Mon, Feb 22, 2021
The Whipple Mtns occupy a large swath of the California desert landscape, bounded by the Colorado River on the east, US95 to the west, and the Chemehuevi and Vidal Valleys on the north and south, respectively. Today's effort had Eric and I on the far western edge of the range, on a 5-peak loop, quite a bit easier than the previous day's adventure in the Turtle Mtns. We had camped at the Mopah TH the previous night, so were up early to do some driving between the ranges. We left Eric's car at the junction of US95 and the Colorado River Aqueduct, which was unusually empty. I later learned that it is drained yearly around this time for maintenance work upstream at the pumping station near Parker Dam and Reservoir. We had some trouble finding the start of our spur road off the aqueduct road, but eventually found it, driving about six miles north to our starting point at the end of the road. The road is quite sandy in places - 4WD may not be necessary, but it sure makes it a whole lot less stressful. It was close to 8a before we were ready to head out on foot. There was no real need for an early start on this one since we'd be done in the early afternoon.
The five summits lie east of the more impressive Savahia Peak that I'd visited three years earlier. They are all of the same darker volcanic rock found in the eastern half of the range that typically makes for good scrambling. The satellite view gives this away quite clearly - dark color, good scrambling - light color, easier hiking. Our first two summits had the same elevation of 1,740ft, unusual and a bit confusing when throwing unnamed summit numbers around. Peak 1,740ft #1 was less than a mile to the north, and we reached it by first hiking in a sandy wash around the base of the mountains on the east side, then up a side wash to ascend the South Slopes directly to the summit. There was some easy class 3 scrambling on a rib we ascended, an enjoyable bit that got us to the summit in just over half an hour. After a short break, we dropped off the north side to a lower ridge running northwest towards Peak 1,740ft #2. We bypassed some of this ridge by traversing the southeast slope, eventually crossing a gully before climbing the second peak from the south side. This one had a neat bit of scrambling on solid rock along the upper part of the South Ridge which we used to gain the summit about half an hour after leaving the first summit.
A bigger prize was now to the northeast, Peak 1,940ft, with almost 500ft of prominence. The distance between them was short, about half a mile, and would take us 45min to get from one summit to the other. We made a direct line between the two, descending the northeast side of Peak 1,740ft #2 down a wide gully, then across some intermediate terrain to make an ascending traverse of Peak 1,940ft's Southwest Slopes, mostly class 2 with a bit of class 3 near the top. This one seemed worth having a register, so we left one during our break at the top.
Getting between Peak 1,940ft and Peak 1,980ft was the longest stetch between summits, taking an hour and a quarter. Because of cliffs on the NE side of Peak 1,940ft, we headed northwest along the ridge before dropping down class 2-3 terrain at the end of the ridge. We crossed a small valley before starting up to Peak 1,980ft, finding a nice class 2-3 ramp on the southwest side that led cleanly up through a cliff band with a small, somewhat exposed step-around at the end. We could have taken an easier route up the West Ridge, but it didn't seem quite as sporting. Once past the step-around, we reached a flattish area on the West Ridge and followed up class 2 terrain to the summit, another five minutes away. We left a register at this one, too, before starting for the last summit.
Peak 2,020ft, the highest, was probably the best scrambling of the day. It didn't have any obviously easy route, but we found the direct route between them worked quite nicely, making use of several gullies along Peak 2,020ft's South Ridge to keep it reasonable. It was nearly noon by the time we got to the last summit and Eric looked pretty happy that I didn't have any surprise bonuses for him. Our return would be pretty simple - drop down to the wash to the southeast, then simply follow it south for three miles back to our car. Of interest was a bottle of "mushroom honey" that Eric had gotten from a friend and we'd been carrying around the last three days. It was purported to be a mix of just what the name says, the mushrooms of course being one of the psychedelic varieties. We had no exact dosage recommendation, so we had started small, increasing the dosage each day as no effects were noted. I slowly acquired the opinion that this was either bogus or had become inactive due to its age (it was clear that it was quite old by the time we got ahold of it), but Eric was not yet ready to give up on it. I suggested he should maximize the return by injesting the remaining amount, about 3x the dosage he had last tried. So we sat in the shade of a large rock at the edge of the wash so Eric could take his time getting the most out of the plastic bottle. If nothing else, the sugar would give him sustenance equivalent to one of the Gatorade bottles I was carrying. The end result of this failed drug experiment was the same - nothing. But at least we had a cooler of beer that we could make use of after we'd arrived back at the car sometime around 2p.
I had no heart to press Eric for more peaks today, so instead we took the rest of the day off and headed to Parker, AZ for a few supplies and dinner. Unlike California and New Mexico, Arizona allows indoor dining in Covid Times, and mask-wearing is mostly optional, except at the larger commercial establishments like WalMart and Safeway. Not liking the idea of sharing indoor space, the only outdoor dining we found was at Maya's mexican restaurant on Riverside Dr. We had a hearty meal there with a couple of margaritas before driving back to California and finding a place to camp in Bowmans Wash. The wash had plenty of dead and dry wood to feed our campfire tonight, and we kept it going for a number of hours before we got tired and headed off to sleep...
This page last updated: Wed Feb 2 17:48:30 2022
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