I was making my way slowly between Las Vegas and Huntinton Beach where I was
due to meet my wife on Friday. In the meantime, I've bee
rambling about Southeast
California doing more peakbagging while the weather is more cooperative (it was
a bit too hot in Las Vegas the previous week). I spent the night camped in a
gravel wash outside Needles. This allowed me to get breakfast in town before
heading south for the day's objectives.
This is one of two named summits (of 32 total) in the Chemehuevi Mountains, the
other being the range highpoint, Chemehuevi Peak. Whale Mtn is located on the
northern edge of the range, easily visible from Needles. I had picked it out
the night before while perusing maps,
noting that Gordon MacLeod had climbed it on LoJ. I decided to make it
my first stop. There is a BLM pipeline road that runs along the base of the
range on the north side, a convenient approach route. My starting point was near
the mid-point of the road between I-40 and US95, so I drove in from I-40 to the
east and afterwards, exited west to US95. The hike was about 2mi each way,
gaining 1,700ft to the summit. I near a wash that drains the
north side of the summit. I went up this wash for a short distance before going
on the right (west) side that took me to the crest a few hundred yards
southwest of the highpoint. It was a fun little climb with some easy scrambling,
but nothing tricky. The summit has and some good views
overlooking the Colorado River, but today the views were rather hazy and washed
out. I found one of the , but the benchmark appears to be
buried under the cairn. I looked all through the cairn, hoping to find Gordon's
register, but found nothing. I descended
directly below the
summit, following it about halfway down before exiting into the wash on my
right. I spent about two and three quarter hours on the effort.
This one came from Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles
, a short, easy summit
of US95 and Lobecks Pass. He reports, Delightfully,
the upper mountain features about 200ft of really nice scrambling.
East Face ***
. I think he must have been in an alternative mood that day,
probably having ingested some kind of mushroom, because the sober truth shows
the is a trash heap of choss.
If there's even 30ft of scrambling on the uppermost mountain, that's being
generous. I avoided the East Face by climbing up to a saddle and then up the
NE Ridge. The summit is courtesy the CA DOT circa 1986. I
found no register here, but of mine. The ascent took 15min,
the descent something less.
The main event of the day was a climb of Carsons BM at the north end of the
Turtle Mountains, a P1K that I've had my eye on for years now, but had so far
eluded me. Turtle Mountain Road reaches the north side of Carsons BM from US95,
but it's gravel/sand for almost 10mi, then rocky and rough for the last five
miles to the Coffin Spring TH. The BLM has made improvements here with
signs, designated parking and such. There are other "sights" in the area
including the (rusting
that were collected from sites
within the Wilderness area back in the early 1990s) and the
I can't believe people would make the long drive out here to see rust and a
Indeed, the striking geology is a far better reason to visit.
I hadn't realized how rugged this part of the range is, an
as one makes the long drive in from the highway. As one gets closer, the
the features become yet more striking, towering desert summits that look to
have no easy way up. There are more than a dozen such summits, some of them
looking to be class 5. My plan had been to make a circuit around Carsons BM,
tagging 4 other nearby bonus peaks along the way, but this was modified when
the first two (Peak 3,336ft & Peak 3,339ft) turned out to be far more serious
undertakings than I was prepared for. My route from near the
Coffin Spring TH, following an old road into the Wilderness that now serves as a
trail that goes 2.25mi to Coffin Spring at the base of Carsons BM. The road
starts off nicely, but soon deteriorates as it enters one wash, then out, then
into the main wash where the old road completely disappears until it reemerges
from the wash a short distance from Coffin Spring. I was awed by the towering
cliffs around me on both the and sides of the wash.
Would I get up any of
these? Yes, just not the ones first seen during the hike. I hiked up the wash,
noting ducks that sort of mark a route through it (to little effect - the
wash is easy enough to negotiate without them), for about a mile and three
quarters before turning up between those
third one, Peak 3,585ft. I went up this wash for a quarter mile before leaving
it to start up the north side of Peak 3,585ft, going around a difficult-looking
tower on its west side. Most of the route up was class 2 with some easy class
3 scrambling nearer the summit. Cliffs on
of the mountain had good bypass routes. Looking
to Peak 3,336ft & Peak 3,339ft, the
former looked like it might have a class 3 route up from the saddle between the
two, while the latter continued to look unclimbable. Or at least, unscramblable.
I know, that's not a word.
I reached of Peak 3,585ft after an hour and half, finding
the climb a good one. To , Carsons BM looked to have an easy
way to the summit along the connecting ridgeline with Peak 3,585ft.
And indeed it did, though I had
to work a little to get through the cliff bands on the east side of the
The route then goes up from a saddle to a intermediate point whose highpoint
can be avoided by using a convenient
to the saddle with Carsons BM.
From the second saddle, it's a short but steep climb up to
the northern part of the range. I was happy to find that it took less than an
hour between the two summits. I expected to find a register here, but like
Peak 3,585ft, found none. They would have both been excellent candidates to
leave one, but alas, I had forgotten to put more in my daypack after doing
between Carsons BM and the last peak of the day, Peak 3,602ft
turned out to be the most enjoyable. With no more than easy class 3 scrambling,
I found my way from one to the other, bypassing a tricky intermediate bump on
the west side, a convenient gap in an arete neatly getting me out of some
cliff trouble. The volcanic rock is quite
with shades of pink, orange
white and red. It took only 40min between the last two summits. Under a cairn
with chain that took some work to get open. It was left
by the Leaping Lizard Tribe of Lake Havasu City in 2003, naming the summit
as Lincoln's Nose because it looks like that from Lake Havasu, apparently. I
could barely see Lake Havasu on the Colorado River to the east today. I
eading to Coffin Spring, finding no cliffs and no
dry waterfalls to make trouble for me. There was no water at the spring, but
there was lots of greenery that must be drawing water from below the surface.
and a cattle trough, both dry, are found just below the
spring. Overall, these two items are pretty poor reasons to hike the trail, but
the surrounding peaks in the amphitheater are pretty cool. I followed
the back to ,
finishing up by 3:40p. I will have to
come back here with friends on a future desert trip as there's easily 2-3 days
worth of scrambling from the same TH.
I showered before driving back out to the highway and then south. I had intended
to drive to Yucca Valley, but the 2hr+ drive discouraged me. Instead, when I
reached Vidal Junction I turned left and drove to Parker, AZ, deciding on a
whim to spend a day hiking around the Parker Dam area. I'd been there on
several previous trips and had always enjoyed the great scrambling found there.
I would spend a day here and then drive to Yucca Valley. Or not. It's nice not
to have a set schedule...