Sat, Feb 28, 2015
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2||GPXs: 1 2||Profiles: 1 2|
Unlike the previous day, there was no long march across the desert to reach the base of the mountain. A spur road off Kingston Rd goes into the center of the three summits I would tag this morning - it is conveniently excluded from the Wilderness area, but I only managed about a quarter mile up it before it became too much for my van. I parked where I could out of this spur road at 7a, starting up the slopes from the get-go. As I was climbing up a south-facing slope, a tool lying on the ground caught my attention. An old geology hammer lay rusting in the desert sun. It had a rubber handle, so I judged it couldn't be that old, probably from the 1980s or 90s. I picked it up and tried it out on a few rocks (splits rocks nicely, btw) before leaving it where I found it. I didn't really have a good use for it and figured the next visitor might like finding this little Easter egg.
Climbing higher, views begin to open up and as a crest is reached where one can see north and east into the vast Mesquite Valley that straddles the CA/NV border. Irrigated circles of green can be seen on the valley floor, an agricultural island in a desert sea. In about an hour I reached what I thought was the first summit, Cub BM. In addition to a benchmark it held a 1984 MacLeod register. A few pages had been used, one by a party with 6yr-old Zachary and 4yr-old Luke. The last entry was from John Vitz in 2012 who undoubtedly had been out chasing the Wilderness HP as I was today. The summit has only about 230ft of prominence which doesn't quite let it qualify as a peak, but it made for a nice first stop. About 1/3mi to the SW is the slightly higher Peak 4,688ft and in less than 15min I had made the traverse from one to the other. I found a cairn here, and buried inside was a battered metal film cannister that I assumed was another Smatko register. But this one wasn't the work of Andy, but MacLeod. He marked it (erroneously) as the highpoint of the North Mesquite Mtns on his 1984 visit, two weeks after he had first visited the southern Mesquite Mtns. Mine was the only other entry, but it would have been easy for others to miss this well-hidden little gem.
I continued along the crest of the range to the southwest for another 1.5mi to the actual highpoint (by about 15ft). John Vitz had left a register here in 2012. The next three visitors, including myself, were all from 2015. From the summit I turned to the SE to tackle one more bonus, Peak 4,553ft. It stands off from the main crest, making it necessary to drop 500ft to a saddle before climbing 340ft up to its summit. As with most of the climbing in the Mesquite Mountains, there was no real difficulty and by 9:40a I atop its undistinguished summit. I found a cairn and remnants of survey work, but no register. I dropped to the north off the summit, initially steep but becoming an easier gradient as the rounded ridge curves towards the east, eventually depositing me on the sandy side road I had driven in on. By 10:15a I was back at the van.
I spent almost an hour and half plying the road and its various branches south to the defunct Sultan Mine. Some old pavement at the entrance suggested they must have pulled some decent ore out of the mountain in order to bother with such improvements. The ruins consisted of numerous mineshafts, each with heaps of tailings outside and below their entrances. A wooden ore chute was weathered and slowly on its way to collapse. The road I followed ended at the mine, so the last hour was spent covering a little more than a mile of cross-country travel. Little Devil's north side is impressive and not a little daunting. Composed primarily of limestone, the rock is of decent quality but the precipitous nature of the chutes and aretes found on the side I approached looked somewhat scary. I chose a more cautious tack as I climbed higher, traversing left to climb to the summit from the easier ridgeline found on the east side. There was plenty of class 3 to navigate but none of the scary-looking routes I might have found on the north side. Of note was a pair of sheep horns I found about 5min below the summit. They weren't very long with barely a curve to them and were quite old judging by their condition, but they were still quite hefty and dense. After taking a picture of one I left them where I'd found them and continued up.
At the summit by 1:20p, it had taken 2.5hrs to reach the top with views spread out in all directions. The higher Devil Peak rises about 3.5mi to the southeast at the southernmost end of the range. Mesquite Valley, Mesquite Mtns and the Clark Range were prominent to the west. Las Vegas lay about 35mi to the northeast but blocked from view by the intervening Bird Spring Range. A register found next to the benchmark indicated that Smatko had led the first DPS party to the summit in 1978 with Gordon/Barbara following up with the second visit a year later. Since then some 20 pages of entries attest to an average of about one party per year.
My descent went back down the east side all the way to the saddle between Singer Wash to the north and Devil Canyon to the south (the guidebook approach route), then down into Singer Wash. A few joshua trees cling to the upper slopes of the mountain and on the lower part of the East Ridge I found an old rusting tobacco tin tucked in cairn. The note inside the tin, marking an old claim, was mostly worn away with just a few words legible. A few springtime flowers were beginning to make their appearance as well. The hike through the wash presented no obstacles, without any of the dry waterfalls one often encounters in the desert canyons and washes. Some caterpillars had hatched in a webbing built in one of the desert plants renewed by recent showers, making for an unusual find in the desert.
I eventually found my way back to the road system I had hiked in on. The very flat summit of Table Mtn marked the east side of the broad wash while to the west the NW-trending ridgeline of Little Devil tapered down to Singer Wash where it turns to the west to drain into Mesquite Valley. Across the wash to the north is Bonanza Hill which I decided to visit as a bonus on my way back. This small mountain with just under 500ft of prominence was extensively mined in the past. My route up from the northeast took me past the Root Mine where one can find dozens of tunnels and shafts dug into the limestone. A tramline cable still rises several hundred feet to one of the more active mine areas with winches, rail tracks and other equipment abandoned when the ore gave out or proved unprofitable. Prospects and claim markers marked much of the route up and down. Though nothing of note aside from a small cairn was found at the summit, it provides a most impressive view of Little Devil to the south. I descended off the north side of the hill past yet more mine ruins, eventually returning to the main road I had previously traveled. I was back to the van by 5p and called it a day, but I would be back in the southern Spring Mtns the next day - with so many interesting summits, one could easily spend a week here and still not run out of ideas...
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