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The Bullion Mtns are a large desert range stretching more than 40mi between Interstate 40 to the north and SR62 to the south. With nearly all of the range located within the Marine Corp training base at Twentynine Palms, the Bullion Mtns are a broad collection of peaks that include nine summits with over 900ft of prominence. The highest and most prominent summits (which oddly are not the same) are located in the center portions far from the periphery and not likely to be reached without access to the base. A number of the prominent summits are somewhat near the border and can be reached with some minor incursions. Today's unnamed summit is near the eastern boundary, less than six miles from the paved Amboy Rd. The outing would be sufficiently short to get done before noon, allowing me to get home to San Jose that evening at a reasonable hour.
I had spent the night parked about a mile north of Sheep Hole Pass, at a small turnout on BLM land abutting the Sheep Hole Mtns at their north end. The place has been used for shooting practice, graffiti, partying and as an empty beer can/bottle depository. In the morning I was up early, driving about 3mi further north to park along Amboy Rd. I started at sunrise, just before 7a, spending the first hour as usual in crossing open desert flats and washes to reach the base of the mountains. Today had more interest than usual thanks to the Marine Corp reservation. When I entered the main wash near the 2,200-foot level, I found the remains of an old training ground. Empty shells, plastic manequins, an unexploded mortar round and other things could be found in the wash over an area of perhaps a quarter mile. It appears to have been decades, possibly many decades, since it was last used. The wide wash narrowed as I continued west, with only a single dry waterfall offering the only class 3 on the otherwise standard class 2 desert climb. I stayed in the wash and one of its many branches until I was about 3/4mi east of the summit, at which time I climbed out onto the talus-strewn slopes and found my way to the summit around 9:20a. Unlike the outing a week earlier to Buff BM 4mi to the north, there were no military exercises taking place nearby, or anywhere within earshot that I could discern. Recent snows could be seen on San Gorgonio 60mi to the west, otherwise all was desert brown in other directions.
My return was much the same route I had taken for the ascent, though dropping to the northeast down a different subsidiary ridge from the summit. There was a bonus peak less than 2mi southeast of the summit that I might have chased down if I wasn't heading home today. I got back to the van and the highway before noon, making for an outing of under 5hrs. I would spend the next 7hrs+ driving back to San Jose, ending a fine 10-day desert trip. I was far from getting my fill of desert for the season and would be back again as soon as I could manage. But first, it was time for the Christmas holiday with the family...
This page last updated: Sun Jan 17 09:33:27 2016
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