Coxbrush Peak P1K
Micro BM P1K

Nov 9, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2
Coxbrush Peak later climbed Dec 5, 2020


Coxbrush Peak

Day 4 of a six-day desert road trip found me only a few yards outside of Joshua Tree NP just south of the Coxcomb Mountains. I had spent the night on a lonely service road for the Colorado Aqueduct courtesy of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that manages the watercourse. About 4 miles west of SR177 and 4 miles east of the vast Eagle Mtn Mine complex, I was positioned about as close as one could drive to an officially unnamed P1K inside the park. Less than 2mi from the summit, I did not expect it to take too long, but with some 2,000ft of gain it would get steep. There was no road or trail of any kind to make use of, just a rocky cross-country jaunt. I started across a relatively flat area with a slight uphill incline before entering a wash I would follow for most of the way. Though dry, the wash was full of large rocks and boulders and modest brush, making for a good workout as I made my way gradually up, thankful the brush was never a serious hindrance and happy to find no dry waterfalls. There were some class 3 sections in a few spots, but these were short, easily managed, and probably could have been dispensed with altogether by going around to one side or the other. Some barrel cacti in the upper section provided some color to the route, but no real obstacle.

It took about an hour and twenty minutes to find my way to the summit, first reaching a saddle to the west before the final 200-foot climb to the summit. Once again, MacLeod and Lilley had beat me to the top, this time by more than 37 years. Less than four pages of the tattered and discolored register had been used in that time. Mark Adrian and party had left a newer register in 2012, but the old one would probably have sufficed for several hundred years if the pages didn't disintegrate first. Don Raether, the same guy who climbed the Iron Mtns HP yesterday just before me, was also the last person to sign this register more than a year earlier. It was MacLeod that had given the name "Coxbrush" to the peak, undoubtedly a play on the range's name, "Coxcomb". And although it was hardly original (Andy Smatko had used a similar name and other related ones back in the 60's for unnamed summits near Cockscomb Peak on the Silver Divide in the Sierra), it was better than leaving it unnamed, imho. The descent was only about five minutes faster than the ascent thanks to the care required while descending the steepest portions and the bouldery nature of the wash in general. Still, it was barely 9a by the time I returned, leaving me plenty of time remaining for another summit.

Micro BM

I drove back out to SR177 and then south to Interstate 10 at Desert Center. At the next exit three miles to the west, I got off at the Eagle Mountain Rd exit and drove to the south side of the highway. Here I picked up a dirt road leading to a powerline road and the Edmund Jaeger Nature Sanctuary. The road began to grow rough just before the sign at the sanctuary boundary, so I parked and hoofed it from there. My goal was Micro BM, the second most prominence peak in the Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness (Black Butte, a DPS-listed summit, is #1). There is a road leading to the summit from the west, used to service the communication towers found at several points on the summit ridge. I had no idea if the road was gated but that made no difference since I was poorly equipped to drive the nine miles required to reach it. Instead, I chose to approach from the north, about 4mi one-way with the first mile on road. This route took me through the nature sanctuary though for the life of me I couldn't see anything to distinguish it from the 10,000sq miles of desert that surrounds it. It was here that Jaegar definitively described the hibernating poorwill, the only bird known to do this for extended periods. I'm pretty sure if I'd been through the area back in 1946 I'd have walked right by the poorwill without even noticing it (which is why the liklihood of having a nature sanctuary named after me is exceedingly slim).

I was happy to follow the continuing road for as far as I could (4WD & high clearance needed to drive to its end), noting it eventually turns left out of the drainage and up to some abandoned mine sites. I dropped right into the main wash and began following this upstream for the next hour or so. The dry streambed was somewhat brushy and bouldery, but without too much trouble I was able to make my way up almost two miles in that time. An interesting blade of rock some 10ft in height caught my attention at one point shortly before I decided to exit the canyon. I had planned to hike it to its conclusion another mile further west, but I wanted a change of pace. Instead, I started climbing out of the wash, making an ascending traverse to the right towards some antenna towers I could see in the distance, marking the summit. Another 45min of class 2 scrambling up the steepening slope saw me to the top by 12:15p.

At first I thought the highpoint was right near my arrival point, atop a large boulder with a memorial plaque affixed to one face. From the top of this boulder it was apparent that another point further SE was higher, one more closely matching the point I had identified on my GPS route. I wandered around this second set of boulders, plus others, searching for the benchmark and/or a register, but found neither. I did notice that another point 1/3mi to the east appeared higher, so thought maybe I should go visit that one. Ten minutes later I had made my way over the easy intervening terrain. The east summit is pleasantly unencumbered by communication towers and featured a MacLeod/Lilley register. Gordon had failed to mark the year, so one can only guess it was sometime in the 1980's (1982 I later found). The only other visitor was John Vitz in 2011. Later I would note that the topo map shows the east summit to be 4ft higher than the western one which I thought would settle the matter. It did not. Vitz reported to John Kirk (of that he found the west summit to be higher by around 10ft with the aid of a hand level. My GPS had shown the east summit to be higher by around 5ft, so I suppose it best just to visit both.

I descended directly down the north side of the east summit to return to the wash I had hiked up, noting a surprising number of delicate-looking flowers tucked among the shadier boulders found on the north side of the summit. The return down the wash was uneventful, but enjoyable nonetheless. I took more time to note the small patches of green grass or the occasional flowers found there. The temperature had risen during the afternoon as high as 85F, some seven degrees warmer than the previous two days. I didn't notice the increase much, however, partly because it wasn't too hard of a day and partly because my body was getting used to the warm temps. I was going through my Gatorade at about twice the rate I normally do, upwards of four quarts where two would usually do for the day.

It was 2:30p by the time I returned to the car, concluding the day's hiking. After showering with a jug of warm water I returned to the Interstate, heading west into the blinding sun. I stopped at Chiriaco Summit to visit the Patton Museum, then further west to Cottonwood Canyon and the southern entrance to Joshua Tree NP. I didn't drive as far as the park, stopping at the MWD road alongside the aqueduct that flows east-west here. There are numerous flat areas one can legally camp for free just outside the park, assuming one doesn't mind a lack of shade and a little highway noise. It was still 75F when I was ready for bed after 9p - where it had nicely cooled to the low 50's the previous nights, it would barely get into the 60's tonight. As a result I had to leave the van doors open to allow some breeze and more cooling in the van and discovered something that surprised me - desert mosquitoes. I had heard the buzzing of one of them as I was falling asleep, but would awake to find a dozen bites all over. These pesky guys were much stealthier than their mountain cousins, coming out much later at night and finding their mark through clothing with no trouble at all. Better than scorpions in my boots, I suppose...


Anonymous comments on 11/19/14:
As far as "desert mosquitoes," they used to have netting pretty cheap at REI which you could buy by the yard and string it over your doors easily enough. Essential if you ever make it to the tropics, although I would carpool along if anyone would wait for me. I'd be doing light hikes while you could bag multi-peaks, tend to camp, etc., another travel peaking adventure if anyone else were game. Tequilas on me every day were this to occur, but as usual, there'll be none!
Anonymous comments on 11/19/14:
Sounds like a tropical version of Pete Yamagata?
Anonymous comments on 11/19/14:
Pete's never been to the tropics, by his site. Though knowing him, there's peak rewards for a good bagger to visit.
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