Peak 1,514ft P300
Peak 1,942ft P300
Lava Hills HP
Lava Hills PP P300
Peak 2,070ft P300

Mar 8, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

I was back in the Mojave Desert for the first trip of March. The month can be a tricky one with warming temperatures, but I found conditions favorable with cool temps as a winter storm was spreading across the state from the Pacific. I'd gotten up at 3a, something I haven't done in ages, so that I could make the long drive from San Jose and have enough time for an ambitious outing. The Lava Hills are a small range comprising three summits, tucked between the Bristol Mtns and Route 66, between Ludlow and Amboy. It's an oddly named range, because in an area that has plenty of lava rocks (Amboy & Pisgah Craters come to mind), there is very little actual lava in the range. Most of it consists of very poor quality granitic rocks. Luckily, all the scrambling is class 2, and though it can be somewhat tedious and I found little memorable about the various summits individually, I had a fine time that kept me occupied until after sunset. Of note during the drive was a train derailment I came across near Ludow. 44 cars got piled up on the BNSF freight line running along Route 66 here. No injuries were reported. Though it had occurred only four days ago, cleanup crews were out in force moving freight, dismantling cars and getting things in order, quite a scene.

I used a BLM road at an unsigned junction near Bagdad to get over the railroad lines and then a pipeline road heading west for a few miles to get me to my starting point near two peaks southwest of the Lava Hills. I would add these summits to the other three for a large 14mi loop with about 3,000ft of gain. I was less than half a mile from Peak 1,514ft when I started out around 10:40a, and it would take about half an hour to find my way to the summit from the south. The chocolate-colored Peak 1,942ft, my next stop, stood out distinctly about two miles to the north. After leaving a register on Peak 1,514ft, I went about getting myself to the second peak. The terrain between them is pretty complex, so I chose a longer, but easier route to the west where a wide wash runs upslope. This made things pretty simple and I would find myself walking on plenty of such terrain today. Despite the crappy rock quality in general, the washes weren't bad at all. After descending the NW side of Peak 1,514ft, I walked a mile and a half north up the wash, gaining about 400ft in the process. Peak 1,942ft is the only lava rock summit I would climb on the day. The SW Ridge worked well enough, no real obstacles and gave me a tour west to east across the main ridgeline. There are two points vying for the highpoint honors, each with the same closed contour on the topo map. I found the eastern summit to be about 5-6ft higher, though not terribly important, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things. There was some interesting rock among the lava stuff, and there are numerous cairns and prospect diggings looking for stuff of value, but nothing seems to have come from the efforts.

After leaving Peak 1,942ft, it was time to head off to visit the Lava Hills. I dropped northeast off the summit, traveling through more lava country before dropping to a broad alluvial plain on the south side of the Lava Mtns. Once on sandy ground, I crossed the sloped plains heading east and northeast, aiming to an opening for a side wash that would take me north into the Lava Hills. The wash narrowed as I closed in on the range HP, eventually becoming a gully that grew steeper as it turned northeast and gained what could be called the SW Ridge. It was a long stretch of over two miles, taking me about an hour and a half between summits, finally reaching the Lava Hills HP around 1:30p. I found the only register of the day here. Inside the jar was a small notebook and a plastic bag holding the tattered remains of the original register pages. They were far too fragile to read and I was unable to get a date from any of the scraps. Mark Adrian had left the notebook in 2010, mine making the only other entry in 11yrs.

While this was the highest point in the Lava Hills, it was not the most prominent. That honor goes to another point about a mile to the southeast, an unnamed point with 322ft of prominence. If that's any indication, the summits in the Lava Hills are pretty low on prominence. I dropped off the east side of the Lava Hills HP, into another wash that I would follow downstream to the southeast until I was about half a mile west of the next summit. I would take an hour and a quarter to get from the HP to the PP, arriving at the latter shortly before 3p. I was doing pretty good on time and figured I might even make it back to the Jeep before needing a headlamp. I left a register on the Lava Hills PP before descending its East Ridge on my way to the last summit, Peak 2,070ft.

Peak 2,070ft is located at the far east end of the range and would mark the furthest point from the Jeep. Once again, I dropped into a wash that I would follow, this time to the base of the NW Ridge of Peak 2,070ft. I was a bit concerned that the peak looked from a distance to be composed of the dreaded volcanic vomit, but it had good footing and I made decent time, taking about an hour from the previous summit. There are two points vying for the highpoint here, about a tenth of a mile apart. The east summit appears to be higher even though it shows one less contour than the spot elevation of the west summit. I found no evidence of a survey effort on the west summit but did note one on the east summit where the topo map shows no spot elevation - a mix-up perhaps? After leaving my last register on the east summit, I returned to the west summit so I could descend its SW Ridge back to the alluvial plain below. Once down in the wash, it would take me another hour and a half of steady walking to the southwest to get myself back to the Jeep. The temperature and lighting were delightful in the late afternoon and though I was quite tired, I enjoyed this last bit of daylight, taking in the views, the soft lighting, and the sunset over Peak 1,514ft, eventually finishing up at 6p. I took a shower and changed into some clean clothes before heading back to the highway.

I would end up spending the night a few miles from Amboy on another BLM road near the base of the Bristol Mtns where I planned to hike the next morning. I was in bed before 8p, tired and ready to get some sleep. The wind picked up that evening, rocking the van quite a bit, but bothering me not a whit...


Kirk D comments on 03/17/21:
Volcanic vomit - Classic !
Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Wed Mar 17 06:36:35 2021
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: