Dec 2, 2023
The Whipple Mountains are one of my favorite CA desert ranges (along with the Coxcomb, Old Woman, and Turtle Mountains, for the curious) and I've spent quite a few days here over the past decade. I planned the next two days to involve driving the powerline road through the northeast side of the range, tagging some of the remaining peaks I'd yet to visit. The main outing was a 7.5mi loop to three summits with 2,700ft of gain. As expected, they did not disappoint. Afterwards, we continued driving the powerline and picked up a last summit near sunset.
Getting to the next summit, Peak 1,137ft, would prove more challenging. It lies about 3/4mi ENE of the first summit, but there's no direct way between the two. The topo map only hints at the masssive cliffs found on the NE side of the ridgeline connecting Peak 1,713ft and Peak 1,715ft (our 3rd summit). We would have to traverse about a quarter mile along the ridge to the NW before finding a way down. It was a nice find, a gully going at class 2 all the way down. Our route took us under the dramatic cliffs we'd had to circumvent, then down the widening gully before turning east and southeast on burro trails to gain the next drainage over. We traveled along gravelly washes (with a class 3 dryfall that could be bypassed with a burro trail) and eventually onto the NW Ridge of Peak 1,715ft which we could follow to the summit. There are two points vying for highpoint, the southern point being highest. We spent a full two hours covering about 2.5mi between the two peaks. Peak 1,137ft was both lower and tamer than the other peaks. This was the closest we'd get to the lake and river, less than half a mile distance. We lunched and rested for a bit, leaving a register for future visitors.
Our next leg, getting to Peak 1,715ft, would be the longest of the day, taking almost 2.5hrs. We first reversed the route off Peak 1,137ft and returning to the original drainage we'd descended from Peak 1,713ft. Here we continued northwest into the next drainage to the north that we hoped could be followed up to our summit. We could have simply ascended back to the ridge via the class 2 route we'd descended, but it wasn't clear that the mile-long ridge to Peak 1,715ft would work out. There was a good deal of unknown by the chosen route, where the uppermost section might or might not work out. We were happy to find that it would. Along the way, we lost track of Tom when he stayed in a wash that the rest of us had left earlier. We spent about 30min ascending the steepening slope towards our exit point, wondering what had become of him. Shortly before reaching the ridgeline above, Tom appeared above us, calm and collected and looking like he'd been waiting an hour for us. There was some class 3 in exiting the face we'd been ascending, but nothing too difficult. Once we'd landed on the ridge, it was less than 10min to the summit over considerably easier terrain.
Guy Dahms of Albuquerque had beaten us to leaving a register, visiting the previous year while moving on borrowed time. We signed his register during our summit stay, then went about finding our way off the peak and back to our vehicles. We could see the Trails End road below to the south and chose to descend a gully off that same side. This would make for an interesting descent with some class 3 scrambling, some dryfalls to work around, and a surprising bit of brush where it narrowed in a shady section above one of the dryfalls. We spent 45min to reach the base of the peak and the road, then another 20min along the road to return to our vehicles. It was now 3p, having taken longer than I'd guessed, but still a successful outing.
We would end up spending the night just off the utility road in a nearby wash that could provide us with ample firewood for the evening. We had only seen two other vehicles on the utility road during the day, and none would travel by during the night - a very quiet and remote place to spend the night...
This page last updated: Sat Jan 6 14:14:27 2024
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