Marble BM P500
Peak 2,588ft P500
Cadiz Dunes Wilderness HP
Kilbeck Hills HP P500

Nov 10, 2017

With: Iris Ma
Karl Fieberling
Matt Yaussi

Marble BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


I awoke to the alarm around 5:30a at the Amboy Crater trailhead where we had spent the night. It was still dark but the eastern sky was beginning to show signs of life and the scattered clouds would add some color to the landscape just before sunrise. Matt had gotten up at 3a and driven in to join the three of us for some desert peakbagging around Chambless on US66 in the Mojave Desert. Around 6a we were ready to head out, driving east to Chambless, a poor, mostly abandoned desert town that once sported a restaurant and other US66 businesses before Interstate 40 took the traffic away from town. It doesn't help that US66 had a washout last winter that still hasn't been repaired (despite the fact that nearby Essex has a Caltrans Station, the only viable business in that town). We left three vehicle at Chambless, then drove in Matt's Subaru around the Closed signs heading west about a mile to find our dirt road heading north.

Marble Mtns

The range is located between I-40 and US66. It's highpoint is Castle Peak, found at the north end of the range, near I-40. This morning we were after two summits in the lower part of the range, both with more than 500ft of prominence. The access road we used was not the best option in hindsight, but it worked well enough to get us within a couple miles of both summit, making for a 6mi loop with 2,600ft of gain. We spent a little over an hour finding our way to Marble BM, a mile and a half to the northeast. The hike started with some easy walking across the flats, followed by a climb up a rocky wash with some fun class 3 limestone scrambling in the last 20min. Ahead of the others by about 5min, I took the time to reconstruct the dilapidated survey tower found at the summit, a new hobby I've discovered. Andy Smatko and Wes Shelberg had left a register here in 1979, now extremely brittle, with a second register provided by Barbara and Gordon three years later, showing only a handful of entries since.

The highlight of the day was the traverse between Marble BM and Peak 2,588ft to the northwest, an interesting ridgeline scramble that would take us most of the next two hours. There were odd finds along the way, including a fish tin and a township survey marker. Sitting upon the second summit, I was looking for a descent route, the most direct being down the south side into an intricately eroded canyon with steep slopes and narrow channels. Without being able to see the entire route, it was impossible to discern if there were troublesome dropoffs to be encountered, but it seemed like it ought to work. Iris and Matt were game to give it a go but Karl balked, preferring to head back along the ridge some distance before dropping into what he thought a safer and surer option. Our route turned out to be just fine, a few tight spots where the gullies narrowed with small drops, but nothing more than class 3. We found the bones of a young bighorn that looked to have fallen to its demise in canyon. We imagined the poor thing whimpering with a broken leg after a fall, eventually abandoned by its companions and succumbing to the buzzards, coyotes and other hungry critters of the desert. We met up with Karl again somewhat unexpectedly as our routes converged - not that we shouldn't have expected him, just that we'd sort of forgotten about him over the past hour since we'd separated. Easy walking in the wash system and some old roads brought us back to the Subaru shortly after noon. Good fun, this one.

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness HP

15mi (or so) south of Chambless are the Cadiz Dunes, the smaller cousin of the more impressive Kelso Dunes found between I-40 and I-15 to the north. The dunes sit low in a depression called Cadiz Valley and because the extent of the Wilderness boundary, the highpoint is found well away from the dunes at a very boring corner that is nearly flat and has no prominence whatsoever. We were heading to the Kilbeck Hills nearby, so this one was a freebie on our way south from Chambless and Cadiz along sandy Cadiz Rd. The road is in decent, but not great shape, and with some minor washouts along the way it was fortunate that we had Matt's 4WD vehicle. We turned off Cadiz Rd at an unsigned junction north of Kilbeck Hills, stopping first to search out the Wilderness HP located somewhere near this junction. We went to the point indicated on LoJ, but found no register from one of the previous visitors like Carey, Baxter or the Henneys like we might have expected. It ended up being pretty much a dud, as we kicked up sand and poked around some scrub before calling it done.

Kilbeck Hills HP

We continued southwest and south on the unsigned spur road for about 4mi before parking at a fork in the road. The topo map shows the road continuing south for several more miles and offering a closer approach, but the satellite view shows this road petering out in a sea of sand that looks a bit dicey for standard vehicles. We were 2.5mi from the highpoint we were after, and since it was only 1:45p, we would have plenty of daylight to get there and back - no need to risk the closer drive. The hike was very much unlike the morning one, and rather mediocre, at best. There was just too much sand to sap one's strength and none of the interesting scrambling we had enjoyed in the morning. The first two miles are a low-angle climb up the sandy flats, gaining about 300ft before steepening to climb an additional 500ft in the last half mile. It did have a few redeeming qualities, including nice views, a survey tower I could reconstruct and a Smatko/Yates register from 1968. There was also a newer one placed by the San Diego Trio (Carey/Adrian/Hanna) in 2004. Ours marked only the third party in almost 50yrs - not bad! We returned via much the same route, easier now through the sand with gravity on our side, getting back to our vehicle not long after 4p. We still had more than an hour to drive back to Chambless, the sun setting colorfully during this time. Once we had collected the other vehicles, we reconvened another hour later near Essex at a campsite off Essex Rd we'd picked out ahead of time. US66 was closed between Chambless and Essex, which made for the longer drive around on I-40, but we still had plenty of time for Matt to exercise his BBQ talents. Pigs in a blanket and sausage kabobs - much better than our usual soup!

Matt's Video


John Morrow comments on 04/26/22:
"M.D.", as one of the signatories of the "handful" of other entries in the Marble BM register, must be the initials of the one and only Mojave desert author extraordinaire.

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This page last updated: Tue Apr 26 17:17:32 2022
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