noted irregularly placed ducks marking a route of some sort. It was not clear how long ago this effort had been made nor to what purpose, but it did not appear recent as judged by some of the cut brush that had started to grow back. Though the gradient had eased making progress easier and more like class 2, we entered an area with numerous forks and convoluted terrain. We left the marked course to follow the one I had marked on the GPSr, aiming for our highpoint though it was still not visible. In and out of various little drainages we went. Around 10:30a we crested a low rise separating drainage basins flowing south and west where Peak 3,740ft was now visible. The terrain continued to grow easier and was now almost a simple walk, though perhaps that's understating it a bit. It was nearly 11a when we finally reached the highpoint, our reward a grand view overlooking the Eagle Mtns and a red can containing a 1984 MacLeod register. Only two other parties had visited since then, John Vitz in 1992 and a Carey/Adrian party in 2012. This peak did not draw the random summit visitor. We spent about half an hour at the highpoint, lunching and enjoying the views before I rallied the troops to get moving.

We had done well on time and would have plenty of time for the bonus peak that I had hinted at earlier. I now pressed the case that we could head to Anschutz BM, a mile and a quarter to the southeast, before descending by another route to make a loop of the day's adventure. It didn't take much convincing as neither was particularly tired nor eager to get back. We were all in agreement that a loop is almost always better than a simple out and back. The route between the two was not difficult, standard class 2 for most of it, a bit of class 3 for the final scramble to the top, taking about an hour between the two summits. This summit also sported another register left by MacLeod, though three years earlier than the last. Vitz, too, had visited this summit earlier than he had Peak 3,740ft, but the Carey/Adrian party appeared to be doing the same trek as ourselves, visiting them both on the same day. In addition, there were other names in the register, these of the more random variety that seem inspired by someone looking up at a peak from below and decided it needed to be climbed. Again we spent about half an hour at the summit, though this time not in relaxation. We took an interest in finding the benchmark which became a bit of an obsession that resulted in us dismantling the summit cairn and digging below until we'd located it. Along the way we disturbed a hibernating lizard that turned out to be a chuckwalla when we queried the Internet later that night. Once satisfied that all was right with the survey marker, we decided to head off the southeast side of the summit and explore a drainage called Difficult Canyon leading us out of the mountains.

Difficult Canyon had more scrambling fun, but not overly difficult as the name suggested and not nearly as good or sustained as our ascent route. The bottom turned into easier slopes and then onto an OHV route leading back to the main utility road. We were back by 3p, but not quite done for the day.

Alligator

On our drive back to the Interstate I talked the others into stopping at Desert Center for a very easy summit just south of the Interstate. With only a little imagination one can see how the name was picked to describe this low-level ridge rising above the desert floor like an alligator on the surface of the water. We used the Element to drive a sandy route from the pavement that got us within 1/3mi of the summit on the SE side. This one would take us less than 10min to climb. There was no register, but we found a GATOR benchmark (MWD variety, not USGS) from 1931, undoubtedly used during the surveying of the Colorado Aqueduct. It was 3:45p when we reached the highpoint, during the magic hour before sunset. The colors were more pronounced and the weather was simply wonderful during this time. No one was sorry we stopped to tag it. As we left the summit I told the others not to wait for me as I intended to race them back to our parked cars by the highway. It was only 3/4mi away and with only modest jogging I was able to beat them back by almost ten minutes. That extra driving to get closer hadn't really saved us much time as it turns out.

After showering at various points of the compass around the large dirt lot, we drove east to the junction with Chuckwalla Valley Rd. We intended to drive south on Graham Pass Rd where we would spend the night, Tom Becht planning to join us the next morning. Unfortunately we found the road closed. Calls to the Riverside County Sheriff yielded us nothing as they knew nothing of the closure and suggested we call the BLM office (closed by this time). We quickly made a new plan and drove further east to Wileys Well Rd where we left a few cars before driving into Blythe for dinner. We ate at the Red Cactus, or more accurately the mexican half of the building behind the Red Cactus, which proved worth the extra drive. After dinner we returned to Wileys Well Road where we spent the night on BLM land just north of the highway. A more modest outing was on tap the next day...

Continued...


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