Sat, Apr 11, 2020
I had been intrigued by one of Adam Walker's trip reports that I'd stumbled across in semi-random fashion. Part of a 20 peaks in 6 days effort back in 2019, he had described a tricky attempt on Kelbaholt Peak, a name I'd never heard before. It is located in the northern part of the Turtle Mtns that I had visited a few years earlier. Like me, Adam had been there mainly to tag Carson BM, a P1K. I recalled walking up a broad wash and noticing some impressive-looking crags on both sides of the small valley. Kelbaholt was one of these, unofficially named. More research found that it had seen a number of ascents by DPS folks in the late 1970s through early 1990s, then went mostly quiet. The name comes from the combination of three ascentionists from 1927 that had left a type-written note at the summit. This and other summits are easily visible for much of the drive in. Wondering which other points we might be able to climb in the area, Tom and I planned to spend a day exploring the possibilities. We found some really great scrambling and exploring, some of the best days either of us had spent in the California desert.
It took only seconds for the big accident of the day. While distracted by his phone, Tom attempted to step over the steel cable across the trail at the start that was intended to keep vehicles out. His foot didn't clear it as expected and he immediately went down, face first into the rocky trail. He let out a sharp scream that had me looking back only a fraction of a second after he'd hit the ground. His glasses were off to one side and his face was nuzzled against the trunk of a decaying cactus. I suggested he roll over first before getting up so that I could examine his injuries. He looked pretty good despite the hard fall, so I declared, "Doesn't look bad at all," before snapping a picture before he could stand. He had some minor bleeding on his legs and would complain about bruising on his face later in the day, but it never got discolored and it seemed he got off only a little worse for the wear.
After dusting himself off and recollecting his things, we headed off again, aiming southwest directly for Kelbaholt. It's NE Face looks difficult from a distance and doesn't appear to have many options even as we approached the base (it was only after we got to the summit that we thought to download a GPX track that Tracy Fouts had posted on PB). Our best guess was that the route would go up a narrow gully ramping right to left, found on the left side of the NE Face. We made a somewhat sketchy class 3-4 start to get to the bottom of this gully, only to discover the top portion looked to go nearly vertical and not all that inviting. I suggested checking to the left (south) of this for other options and that turned out to be the key. It led to the far left side of the NE Face where a standard class 3 route presented itself as the only logical option. It turned back to the right where we reached the edge of a cliff, scrambling up through a notch and then up a series of short gullies, well ducked now and not hard to follow. Working our way west up the face, the route then turns south when due north of the highpoint which is out of view for most of the ascent. There is a downclimb of about 100ft on a wide, loose rock ramp to get around difficulties along the North Ridge. One then has several options to climb back up. The easier way we discovered on the descent is to move to the left and climb directly to the summit, all class 2. We chose a route more to the right that returned us to the North Ridge and more difficult scrambling, though not unpleasant. It was a fun, highly enjoyable effort that took us almost two hours to complete, landing us on the summit by 9:30a. I found 1/2 of a nested set of rusty cans about 10ft below the summit, the other tucked under the summit cairn. It's exposed contents consisted of two badly shredded paper scraps, mostly illegible, all that was left of the summit register. This was a little disappointing as I'd held out this vague hope that we might find the original note from 1927. We left a new register while we sat about the summit enjoying our success.
Our high perch among these craggy features was quite satisfying as we considered our next moves. There were other summits looking north, a few of which we knew Adam had climbed already. This was the direction we had originally planned, but as we looked south, there were options there that looked enticing. In particular, Peak 3,687ft which has the same surveyed height as Kelbaholt, looked like it had a viable route up from what we could see. It lies less than half a mile south of Kelbaholt, but the intervening geography is very complicated and it was far from obvious that we could even reach the base of the peak. But it seemed like a fine adventure and we resolved to give it a try.
After returning to the saddle with Peak 3,339ft, we began our return to the TH by descending the SE side of the saddle into the major drainage between our peaks and Carson BM. This easy class 2 route would occupy the last hour or so of our day, following the main wash heading north, then picking up a faint BLM trail that we could mostly follow back to the jeeps. It would be after 5p before we were done and ready to start the recuperation process. We had planned only to spend the one day in this area before heading to the Whipple Mtns, but Tom was quickly receptive to my suggestion that we could spend another day here. This made for a lot less driving. After showering, we settled in at the Lisa Dawn Campground about 3/4mi away, closer to Lost Arch Mine Peak. Though primitive with no water or toilet facilities, it had a covered metal picnic bench and some flat camp spots that we'd have to ourselves, and free, too. A very fine day overall...
This page last updated: Thu Apr 16 19:35:00 2020
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