Sat, Feb 23, 2019
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I had a big day planned in the Mescal Bajada area of Anza-Borrego SP, tagging five summits in two loops. We would manage only three of these, partly because we had an injury enroute to the first summit, partly because seven people is a few too many to move quickly, and mostly because it was overly ambitious - I have doubts as to whether I could have even managed it on my own. We'd spent the night camped at Stag Cove, a primitive campsite on the western edge of Mescal Bajada, piling into the three jeeps in the morning for the drive up sandy Pinyon Wash, only a few miles away.
Meanwhile, Bill and I had arrived at the summit, wondering what had become of the others. We found a register left by Mark Adrian and the Monday Maniacs in 2017, dubbing the peak, "Bighorn Canyon Peak". Bighorn Canyon borders the summit on the west side, much like Nolina Wash does to the east. After some time, Matt arrived and then I got a text with no words, just four pictures of the various injuries Tom had sustained. From this I surmised that Tom had taken a fall which I guessed couldn't be too serious. A few minutes later I got a Snapchat video from Iris, saying calmly but briefly, "If you get this, you should come back." Bill and I immediately packed up and started off, Patrick just arriving from another direction. We left it to Matt to explain to him what had happened. Bill took off at such speed as to lead me to believe he was just toying with me during the ascent earlier. We found Iris at the junction of the NE Ridge, a few hundred feet above where Tom and Karl where waiting. After a brief exchange with Iris to assess that it wasn't too serious, we suggested she and Karl should go to the summit while Bill and I help Tom back down. Karl wouldn't leave Tom until Bill had arrived, but was soon convinced to join Iris. Tom almost seemed interested in continuing as well, but he was hurting enough that it didn't seem the wisest choice - better to see how it goes descending back down before planning the rest of the day. Nurse Patrick arrived a few minutes later with an even more elaborate first aid kit, but it appears Iris had done most of the patching up already. Patrick produced a can of Pringles as "medicine" which Tom promptly devoured. Bill had a large bag a salty, white chedder corn puffs, more medicine that was passed around - can never have too much medicine, it was proclaimed. After more discussion and photo taking, we started back down, going slowly to accommodate Tom's injuries. The original plan had been to head more directly to Nolina Peak, but prudence suggested we go back to the cars and assess Tom's condition.
It was 10:30a by the time we'd returned to Nolina Wash and the jeeps. We spent about 45min taking more medicine disguised as lunch, patching Tom up a little better and working out a plan for the afternoon. Tom decided he was well enough to continue hiking while Patrick decided to take a break so he could monitor his solar farm for maximum efficiency. Six of us headed south up Nolina Wash once more, this time heading for unofficially named Nolina Peak. We hiked about 3/4mi up the wash before turning left onto Nolina's NW Ridge. Matt and Karl continued up the wash for more than a mile, choosing an alternate route up from the southwest side. The NW Ridge proved to be a fairly enjoyable climb, not too steep and much less agave and other nasties to watch out for. It would take us until 12:30p to reach Nolina's summit where we found a smattering of snow, much like on Bighorn Canyon, left over from a brief storm a few days earlier. To the southeast, the higher Whale Peak had significantly more snow and we were quite happy our summit wasn't of equal stature. The register came in three parts - an older, two-sided sheet dating to 2007, a small pad of Post-It notes, and a third register left by Mark Adrian in 2017, the same day he'd left the one on Bighorn Canyon. After the usual rest aloft, we started back down. I had been intriqued by Karl's glowing report of their ascent route and went off the west side to explore the upper reaches of Nolina Wash myself. The others all went back via our ascent route which we'd agreed had been a good one. The west side goes steeply down to the wash, but no more than class 2 with some care. The wash itself was a fun bit of easy class 3 rock scrambling mixed with class 1 walking in the sandy, flat portions. After some time in the wash, I neared the end and spotted the others high on the hillside making their way down. I took up a postion atop a boulder on the opposite side of the wash to watch them come down in turn. There was a moment of hilarity when Iris returned to the wash and found a tick on her jacket. She screamed and ran from it like a scared rabbit, which prompted the rest of us to start taunting her about it for the rest of the day. When we got back to the cars around 2:20p, we found Patrick relaxing in a beach chair, all smiles from a successful solar charging session.
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