Milpitas Wash Wilderness HP
Well BM P500
Peak 1,340ft P500
Peak 1,180ft P300
Peak 1,118ft P300
Peak 1,420ft
Peak 1,341ft P300
Peak 1,853ft P300

Dec 12, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3 4


With a few days remaining of my birthday desert trip, I was camped off SR78 on Milpitas Wash Rd with plans to hit up a few Wilderness highpoints. Following that, I paid a visit to the Palo Verde and McCoy Mountain ranges, tagging a handful of minor summits found in each.

Milpitas Wash Wilderness HP

As the name suggests, this Wilderness covers a vast tract of the Milpitas Wash on the west side of the highway. Unfortunately, it doesn't take in any real summits, leaving the highpoint to be the very unexciting southwest corner of the Wilderness. One drives about 5mi from the highway west on Midway Well Rd to reach it, the "highpoint" found just off the road. It's pretty flat all around with no noticecable point in the broad wash higher than another. Take your pick.

Well BM

This is the highpoint of the Buzzard Roost Wilderness. Richard Carey had visited in 2015 and left a set of wayopoints on PB. I didn't use his route, but the starting point was a good one, with a turnout on the west side of the highway. As Richard points out, the trick is to minimize the number of ups and downs on the way to Well BM as one navigates the many small ridges and washes. Luckily cross-country is easy and the ridges aren't all that high. I followed up one set of drainages flowing west before cresting a low rise to another set of washes flowing north. As I got close to the peak, the drainage I followed split in two with neither fork seeming the obvious choice, so I simply started up the ridge between them. This worked nicely, perhaps not the easiest way to the summit, but a scenic one, some class 3 rock encountered along the way. Of note were the high number of ocotillo that were in bloom, in sharp contrast to those we'd seen in AZ earlier in the week. There are two summits to the peak, though this is not indicated on the topo map. The benchmark and register found on the northern one, but the southern one is 4-5ft higher and has its own summit cairn. There was a paper scrap from a 1970 visit along with a newer register left by Carey, no other entries until my arrival. I descended a ridge and gully west off the south summit, taking a more southerly route back to the highway which seemed to work just as well. I spent two hours covering a bit under 4mi on the roundtrip effort.

Palo Verde Mtns

After returning to SR78, I drove north to Milpitas Wash Rd, the same location I had camped for the night. This road and a spur one forking north provide access into the Palo Verde Range. The powerline road splits the Palo Verde Wilderness into two halves, either a travesty or a plus, depending on how you view Wilderness area access. The two peaks lie on either side of the road, a few miles south of the range highpoint, Palo Verde Peak, which I'd climbed some years earlier. I parked off the road in the main wash and went to the eastern summit first, Peak 1,340ft, less than half a mile. I went up a rather fun gully that provided some nice scrambling on decent volcanic rock, taking me to the summit ridge just south of the highpoint. The summit provides a nice view to Palo Verde Peak to the north and the many square miles of the Milpitas Wash to the south. I left a register here before heading back down, choosing a different route to the north of the ascent gully, finding the scrambling a bit tamer but still enjoyable. I crossed the main wash and road north of where I'd parked, continuing west to Peak 1,180ft. This was an easier summit, class 2 by almost any route including the East Face which I used for the ascent. McCloud and Lilley had left a register here in 2009, with only one other visit by Mark Adrian in 2018. I descended halfway down the South Ridge before turning east to drop into the main wash and return to the jeep, taking 2hr20min for the 3mi effort.

McCoy Mtns

The afternoon was spent hiking in this range north of Interstate 10, an hour's drive from my parking spot in the Palo Verde Mtns. I used the Mesa Verde exit of I-10 (also used for the Blythe Airport), then Black Rock Rd, a frontage road on the north side of the interstate that is paved to Black Rock. It goes around the north side of Black Rock to become a powerline road heading west. Several BLM roads fork off heading north. The first goes to a lower telecom installation, the second to a higher one near Peak 1,420ft. I took this second road up to a locked gate at the saddle between Peak 1,420ft and Peak 1,118ft. There is a large turnaround area here with plenty of space to park. I first visited the lower Peak 1,118ft, dropping down from the saddle to the southeast into a wash before climbing up to the peak. This avoided some ups and downs along the connecting ridgeline and was a more direct route, too. Mark Adrian had left a register here back in February and I was happy to provide the second entry. I returned to the saddle via a different route, descending a gully which proved more interesting but probably longer. Back at the jeep I headed up the gated road to the telecom installation, then another five minutes above that to reach the highpoint of Peak 1,420ft. Someone had scratched the initials D.K. on a rock near the summit with a date of 1970. No register found here. To the north rose the higher Peak 1,853ft about 1.2mi away as the crow flies - the ridgeline to reach it looked long and somewhat arduous and I was in no mood to do it twice. More driving would be needed.

I returned to the powerline road and then found another spur heading north up a broad drainage between the last two summits, Peak 1,341ft and Peak 1,853ft. Getting tired, I wasn't sure I could do both, so set off for the easier of the two to the west. I had to go across several washes before reaching the base of the peak. There is a rough mining road on the east side going halfway up the mountain. I avoided this by staying to the right as I went up the class 2 northeast side, perhaps a little too quickly since a look at the time showed I had plenty of daylight for the second peak. I left a register before dropping down the East Face, through the mining area and down the road into the wash. I continued east across half a dozen washes, somewhat tedious, to reach a gully on the southwest side of Peak 1,853ft. The gully had some fun scrambling, but seemed quite long, but probably less than half an hour. I reached a saddle northwest of the summit, then took another 10min to get myself to the top shortly before 4p. I left another register here before descending back to the saddle. I then traversed around a small bump on the ridge to a second saddle that would provide a more direct descent back to the car. This gully faced west and provided more fun scrambling, even better now that I was going down. It would be 4:20p before I got back to the jeep, a long day with an especially long afternoon. The sun would set before I could finish my shower and get ready to head back out.

The fun was not over, as it turned out. I drove west on I-10, exiting at Corn Springs with plans to hike in the Chuckwalla Mtns the next day. I was parked not far from the pavement at a flat spot on Corn Springs Rd, whiling away a few hours with dinner, writing and reading. I went to warm up the car before going to bed only to find the starter wouldn't engage. Great. I would call AAA in the morning, hoping the problem was simply a drained battery. It could be worse of course, requiring a new battery, perhaps an auxillary battery (yes, 2018 introduced a second battery to the jeep wrangler). I had a terrible time sleeping with all the many options running through my head, made worse because I had to get on a plane to Hawaii on Tuesday and couldn't afford several days in the shop. I didn't even know if AAA would service my car since it wasn't on the pavement (I'd been denied previously), and I had no way to get the car out of park or unlock the steering wheel to move it myself. All this led to an overactive imagination and very little sleep...


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