Pinto Mountain P1K DPS / DS
Eagle Mountain P2K DPS / DS

Wed, Feb 20, 2008
Etymology
Eagle Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

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The Pinto and Eagle Mountains are two ranges within Joshua Tree National Park. Pinto Mountain, though not the highpoint of the range, is perhaps the most prominent peak when viewed from the heart of Joshua Tree to the south, and probably why it made the DPS list. The highpoint of the Eagle Mtns is unnamed, but nevertheless claims a spot on the list. It is not visible from the Pinto Basin Road inside the park to the east, but is quite prominent viewed outside the park from the south and east. The two together would make for under 5,000ft of gain and less than 20mi, making for a nice day of wandering through the desert. Neither had anything more difficult than class 2, making for a fairly safe solo outing.

Starting from Twentynine Palms while it was still dark, I made my way into the park through the north entrance and followed the Pinto Basin Road into the heart of the broad, gently sloping basin. About twenty minutes past 6a, not long before sunrise, I started out. The DPS guide describes "the cone shaped summit of Pinto can be seen at a bearing of 32 degrees," but in fact the cone shaped summit is the lower east summit. This error caused me some confusion until I had climbed to the peak and recognized it as a problem with the DPS directions, not my map-reading skills. The weather was quite fine, early morning clouds over the range giving way to blue skies within a short time, only to have more clouds make their way over the area shortly afterwards. The desert floor was alive with wildflowers, particular of one pinkish-purple variety. There were more flowers here than I had seen anywhere in the desert during the previous week.

It was not hard to find the ridge described in the DPS guide, and in fact probably any ridge in the area could be taken to the summit without too much trouble. After spending an hour an a half to cross the basin from the road, the climb of the peak itself took only another 45 minutes longer. A good use trail exists in places, irregularly ducked, to make things easier. By 8:30a I had made my way to the summit, marked by an unusually 4954>large cairn with the usual DPS register box nearby. Half a dozen register books were crammed inside, attesting to the somewhat surprising popularity of the peak (it doesn't look particularly good or interesting from the road). I spent almost 30 minutes atop the summit, in no particular hurry to move the day along, then descended by much the same route back down. I stopped a good deal more to observe and photograph the abundant wildflowers, but still managed to get back to the van by 10:45a, making for a 4.5hr outing.

Driving south, I cruised through the Pinto Basin for half an hour. I had some trouble locating the trailhead as directed by the DPS guide. I couldn't find a dirt road turnoff or concrete barrier or fence as described. Instead I found a short turnoff, parking just off the road in front of some large granite rocks used to block further driving on the sandy road. I set off a few minutes later.

The route described in the DPS guide is not hard to follow, though I couldn't quite make out what "grouping of large, rounded boulders at the base of the mountain" they were talking about. It really wasn't as hard as described. A simpler description might read, "Climb any ridge or gully on the west side, then once atop the front ridge, make your way east to the highpoint." The three miles across the desert floor is an interesting effort in avoiding brush by constantly shifting directions from one wash to another as one heads ESE. As one gets closer to the mountain, the gullies are deeper, above head level, and there is some traversing in and out of one to another in order to make it towards the mouth of the large canyon. Once I was up the front side of the range I could see the highpoint another mile or so further east beyond a small depression. I scrambled down across this high, shallow valley and then climbed the other side to the highpoint, taking just under 2.5hrs from the car.

One could see I-10 stretching to the horizon to the south and southeast, the Orocopia Mtns to the south, the Pinto Basin and Range to the north, other small ranges to the west. Far to the west were the San Bernardino's, but the view was a bit too hazy to make out much that far away. The register dated back to 1994, not far by most standards, apparently a fairly popular peak. There are also many ways to reach the peak, one of the more interesting ones suggested by Doug Mantle and Doug Bear, who climbed it starting from I-10. Evan Rasmussen, who I was going to meet in a few hours, had an entry from the previous year when he'd been out to this area.

I returned to the van by pretty much the same route, taking just over two hours to do so. As planned, I found Evan a short time later at the ranger station in his camper. Evan had spent the day climbing two of the range highpoints for some lesser ranges east of Eagle Mtns. He graciously provided me with a much appreciated (and needed) shower just before sunset, after which we drove south to I-10. Crossing the highway, we drove to the dirt road turnoff for Orocopia Mountain, and parked for the night. We had dinner, checked our maps for the following day, and played cards in the camper until time for bed - not quite as cozy as the Motel 6, but not bad either...

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