Sat, Dec 5, 2020
Tom B had joined the previous evening, making six of us to enjoy a fine campfire at our secluded spot along the Colorado River Aqueduct at the base of the Comxcomb Mountains. Today's outing was to a trio of summit in the southern half of the range, covering about 8mi with close to 3,000ft of gain. Unlike the previous day in the northern half where the terrain is much more challenging, the southern half has far less granite and is the more typical class 2 scrambling that one finds in expects in the CA desert ranges. Barbara and Gordon (along with Bill Sanders) had been to all three of these on a February day back in 1977. I had visited the highest of these, Coxbrush Peak, when I was in the area chasing down P1Ks six years earlier. Now my interests had become more general as I was working on climbing all the peaks in the range.
We started shortly after 7a, right from our campsite which has also served as a shooting range by other desert visitors. Perhaps the most unusual target here was the shell of a jet ski, now riddled with holes. The Joshua Tree park boundary is encountered soon after crossing a man-made gully created during the construction of the aqueduct. We cruised up a wide wash heading southwest for about 25min before it began to narrow and turn rockier. We then began to climb out of the same wash, continuing southwest until we reached a ridgeline that would lead to our first summit, Coxcomb BM. It was a pleasant bit of exercise along the ridge, nothing more than easy class 3, and that only in a few places. We couldn't tell exactly where the summit was from below, relying more on the GPSr. Even with that I got the direction wrong, sending Tom G on a roundabout way to the summit while Iris figured it out on her own and beat all of us to the top before 9a.
The benchmark we found at the broad summit was placed by the Metropolitan Water District in 1931 when surveying for the aqueduct. The water flows into a tunnel near our campsite, exiting 3mi later on the other side of the range, one of a number of such tunnels constructed for the project. We found the expected MacLeod/Lilley register with perhaps a half dozen additional entries, most recently in 2012. From the summit, one can look west to see the aqueduct emerging from that side of the range. Behind it to the southwest is a huge solar array that continues to grow in the west end of the Chuckwalla Valley. Our next two summits could be seen to the south and southeast with a lot of terrain between them.
After a 20min break, we packed up and headed south for the highest summit in this half of the range, Coxbrush Peak. It's a very pleasant stroll along the connecting ridgeline with a drop of less than 400ft between them. It took about 45min to cover the 1.5mi distance between them. The unofficial name derives from the register placed by Gordon and Barbara. Mark Adrian had left a second register here in 2012. I had signed the older register previously, but that one is getting a little fragile, so we made use of the newer one. As he had done on the first summit, Karl sat himself a short distance from the rest of us, perhaps to allow a more peaceful contempation of nature's awesomeness, perhaps to let him nap a little easier. Whichever it was, it would take a bit of pushing to get him moving again, just a bit harder with each summit we visited.
The third summit was about 300ft lower and some 2mi to the east now. Unlike the obvious ridge we followed to Coxbrush, the terrain gets a little complicated and it wasn't clear how to follow the divide. It would take another hour to get between Coxbrush and Coxdryer, some of us (Tom G) doing a better job than others (Iris) in doing so efficiently. We would traverse around some of the intermediate points, but it was easy to then follow the wrong line as we searched out the saddle between the two peaks. Last to arrive, Karl took up a south-facing position to contemplate life's many facets while the rest of us shared more of Iris' summit candy. The register here was in a small metal film cannister with a plastic lid, well-preserved and not opened since 1979. Barbara and Gordon had named this one as well, keeping with the theme started by Coxbrush.
When it was time to leave, I led us down a fractured, steeply-inclined ridge to the north. It was hardly the easiest way down, but I thought it made for a nice challenge with much completely unnecessary class 3 scrambling before we finally reached a wash at the bottom. This led us out to a much larger wash paralleling the one we had originally ascended. To avoid a more circuitous route around the end of the separating ridgeline, we went over a low saddle along the ridge and then back across the original wash. We finished up around 1:30p, much earlier than expected, and had a short discussion on what to do next. We considered driving east into the Granite Mtns to do some easy summits there, but the hour-long drive each way discouraged us. The weather was quite nice this afternoon so in the end we decided to start our evening party a few hours early. Tom had brought some nice snacks to get us started...
This page last updated: Sun Dec 13 09:33:38 2020
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