Peak 1,586ft P500
Peak 1,820ft P300
Peak 1,982ft P300 CS
Peak 2,525ft P500
Black Peak P750

Feb 23, 2021

With: Eric Smith

Black Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


The Whipple Mtns are one of my favorite desert ranges, one with two distinct flavors. Most of the area surrounding the range highpoint (the DPS Whipple Mtn) is granitic in nature and typical class 2 desert scrambling. The more interesting flavor is the dark volcanic rock that makes up the periphery of the range, particularly on its eastern side. Here, the scrambling is high quality class 3, some of the best to be found in the California desert regions. After an easier day on the western side of the range, we had come to the eastern side for a bigger challenge, four summits that lie along Bowmans Wash. We had spent the night camped in the wash, and were up at 6a to start our day. We left Eric's Rav 4 where we'd camped and drove the Jeep north up the wash to the first of the peaks.

Peak 1,586ft

This summit lies less than half a mile west of Bowmans Wash. Though it makes for a short outing, it has some challenges. Its east side is ringed with cliffs though there appeared from a distance to be several workable routes through it. We climbed out of the wash in a fairly direct line towards the summit, but after covering half the distance and getting a better view, we found we'd have to move left to get through a break towards the south end of the summit ridge. We made an ascending traverse over steepening rock before scrambling class 3 terrain through the break to reach the South Ridge. As we popped up onto the ridge, a trio of sheep were caught off-guard and quickly made an exit, first up towards the summit, then swiftly down the East Face through a part of the cliff band I didn't think we could manage - the sheep showed little hesitation and were soon out of sight. We continued up the ridge, finding easier ground above, with a final class 3 crux just below the summit. It took us most of an hour to reach the top, a most enjoyable effort made even better by the sheep sighting. We sat about the summit taking in views of our other summits to the north, leaving a register here before starting down. We reversed our route down the South Ridge and off the East Face, then made a variation of the lower part by circling to the south and down a gully that would take us back to Bowmans Wash and our vehicle. 2hrs for the roundtrip effort.

Peak 1,820ft

We drove another 10min north up the wash for Peak 1,820ft, also found on the west side of the wash and about a half mile distance. The peak looks similar to the previous one with a cliff band on the east side, but it had a much more obvious saddle with easier routes leading to its South Ridge. The South Ridge had the best scrambling with an exposed walkway on solid rock and a cruxy class 3 just below the highpoint. We saw no sheep this time, but were treated to a flock of pelicans cruising overhead, oblivious to our toiling on the rocks below. We spent about 40min to reach the summit and a similar time for the return. We left a second register before starting back.

Peak 1,982ft

Another 10min drive got us to the northwest side of Peak 1,820ft found on the east side of the wash, about 1/3mi distance. I had first noted this summit in 2015 when I was climbing Copper Mtn. Though short of stature, it is imposing on all sides. The north side in particular is a vertical cliff, but the other sides that I had seen then and now did not look much easier. Eric decided to take a break while I investigated this one myself, not really sure if I would be able to find a way up. I approached it from the north, first exploring around the corner to the left, but found nothing on the east side that I would risk without a rope, or perhaps even with one. I then returned to the north side and traversed around the base of the cliff to examine the west side. Hidden from view from Bowmans Wash, I found a break on the west side that offered the only practical route. It turned out to be fantastic - a mix of tricky route-finding, airy class 3, some surprisingly easy sections, then a class 3-4 step-around just before the summit with some heart-pumping exposure. The summit was a fine perch with views in all directions. I quickly left a register before reversing the route and returning to Eric, a little over an hour for the roundtrip.

Peak 2,525ft

Our last summit in the area was about a mile from the wash on the west side. After the short drive to reach our starting point, Eric realized he was without his hat. A search of his pack and the Jeep turned up nothing, so we returned to the previous parking spot to find the hat lying in the wash. Shortly before noon we were back for a second time to start for Peak 2,525ft. We followed a wash west towards the summit, but like the first summit, found that we would have to traverse left to find a break in cliffs. We crossed several tedious gullies before reaching the base of the cliffs and working our way through a class 2-3 break in it. Once on the South Ridge, we found easier class 2 terrain that would continue to the summit. We spent just over an hour to reach the top, our highest point of the day. Like the second summit, Peak 2,525ft lies within the Whipple Mtns Wilderness. There are a host of summits to the northwest I haven't visited that looked equally challenging, but these would have to wait for another visit. We left a fourth register at the summit before heading back. Once again we reversed the route down the South Ridge and off the east side, then made a variation of the route to avoid the tedious gully crossings for a more direct return to the Jeep.

Black Peak

After returning to the Jeep, we drove south to collect Eric's car and then caravaned to Parker, AZ where we had a late lunch/earl dinner at Maya's for a second night. Properly fortified with food and drink, we left town heading south on US95, then east on Shea Rd, looking for suitable camping locations on BLM lands. We paused at Black Peak for this interesting drive-up, not suitable for low-clearance vehicles. There are a number of telecom installations on the summit and marked by a large white "P" (for Parker) on the north side. A rough, steep road goes to the top from the west. The beginning portions are unpaved, the steeper portions that start soon after are paved with roughly-poured concrete. The texture provides traction, but it seems to have been done on a budget and is in poor repair with edges giving out in a number of places. There was one truck parked at the bottom, its occupants choosing to walk to the summit. A second truck was just finishing the drive down as we were starting up. The Jeep managed it with little trouble, but I could see how the longer wheelbase of a truck would find this challenging. It was an exhilarating drive, and a fine way to end the day atop our fifth summit in the late afternoon sunshine. We walked about the summit for a short bit before hopping back in the Jeep and returning the same way.

We ended up camping in Osborne Wash, just past the indian reservation boundary, on BLM lands. There was a small handful of RVs and ATVs parked similarly, but the area is large enough that we were undisturbed by our neighbors and would spend the next three nights camped here. Like Bowmans Wash, we found plenty of firewood here to fuel our campfire which made for a fine evening under the stars...


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