Little Maria Mountains HP P1K
Peak 2,870ft P750
Black Hill P300

Thu, Dec 7, 2017

With: Matt Yaussi

Black Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Little Maria Mountains

I had camped just outside Blythe in the middle of someone's farm (on a dirt road, not his crops) away from the city lights. I was up early and drove to the Starbucks where I was to meet Matt at 5:30a. They open at 4a, earlier than most other stores in much larger cities - good deal! Birthday frappuccino in hand, I tossed my gear in Matt's car and we headed north out of town on Midland Rd. Our goal today was the unnamed highpoint of the Little Maria Mountains. I had done an enjoyable loop the day before on the east end of the range whereas today's would encompass the western end. I'll still have to come back some other time to do the peaks in the middle.

We spent an hour driving paved Midland Rd, good dirt Arlington Mine Rd heading west, and then a rougher 4WD road north to our starting point at the base of the Little Maria Mountains, near the Standard Mine still operating. Evan Rasmussen had climbed the range HP years earlier and had reported it both fun and tricky. I had ignored this last part and didn't really pay any attention to the route he had used though I had his written description. Probably could have helped. We were here to climb the range HP in conjunction with another summit to the northwest that sported 750ft of prominence. The two combined would have more than 2,000ft of prominence but I don't think we get to count that as a P2K. Based on the previous day's experience in the eastern part of the range, I was expecting the ascent to be straightforward and the traverse between the two to be the tricky part. As it turned out (and Evan might have predicted), the ascent was rather tricky and the traverse more straightforward. So it goes.

From our starting point at the junction of two old mining roads, we followed the road heading northeast a little more than a mile before dropping into a wash system on our right. This we navigated for a short distance before realizing we had walked up the wrong wash - oops - and had to climb up and over a low ridge between our wash and the adjacent one that wound deeper into the range. As we neared the end of this easy walking, we noticed the various fingers of the wash ended rather abruptly against the steep limestone walls that line the south side of the range above the drainage. We exited the wash to our right where we immediately had to climb the left side of a dry waterfall that was a bit above our climbing grade. Reaching higher, we found the steep limestone on our left to be tougher than we could manage and eventually traversed back into the channel well above the dry waterfall. We were treated to some good class 3 scrambling in places, but mostly found too much broken rock littering the slopes in place of the good limestone scrambling I had hoped to find.

We gained the South Ridge shortly before 9a, but the navigation only got more complicated. We couldn't climb the ridge directly and found obstacles on both sides of the ridge that we had to avoid, threading our way through and over various side gullies and aretes before we could see a clear way to the summit. After reaching the crest of the range, we found the last 10min an easier cross-country effort that brought us to the summit just after 9:30a. We found a 1948 benchmark and a newish register (2013) in a plastic tub that had become brittle and broken due to exposure to the sun. We tore out the only page of the notebook and left it with a more weather-proof tin can register.

Following a 15min break, we spent the next 2hr+ traversing the crest towards the NW for some three miles. It was more relaxing than the ascent because the route was more straightforward. We found some good scrambling in places as we went over several intermediate points, including one near the halfway mark that sported a solar-powered telecom installation. We stuck to the ridge where we could, making for some unnecessary (but fun) class 3-4 moves, generally having a nice time as we enjoyed the views north and south from the crest. We had to drop down to a low saddle before making the 750-foot climb up to the bonus peak, a straightforward climb up the class 2 East Ridge. Gordon and Barbara had left a register here in 1987, recording a previous ascent by a geology student in 1978. There was only one other party to visit since, and we managed to squeeze our own entry in, keeping the register to two pages. At this rate, the little booklet should last a few hundred years, at least.

While Matt ate his lunch, we contempated our descent options, eventually choosing to descend back down the East Ridge to the low saddle, then south down the drainage from there. Our only obstacle was a 100-foot dry waterfall about halfway down that we bypassed on its east side with some easy class 3 scrambling. We soon reached easier ground as the gradient eased and the gully became a wash. Another hour saw us out to the periphery of the range where we continued to navigate one wash or another past some old mining sites and eventually back to our vehicle around 2p.

Black Hill

As we were driving back out on the Arlington Mine Rd, we considered that we had enough daylight for a last easy peak, if we could find one. We settled on a small peak on the west side of the Big Maria Mtns, not far from Midland Rd. With the help of some OHV routes, we got within a quarter mile of the summit on its south side which made for a short climb that took less than 15min, all class 2. Barbara and Gordon had left a register here, too, this one from 2003 and more popular with 8 pages of entries. We took a few photos after leaving our own entry, then headed down to the car - about as easy as a desert peak gets without being a drive-up.

We drove back to Blythe where we showered before meeting up with Iris for dinner in town. She would be joining us, along with Scott who would arrive much later, for the next several days near Yuma. We drove south on SR78 for almost an hour to Black Mtn Road where we would hike the next day. Here we spent the night a short distance off the west side of the highway, to get away from the noise some. More fun in store tomorrow...

Matt's Video


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