Great Falls Basin Wilderness HP P300
Peak 3,523ft P300
Quarry BM 2x P1K
Peak 3,780ft

Fri, Mar 24, 2023

With: Matthew Holliman

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX

I'd finally gotten the Jeep put back together, replacing the main battery, three wheel lugs, and getting the swaybar bushing bracket re-welded. It was time to give it a road test, so I headed to Death Valley for a long weekend, meeting up with Matthew who'd driven out the day before. Getting up at 6a, I was in Ridgecrest by 12:30p and at the Homewood Canyon turnoff north of Trona an hour later. Matthew had spent the morning doing about 8mi and four summits in the Slate Range, and was waiting about half an hour before I arrived. The bigger day would be Saturday when we planned to drive up Goler Wash, but today was just picking up some scraps in the area that I'd neglected on previous visits.

I very much enjoyed the drive out from San Jose, with the hills and mountains a vivid green from the record rains the state has received. The San Luis Reservoir off SR152 was as full as I've ever seen it - just 4-5ft below it's maximum capacity. I drove SR178 through Lake Isabella instead of SR58 through Tehachapi so I could marvel at the sights - steep, grass-covered canyon walls, flowers just starting to make an appearance, the Kern River rushing with brown, churning waters, the lake at capacity for the first time in years. Snow clung to the mountains above the 6,000-foot level, and above about 8,000ft all was white. Simply gorgeous.

Great Falls Basin Wilderness HP

This was one of the newer Wildernesses in California, found on the east side of the Argus Range, and on the smallish side, as Wildernesses go. Still, the area is a complex arrangement of granite rocks and gullies, much like the Alabama Hills. If it was closer to civilization, it probably would have developed climbing and bouldering routes. The highpoint lies at the north end of the Wilderness, easily accessed from paved Homewood Canyon Rd and some BLM dirt roads. We were able to drive the Jeep to within half a mile of the summit on it's northwest side. The steep slope we ascended has been traveled by burros extensively, so no need for any bushwhacking, just follow any of the footprints up the slope. It took us less than 20min to reach the summit. Craig Barlow and Chris Kerth had both beaten us to this one, but we found no register that we thought they might have left. We visited the slightly lower SE summit (GPS showed it 6-7ft lower) because it looked pretty close. No register there, either, so we went back to the highpoint and left one on the highest rock for future visitors. Snow-dusted Argus Peak towers above the highpoint a few miles off to the southwest.

Peak 3,523ft

We drove about halfway back down Homewood Canyon and turned off on a side road that would get us close to this peak. A sign where the pavement ends declares the continuing road to be a Private Road - No Trespassing. I didn't believe this and drove on it anyway. It goes by two of the homesteaders in the canyon and continues to defunct Mohawk Mine shown on the topo map. There's even a BLM road sign just past the last homestead. A few bushes had been uprooted and placed across the road to discourage use, but we moved these aside and drove on. We parked off the road only a quarter mile from the summit on its west side. An easy hike up the flower-laden slope got us to the summit in ten minutes. Nice views of Searles Valley to the southeast, Homewood Canyon to the west, and Telescope Peak in the Panamints to the northeast. Found no register, left none.

Quarry BM - Peak 3,780ft

These two are found at the north end of the Slate Range on the east side of the highway. A well-graded road (in fact, very recently graded) leads to the summit of Quarry BM in about 5mi. I had been to the summit once before, but since Matthew had not, we paid it a visit. About a 30yd walk from where we parked to the highpoint and the benchmark. Spectacular views of Panamint Valley and Range to the east and north, as well as Searles Valley to the south and the Argus Range to the west. A few telecom installations are nearby, and the reason for the good road. We then drove to the end of the road at the south end of Quarry BM for the 3/4mi hike to Peak 3,780ft, a minor summit to the south with a high saddle between them. The cross-country travel is fairly tame, but as we came to find out, there's a BLM trail that goes for several miles along the crest of the range heading south. We discovered this as we were making our way along the rocky ridgeline - we would use the trail on the way back. At the saddle, the trail veers south while our route goes about a quarter mile upslope to the summit of Peak 3,780ft on the west side of the crest. Another neat little summit, but views not as far-reaching as on Quarry BM. We finished up back at the Jeep just after 5pm and decided to call it a day. We opened some cold beers and drove back down to Matthew's car at the highway. We'd spend the next hour driving down to Panamint Valley, Ballarat, and south towards Goler Wash to set up camp before it got dark. More fun tomorrow...


Craig Barlow comments on 03/27/23:
What you are calling Great Falls Basin Wilderness HP (called Crow Canyon Point on Peakbagger) is the most prominent peak in the Great Falls Wilderness, but not the highest point. The highest point appears to be a liner a couple miles to the south with an elevation of 4720+. It is called "Great Falls Basin Wilderness High Point" on Peakbagger. The boundary there is shown as "indefinite" though so I guess there is some room for debate.
I had that other point on my site as well for a few years, but have come to conclude it is unlikely, based on the coordinates for the Wilderness provided by You can see the same set of coordinates here. I just looked again at this a few days later and see that it is very close, based on the coords. I will probably visit the other point to be sure. Might need lidar data to clarify.
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