Humbug Mountain P300 DS
Joshua Mountain DS
The Bone P1K

Dec 8, 2014

With: Bob Sumner
Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


Humbug Mountain

Located just north of Joshua Tree NP in the Pinto Mtns south of SR62, this summit is found in Andy Zdon's Desert Summits. The name derives from the term miners used for prospects that didn't pan out. This could describe about 99% of desert prospects but fortunately we were spared having hundreds of Humbug Peaks scattered throughout the region. Bob Sumner has been collecting Zdon summits over the years and it was at his suggestion that we added it to the agenda for this desert roadtrip. It isn't particularly difficult, except perhaps that a high clearance vehicle is needed to get near the starting point suggested by Zdon. Using Karl's Element, the three of us rode down Gold Crown Rd to a fork heading southwest and west through a wash system bordering the south side of Humbug Mountain. We drove further than suggested in the guidebook, but not as far as the Imperial Mine - the Element doesn't really have sufficient clearance for this rough road and it took a little bit of a beating to get it as far as we did. We parked on a flat expanse of desert, amazingly smooth considering the rough wash we'd just navigated, about 3/4mi from the summit. The hike is pretty straightforward, hiking north across the flat portion of the desert followed by a 400-foot climb up the SE Ridge. It took less than 25min to reach the top where we arrived before 7:30a under overcast skies. We found a MacLeod/Lilley register from 1992 with six pages of entries, not all that many. There was a rare Zdon entry (he seems to seldom leave his name) and a few other recognizable names including Don Raether who I seem to be chasing around a number of these desert peaks lately. We descended off the SW side to pay a cursory visit to the Imperial Mine site, not finding much. The main prospect was higher up a side canyon we didn't descend and none of us felt like putting in the extra effort to climb back up to it. All-in-all a rather ho-hum summit.

Joshua Mountain

Not to be confused with the higher but far easier Joshua Peak near Ryan Mtn further inside the park, this summit is really just a rocky dome offset from the higher collection of mountains just west of the North Entrance Station. Although inside the park, one doesn't need to drive into the park to reach it by the easiest means. We parked just off Utah Rd at the junction with Wellock Rd in a few clearings so as to not block traffic coming or going from this small collection of homes. We crossed the road, followed by the park boundary marked by a collection of survey markers, and then a dry wash before starting up the 1,000-foot climb to Joshua Mtn. We weren't exactly sure where the mountain was when we started - from the topo map it appears to just be some bump off the main ridge, but as we climbed higher and started zeroing in, it became apparent that our summit was a rock formation with a high cliff on the south and southeast sides with sloping granite slabs on the other sides, unusual for a desert summit. We manuevered around to the north side where we found the only way to scramble to the summit. Reaching the summit in just under an hour, we found a rounded, roomy perch from which to take in the views in all directions. To the west and south rose yet higher terrain, but in other directions we could see for quite some distance. Looking north, we were in a direct line looking down Adobe Rd, the main street of 29 Palms and the military base just beyond. A register in a plastic jar did not date back very far, more a collection of loose pages than a tidy notebook. Gordon would definitely not approve. We sat up here for about 15min before heading back down. Our return route was more direct, following a gully straight down without the extra sidehilling we'd done on the way up before we'd figured out just where the peak was.

The Bone

Back in 29 Palms we stopped for gas and supplies before more driving for one last peak. We were a bit ahead of schedule so I figured we could get an extra P1K near Johnson Valley that I'd run out of time for on the first day of this roadtrip. This unnamed summit had very little interest for Bob, but they were more or less on the way to the next day's summits (that he was interested in because they were range highpoints) so I got him to humor me, or as we often put it, to "throw me a bone." This became a source of some amusement and eventually led to the name we selected for the peak. Whether it sticks or not will depend on others, but for us this one will henceforth be known as The Bone.

Our driving took us north on SR247 and then the good gravel/dirt Boone Rd to Means Lake. We left my van and Karl's Element at the junction with SR247, driving in with Bob's Jeep Liberty. This proved a very worthy vehicle for the OHV roads found throughout the area. Whereas the van would only have gotten me within 3mi of the summit, we managed to get the Liberty almost within a mile. We didn't hit bottom even once, despite the whoop-dee-dos an other rough road portions. The Bone is the highpoint of a small mountain island between Melville and Means (dry) Lakes. From the east side we followed a more or less direct route up to the summit, climbing some 1,000ft in about 45min. A moldy register dated to 1987 was left by the Martellotti brothers. They seemed eager to hear about other ascents, leaving their phone numbers by which to reach them. Vitz visited in 2006 with Gordon/Barbara signing in 2007. Steve Martellotti made two additional ascents in 2004 and most recently in 2013 - 26yrs after his first ascent(!). We made it back to the car in about 40min, finishing up our day by 2:30p.

After returning to SR247 it was time for Karl to head home. We bade him goodbye and then continued west on SR247 another 11mi to Bessemer Mine Rd which would take us to Upper Johnson Valley where we planned to hike the next day. We got as far as Soggy (dry) Lake where we found a BLM kiosk with a map that showed the marines had taken control of a large part of Upper Johnson Valley in 2011 to use as they saw fit. We drove another 4mi+ north to check it out. We found a line of signs (but no gates) indicating that it was, indeed, closed off. We decided not to take our chances since we would still need to drive another 12mi+ to get to where we wanted to hike the next day - seemed too easy to get caught back there and there was no way we could deny having seen the signs. We went back to Soggy Lake to spend the night - Bob planned to get up early in the morning to drive homeward while I still didn't know what I would do the next day. Simply driving home seemed unappealing...


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