This was the start of a 16 day desert roadtrip centered around my birthday in
December. The weather in California had turned rainy, so a good time to be
heading to drier areas. I had to drive through quite a bit of rain going over
Pecheco Pass and , but by the time I got to the Mojave
the rain was done for the time being. There were still lots of clouds over
the desert areas and temperatures were quite chilly. My last gas and food
stop was in Barstow, then I was off to do some peakbagging.
I hadn't left San Jose until noon, so it was quite dark as I was leaving
Barstow - not really any time for peakbagging as usual.
I drove up Interstate 15 towards Vegas, getting off on Bailey Rd at
the top of Mountain Pass. I decided to spend the night atop Mineral Hill,
a drive-up, about 5mi of mostly good dirt roads that become rougher for the
last several miles. The open summit had a
of Primm, NV and the lights
of I-15 to the northeast, the winds outside howling fiercely. It was probably
blowing 40-50mph, not quite strong enough to knock me over when I went outside
to pee, but staying upright was quite a challenge. The noise was ferocious
through most of the night with the jeep rocking in step, but I managed to
sleep quite well (perhaps smug in knowing I didn't have to worry about my
tent blowing away) and it had diminished significantly by morning. When I
awoke sometime after 6a I found myself
with nary a view. Oh well, the nighttime one was pretty good.
Though little more than a mile east of Mineral Hill, the easiest way to reach
Coyote Peak is not from Mineral Hill, given the 800ft+ drop between them. I
drove back down to I-15, got off at the Nipton exit, and got myself to
on the north side using a powerline road. My ascent route
was a bit out of the way because I made the mistake of navigating towards
Mineral Hill on my GPSr, and I was some distance up the wrong drainage
before realizing my mistake. Sigh. Even with a GPSr I can get myself lost. And
I couldn't even blame the weather because there were no clouds on Coyote Peak.
It made for a with views overlooking the immense
, including the array of on the north side of I-15. My return was
more direct, no GPSr needed.
Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness HP
at the jeep, I continued east through , an interesting little
town masquerading as an historic site but really just a
miles futher, one goes through a pass separating the McCullough Range from the
New York Mtns. On the east side of the pass is Piute Valley and the Wee Thump
Joshua Tree Wilderness.
is a very short hike off the approach
drive to Highland Mtns, less than a quarter mile. One has to weave through the
Joshua Tree forest (there are a LOT of Joshua Trees here!) to reach the small
that forms the highpoint. It's not very high, so views aren't
appreciably better than one can get from the road. John Vitz left a register
with only a few pages of entries. Of course Laura Newman HAD
tovbe the last one before I arrived. Curses!
Piute Valley separates the McCullough Range to the west from the Highland Range
to the east. The latter is a rather diminutive range compared to McCullough
and only half as long, but it does sport some rugged-looking peaks with lots
of interesting objectives. Unfortunately, the
isn't really one
of them. The trickiest part was the drive in, intially following a powerline
road that almost any car could drive, but then the last two miles get rougher
as it follows up a wash with some large rocks and
makes its way to and an .
I just before the corral
as the road seemed to get no better and I could do just as well by walking. I
did get far enough up the road that my roundtrip was less than 2mi with less
than 700ft of gain. There is lots of rusting trash littering the area and old
rubber strewn about the drainages.
The SE Ridge I followed
had some modest class 3 scrambling and the summit held a Barbara/Gordon
register . This one was fairly busy with 12 pages of entries, most
back in February. I descended back down an alternate route
via the Southwest Face, a somewhat loose bit of rubble before I eventually
reached the wash and an easy walk back down to the jeep.
Talus Mound/Salt & Pepper Mountain
Back to the pavement, I continued east through Searchlight, NV and into the
Lake Mead NRA, nearly to the Colorado River. I was after a P1K, Salt & Pepper,
one of a number of peaks in the area found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles
are almost all of the rugged variety, particularly nearby
(both east and west summits) and
. Signs in the area
recommend 4x4 vehicles only off the pavement, but the dirt/gravel roads were
in excellent condition and I probably could have driven the van on them. I
parked less than a mile south of Salt & Pepper, southwest from its neighbor,
This latter is really a misleading name - it's not so much
talus as volcanic boulders, not loose and plentiful enough to be annoying, but
enough that one needs to go slower. I went to Talus Mound's summit first,
taking in the nice scenery that includes a long stretch of the
to the east, emptying into Lake Mohave far to .
Once at the summit, I
and made my way up to the much higher Salt & Pepper (one
would guess the name comes from a collection of white and black rocks, but I
didn't really notice such, mostly dark brown desert varnished volcanic rock).
This had some class 3 scrambling, though it could easily have been avoided by
moving to the right off the ridgeline. Vitz had left a register at this summit
as well, this time .
There were only a few pages of entries over the
past 11yrs, almost all of the names from the usual suspects with one large
party from the LVMC. I descended to the southwest down steep,
moving carefully as I dropped through the
on that side
of the mountain.
I finished up around 3:30p with almost an hour of daylight remaining. I
considered climbing one of the other nearby summits before calling it a day,
but decided I'd rather have my lukewarm shower while the sun was out rather
than wait for it to become a cold shower in the dark. I've got quite a few
more days to go on this road trip, so no need to pack it all in on the first