It was the last day of a week-long desert roadtrip. A road closure south of
Interstate 10 had caused us to alter plans earlier in trip and we had arrived
at day 8 without a prepaid plan. I had to work one out the night before while
we were ensconced at the Yucca Valley Starbucks, based on some lingering
memories from other planning sessions. We hit upon Camp Rock Rd, a generally
good dirt road that stretches from Interstate 40 south to SR247 at Lucerne
Valley. The road passes through four desert ranges - the Newberry, Ord, Rodman
and Fry Mountains. There are a number of easily accessible range highpoints,
wilderness highpoints and other bonus summits that can be reached from this
road, none of them more than about a mile from the car. The simple plan was to
hit them one after another until we got tired and then drive home.
We had spent the night
camped in Lucerne Valley at the start of the dirt portion of the road and were
up early to drive some 20mi northeast into the Rodman Mountains. When we started
out shortly before 7a the sun had just risen
and it was bitterly cold out, as
cold as it had been all week and we were suitably bundled up. A cold front had
come through the day before bring rain and some snow at the higher elevations.
Luckily we managed to miss the rain, but the cold and wind were unavoidable.
Rodman Mtns Wilderness PP
The Rodman Mtns Wilderness doesn't encompass the range highpoint which rises to
over 6,000ft and has more than 2,000ft of prominence. Instead, it takes in the
northern part of the range which doesn't exceed more than 4,900ft. The most
prominent point within this Wilderness
has but 480ft of prominence. An active quarry
at the base of nearby Peak 4,906ft (also outside the Wilderness boundary) means
the road getting here off Camp Rock Rd is in excellent condition. Just before
reaching the quarry gate, a road in poorer condition heads east. We drove this
for almost two miles until we were
only half a mile from the summit. 20min saw us
up the class 2 slopes from the south (everything today was class 2).
Nothing of note was found at the summit.
Wilderness Prominence Peaks haven't quite become the rage just yet among
Rodman Mtns Wilderness HP
In contrast, Wilderness HighPoints are very much in vogue. I don't think
anyone's yet done all the 100+ HPs in CA, but it seems quite a few are working
towards it. The Rodman Mtns Wilderness HP
is located just off the quarry road.
There are no parking areas nearby but the road is wide enough to allow even
quarry trucks to pass if you park close to the edge of the road. We watched
a bit nervously as one drove by
shortly after we'd started hiking up, but it
passed easily without even bothering to slow down. The hike was even shorter
than the first, taking less than 15min to reach the highpoint
and that was
after a short detour to a false summit we mistook for the actual highpoint.
Sue & Vic Henney had left a register in 2011
and almost all of the dozen folks
who'd signed in since then were from the usual suspects. The quarry site can
be seen prominently to the north
at the base of the dark volcanic summit while to the west
can be seen the Ord Mtns to good effect. 10min was all it took to
return to the car.
Rodman Mtns HP
A service road leads to some communication installations just below the
highpoint of the Rodman Mountains. I had driven this once before with Matthew,
but since Karl had never been it seemed only fair to give him a chance to
conquer this behemoth while we were in the area.
The hike to the summit is barely five minutes.
Nicely, the highpoint is unudulterated with electronics though it does sport
a survey tower. And a register, of course - one of the easier P2Ks in the state.
It had so many entries that I didn't bother photographing any of them.
Peak 4,626ft - Fry Mtns HP
This one proved problematic only for the driving portion. Off the good quarry
road, the spur roads heading south are not in great condition for your standard
vehicle, at least the one we pursued. The sandy road we traveled had large
whoop-de-does made by motorcycles and OHVs that ply this section of road as
part of a desert race series. We'd hoped to drive even further south to reach
Red Hill, but never managed that. We made a loop of our hike to the
Fry Mtns HP,
taking in bonus Peak 4,626ft on the way there.
Just over 20min were spent
to reach the bonus summit, and then about 30min to hike to the Fry Mtn HP via
a low saddle between the two.
The HP actually has two summits of equal contours
on the topo map,
and it was difficult to tell which was higher from a simple visual assessment.
The SE one we visited (the HP according to LoJ) had a register left by Smatko
back in 1968, which seemed good enough for us.
All of the names since then were well-known - Carey/Adrian/Hanna
in 1996, Vitz/Donna O in 1999, and Barbara/Gordon in 2000.
The most recent entry was in 2010 by Evan Rasmussen. We dropped to
the saddle between the two
summits (declining to climb the NW summit), then started down the drainage
heading NE. Karl preferred to take this all the way down while I wanted to
explore a motorcycle track contouring around the mountain so we ended of parting
ways for the last 15min back to the Element.
We arrived close to the same time,
neither route being obviously better or shorter.
Another easy climb immediately west of the sandy OHV route. To our surprise, it
had another Smatko register, this one from 1973. Gordon & Barbara had
visited this one too, leaving a better register in 2011 (both over
80yrs old at this time). The last person to sign in was a gentleman from
Haines, AK in 2012. Karl and I both found this amusing - who comes
from Alaska to climb an obscure peak in the Mojave Desert?
This last summit was the longest of the day, but still only 40min to reach the
summit. We managed to drive the Element on a rougher road heading north from
Camp Rock Rd to the base of the mountain.
Better vehicles could continue even
further up and over a pass and get closer to the summit if they cared. This
summit features a 1955 CAMP benchmark and a Gordon/Barbara register
from 2008. It also has a good view of Ord Mtn to the west,
which still held some snows
from a recent storm. On our way off the summit I tried to talk Karl into one
more bonus summit another 8/10mi further west, but he'd had enough by this time.
It was just after 1:30p when we returned to the start, but that was only half
our day done. It would be nearly 9p by the time we had driven to our respective
homes in San Jose and Santa Cruz that evening. I'd been away long enough - time
to get some neglected yard work done around the house...
Skip in Carson City comments
Wow, Gordon MacLeod is still hiking peaks in 2011 at age 87... Bob, do you know the meaning of Gordon's solid circle, and Barbara Lilley's hollow circle in all the registers? Gordon's habit is to draw a solid circle before the names of each member of a party. He often signed in for other members. Barbara usually signed her own name - I think her circles are just her quick version of Gordon' s more careful fill.