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With only about 7hrs of sleep I would have been more than happy to go back to sleep when the alarm went off at 5a. I got up and looked out the back of the van to see if Matthew had arrived sometime in the night as expected, half hoping he wasn't there since it would mean more sleep. No such luck. He was parked on the other side of Evan's camper which meant I had to get up. So be it. It looked like it would be another fine Fall day in the desert.
After a quick breakfast, we tossed our gear in Evan's truck and headed out in the darkness. We had unloaded the camper from the truckbed the night before to save some time, but it didn't take us long to squander it. We had some trouble locating the road on the other side of the aqueduct siphon, and combined with a poor understanding of the DPS directions, we managed to drive three or four miles in the wrong direction before being convinced of our error. The correct road does not follow the aqueduct as we had done, but diverges immediately after crossing to the west side of the aqueduct at the siphon. Recent grading and impaired night vision colluded to obstruct the turnoff, but eventually we ferreted it out and headed off in the right direction.
We followed the directions as described for some time, until a sharp right turn drove us into a wash with no obvious way through. Daylight was approaching, but still not soon enough for us to notice the nice row of ducks marking the route that we found easily enough on the way out. I got out of the truck to scout the route while Evan drove around in random directions, apparently enjoying the new-found freedom to drive wherever he liked. The sandy wash was well-packed and sparsely vegetated, so a road wasn't entirely necessary. After a few minutes I found the road again on the other side of the wash, directed Evan hither, and away we went. We drove another mile or two north to the Wilderness boundary marked by a couple fiberglass markers planted in the road, reaching the point just as the sun was cresting the desert landscape.
We'd thought we were going to get an earlier start but the driving took more than an hour from our roadside bivy, and it wasn't until 6:15a that we set out for the Turtle Mountains. The area is one of the drier in the Mohave Desert, our route following the old road north up the east side of the range. The Turtle Range is one of the least interesting in the area from a scrambling perspective, probably one reason I had left it for the last of the bunch. More interesting was the Castle Rock formation ahead of us, and behind them the twin peaks of Mopah and Umpah in the range adjacent to the Turtles.
We spent the first hour hiking to the end of the road where it peters out above a broad wash system, then spent the next hour and a half traversing the wash system up and down one drainage into the next, without being terribly efficient in our choice or routes. We managed to traverse even further north than the described DPS route (not intentionally), finally finding a ridgeline that we could follow to the summit. The climb of the peak from the base took less than 45 minutes, over moderately steep but easy terrain.
We found a large summit cairn with a DPS ammo box tucked in a pocket on one side, most of the usual DPS signatures found within. It was windy at the summit, blowing strongly and chilly, but at least not bitterly cold. Evan was the last to join our small party atop the Turtle Mountains where we took in the views and signed into the register. We discussed an alternative descent and decided to head back along the Southeast Ridge.
A use trail led down to the saddle immediately below the summit, and Evan decided at this point to head back along the DPS route rather than deal with the ups and downs along the ridge. Matthew and I continued along the ridge, up to Pt. 1,285m and then down the other side. We went up and over two smaller bumps before abandoning the ridgeline for a subsidiary ridge off the east side. We took this down to the desert wash below, all the while keeping an eye out for Evan.
Evan was well ahead of us before we spotted him down in the wash system a good ten minutes ahead of us, far enough ahead that we never caught up with him. A potty break and some unnecessary meandering in the washes had me in last place getting back to the truck by some 20 minutes. The others were looking bored and probably wondering what had happened to me.
It was 12:30p when we had regrouped at the truck, taking the next hour or so to drive back out to our posse of vehicles near the highway. Matthew left us almost immediately in order to climb the Big Maria Mountains to the south before the day was through. Evan and I had climbed these earlier in the year and had planned to take it easy the rest of the day. Well, that was Evan's plan anyway. As we were shaking the dust off us and settling in for a shower, I suggested to Evan that we might still have time for one of the summits on his list in the nearby Riverside Mountains. Evan was skeptical at first, but after looking over the maps he had prepared we found the West Riverside Mtns highpoint was both a short outing as well as not very far from where we were currently. So after a lunch break we left the unattached camper and the van where they were and took the truck out to the trailhead on the northwest side of the range.
We had only the 7.5' topo to go on, and though the roads represented there are roughly correct, they are not completely so. The map shows two dirt roads leaving the highway where in reality we only found one. We followed this sandy, mostly straight road for 2.5 miles, forking left as needed while aiming for the wide canyon opening on the northwest side of the range that Evan had drawn on his map as the starting point. Evan pulled up at a slight rise above a pair of washes on either side of us, marking the end of the road. We booted up and saddled our packs, heading off just after 2:15p. There was no trail of course, just the rocky, uneven ground with little vegetation. We intended to take a left fork in the canyon we followed, leading to the saddle just west of Pt. 2,530ft, but instead took the right fork (not actually recalling even seeing a left fork). This brought us to a saddle east of Pt. 2,203ft, a bit further to the west, at which time it was immediately obvious upon spying the highpoint over the saddle. It was not a big mistake, taking us only five additional minutes to climb up and over the small bump between the actual and intended saddles. It took another twenty minutes to traverse the SW side of Pt. 2,530ft to reach a saddle on the main summit ridge.
It took us an additional twenty minutes along the summit ridge, up and over one false summit and on to the highpoint of the range. None of the scrambling was harder than class 2 and our route-finding had been pretty good, making the small outing seem almost too easy. The shadows were growing longer as it neared 4p (at the eastern edge of the Pacific Time Zone, it grows dark quickly around here) and the subtler lighting made for picturesque views to the surrounding desert plains and a myriad of other ranges. We found a small glass jar (instant coffee, from the looks of it) with a register in it from Barbara Lilley and Gordon MacLeod, no surprise to either of us. The peak was climbed on the order of once every year or two since the register had been placed in 1987. We added ours as the entry for 2008 as we took in the views of the closing day around us.
Since we had gotten to the peak a little faster than anticipated, we would have a bit more daylight to get back. I decided to opt for a variation on the return while Evan choose to go back the shortest way, through the saddle west of Pt. 2,530ft. My route kept mostly to the east side of the range, traversing right of Pt. 2,530ft and rejoining the main ridge at a small saddle northwest of the same point. From there I followed the ridgeline primarily north, going over Pt. 2,235ft and down to a major saddle 600ft lower to the north. The sun was setting as I dropped down below this saddle, now almost due east from the truck. I tried to make out the truck in the distance but couldn't, having to rely on memory of where it ought to be in order to find it. Once off the steeper slopes I picked it up to a jog, thinking that Evan must surely be back waiting for me, and feeling guilty that I was taking too much time. Up and over a dozen small side washes I traveled, trotting over the uneven surface probably a bit too recklessly considering the fading light.
It was 5p when I arrived at the truck, only a fifteen minutes from needing a headlamp (we had packed them with us, so no need to rush for that). To my surprise, Evan was nowhere to be found. I checked the inside of the truck for his gear to see if he had wandered off for a potty break or something, but there was no sign of him. I changed out of my boots at the back of the truck, then sat on the truckbed to wait for him. It wasn't a long wait. Not five minutes later I spied him approaching about 100yds off, and he soon sauntered up. It was a bit more than he'd wanted to do for the day and he complained about being sore, but overall we were both happy with the way the day had turned out. The DPS peak in the morning had been more of a dud with a long slog, but this second unlisted peak had turned out to be an enjoyably short outing with fun scrambling - hands down the better of the two peaks, by both of us.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Turtle Mountain
This page last updated: Thu Jan 8 09:31:52 2009
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