Hanks Mountain P300 RS
Unnamed BM P500 RS
Negro Head RS
Mohawk Hill P500 RS

Mar 8, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3

Another week, another trip to Red Rocks, Las Vegas. It's become something of an obsession for me, much like I had with the Trinity Alps last year. I left San Jose the night before and got as far as the Basin Rd offramp on Interstate 15 between Barstow and Baker by 2a. I promptly found a place to pull over on the south side of the freeway, brushed my teeth and jumped in the sleeping bag for some rest. I was up less than 5hrs later when the sun greeted me with a new day. Today's efforts were short, easy outings I had sifted from Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. I've concluded that his standards are even lower than my own - and that's hard to beat.

Hanks Mtn

This was actually some unfinished business from two years earlier. I had gotten Evan to climb several peaks in the nearby Cowhole Mtns and even Squat Hill on the drive out at the end of the day. But when I suggested the companion Hank Mtn, he balked. The hike is little over a mile one way from paved Kelbaker Rd, even shorter if you have a vehicle that can manage the moderately sandy spur roads that can get you to the base of the mountain. I ate breakfast while driving from Basin Rd to Kelbaker, starting off from the latter shortly after 7a. I went more or less directly up the North Ridge, taking less than 30min. The mountain is made of limestone which provided some fun, easy scrambling. A register had been left in a small film cannister by Andy Smatko and pals in 1996. Pete Yamagata visited only a month later. Barbara Lilley had come by in 2007 to leave a better register, on a rare visit without Gordon in tow. There were about ten other entries since then, but the only names I recognized were CP (Courtney Purcell) and Terry Flood.

Unnamed Benchmark / Negro Head

These two summits are located on the north side of the highway off the Halloran Summit exit. Again, a better vehicle could make short work of both of these, but I ended doing a six mile loop hike starting from near the off-ramp (I failed to get more than a few hundred yards down the utility road). I went to Unnamed Benchmark first, weaving through desert scrub up hilly terrain to reach the summit in about 40min. I found the remains of a wooden survey tower, but no register and not even the unmarked benchmark I was expecting. Bummer.

Negro Head proved more interesting after spending almost an hour between the two over standard class 2 desert terrain. Just northeast of the summit is what looks like an old line or utility shack. Lots of poles were erected around it, almost for pole-climbing practice from the looks of it. Between the shack and the Negro Head's summit I passed by a white cross left lying on the ground. Not sure what that was about. The summit offers a fine view overlooking the engineering marvel that is Interstate 15. Yay. The name derives from the dark volcanic rock that somewhat resembles an afro. Terry Flood had left a register here less than a month earlier. I dropped off the steep SE Face to get myself to the powerline road paralleling the interstate, then two more miles back to the van.

Mohawk Hill

Found north of the interstate at Mountain Pass, it is overshadowed by its much more impressive neighbor, Clark Mtn. Access to Clark Mtn from this exit seems to have become much more restrictive since I was here to climb Clark Mtn with Evan in 2007. I followed signs indicating a public access route through the quarry, but a gate at the back of the quarry was closed (with a big sign indicating "Pulic Access Route"). So I parked above the highest settling pond and started from there, getting only a short distance before I was recalled by a honking truck horn. A worker in a white truck told me I was on private property and I had to leave so he could close the gate. I was surprised because I hadn't recalled any gate that I drove through, but I apologized and started back down. Seems he called a security truck to come escort me off, just to be sure. The african-american woman driving it was nice enough, but she had no answers to my inquires about the public easement and seemed clueless what I was talking about. She escorted me all the way back to the freeway exit before waving to me. I was nice, but I wasn't capitulating just yet. I asked her if the paved portion of the road was public. "Yes..." I then went on to explain I planned to park at the end of the pavement and hike west before climbing my mountain so as to avoid their property altogether. "Oh, I don't want to get another call..."she offered. She said it not like she would be inconvenienced, but rather just didn't want to get in trouble. I gave her more reassurance of my plan before turning around to execute on it, not really getting here onboard with the idea.

The hike was going to be about 1.6mi one way rather than about half that, but it mattered little. It was a nice little climb up the SE Ridge of Mohawk, passing over two small bumps that held various telecom towers. I noticed the original white truck driving back up to the settling ponds while I was climbing up, I guessed the original gentleman was looking for me violating their space on foot. Needless to say, he had little luck finding me. Just above the second tower site, I came across a small rattlesnake in the rocks. I lifted it up with a stick for a better view, but the cold wind that blew over the ridge had left it with little energy. It could barely move or flick out its tongue, poor thing. I set it down gently and went on my way, reaching the top around 1:15p, taking just under an hour. On my way down I noticed the truck waiting at a crossroads where he would be sure to see me if I had been coming down on one of the tower service roads that go through the quarry property. Thinking he might be a little obvious, I watched him move the truck behind some stuff in an open storage yard where he could more cladestinely watch for me. I don't know if he saw me up on the hill, but his movements were pretty plain to me. I moved around to the west side of the ridge on my way down to keep out of view, returning to the van by 2:15p, unmolested. He might still be up there waiting for me to come down...


Skip in Carson City comments on 03/09/16:
Bob, how many miles do you have on that van by now?!
Bob Cable comments on 12/23/20:
Unnamed Benchmark now has register that was placed by John Vitz on 10-27-16 with a name of "Halloran Mtn". Also, the unnamed benchmark is on the point about 0.1 mile SW. For what its worth, my GPS suggested that the point with the benchmark was about 5' lower.
Candace Skalet comments on 11/12/21:
The site on the high point north of Negro Head is an old aviation beacon: https://www.dreamsmithphotos.com/arrow/States/ca/04_17_la_sl_solomons.html
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