Peak 1,696ft P500
Sillurpp Peak P500
Mt. Karl P500

Thu, Jan 17, 2019

With: Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Day 2 of a desert roadtrip was wet one. While the coastal regions of the state were taking the brunt of a big Pacific storm, some of it was spilling over into the Mojave Desert where Karl and I had spent the night just north of Baker, CA. Raindrops had fallen intermittently during the night to little consequence. The morning brought a spectacular sunrise rainbow that soon devolved into a steady light rain and a heavy overcast that kept us from venturing outside. We sat in our respective cars parked off SR127 overlooking dry Silver Lake, wondering how long it might last. I could use the SiriusXM weather app to watch the storm front slowly move across the map on the Jeep's infotainment display, and it seemed we might have a few hours before a break in the weather. Karl napped for a time while I read news and looked for easier peaks we could do once things improved. We ended up doing a short outing in the morning and then a somewhat longer one in the afternoon, barely enough to count as exercise. On the plus side, it was good to see moisture coming to the Mojave which would help the landscape green up in the short springtime season to come.

Peak 1,696ft

This minor summit is the northernmost peak in the Soda Mountains, a medium-sized desert range found west of Baker. With almost 700ft of prominence, it makes for a modest hike, about 3mi roundtrip, starting from the powerline road north of Silver Lake. There were heavy ore trucks going in and out on this road which accounted for it being well-maintained. Even in the wet conditions, any vehicle could manage it. We parked off one of the spur roads leading to a transmission tower. We hiked northwest, following a drainage that got us around a lower summit in the foreground that was blocking our view to Peak 1,696ft. The terrain here is rocky and devoid of most vegetation, save for the narrower gullies. It took us about 45min at a casual pace to reach the class 2 summit where we found a Richard Carey register placed four years earlier. Having approached from the east, we decided to descend an alternate route to the south to change things up, pausing to don our rain gear soon after leaving the summit. It worked out to be an easier route thanks to the old mining road we found in the drainage on that side of the summit. We hiked the old road back out to the flats under the transmission towers and back to the waiting jeep.

Silurian Hills

Before the rain had interrupted our morning, we'd hoped to do a 4 peak loop around the highpoint of the Silurian Hills to the east of the highway, some unfinished business from a trip earlier in the season. After our successful morning hike where we kept mostly dry, we decided to pay an abbreviated visit to the Silurian Hills, tagging just half the peaks we'd planned. The drive in from the highway takes nearly an hour. The powerline road heading east from SR127 is in good shape, albeit a bit sandy, but the less-used road heading north is rougher, going across the grain of the drainages and requiring high-clearance. It was after 1p before we had made our way to the end of the road, about 1/3mi east of the first summit. We climbed steeply up loose class 2-3 slopes to reach the summit in 20min's time. We found a Smatko/Schuler register from 1973 with no other entries atop Peak 3,034ft. They had dubbed it "Sillurpp Peak," a silly name we had no reason to reject. It would take us a bit over an hour to get from one summit to the other with a 650-foot drop between them, taking us nearly down to the elevation where we'd left the jeep. Though several hundred feet higher, the second summit had less prominence, a quirk of where the saddles were located to their proximate parents. We found some class 3 scrambling on the limestone rock that predominately characterizes this small range. Some light rain fell enroute, prompting us to put on our rain gear a second time, though the wind would likely have dried our clothes regardless before we'd return to the jeep. Finding no register on the second summit, we left a new one, christening it as "Mt. Karl" because, well, California needs a Mt. Karl. The lowering cloud layers marred our views, but it made for an interesting, PNW-like scene not usually seen in the desert. Our return was a slight variation back through the class 3 cliffs, a bit harder than the ascent. The crux was a 30-foot section that went nearly vertical. Though not much to his liking, Karl followed me down this in good style, after which the going becomes class 2 and much easier. We got back to the jeep just after 3:30p and decided to call it a day, leaving the higher remaining peaks unclimbed. There was some sun to briefly light up the hills as we were driving back out, our first good sign that the fickle weather was beginning to break. We drove back out to the powerline road where we'd left Karl's Element, then drove east 6-7 miles through the hills to reach our meeting place for the next day's effort. Three others would be joining us in the morning for a tour of the Shadow Mountains, but for this evening it was just Karl and I, having dinner in the jeep to ward off the outside cold. It was not our most productive day in the desert, but we were happy to have gotten to stretch our legs, considering the forecast...


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