Peak 1,835ft P300
Peak 3,260ft
Peak 3,461ft P300
Peak 3,302ft P300
Peak 3,020ft
Peak 2,043ft P500

Wed, Jan 13, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


The Soda Mountains are a large desert range found immediately west of Baker, CA, mostly north of Interstate 15. I had visited the range on a number of occasions over the past decade, tackling the range highpoint, those with prominence over 900ft, and the easier-to-reach summits on the south side of the Interstate. I was now back for a more thorough study of the range that I hoped would allow me to complete climbing all of its summits over the next few days. I had spent the night camped peacefully in Cronise Valley under a transmission line that runs between the highway and East Cronise Lake. It wasn't far enough to stiffle the road noise of trucks rumbling down the highway, but it was only a little bother. I was up by 6a, dressed, and breakfasted while I drove across dry East Cronise Lake on a well-used path to the north side. In the predawn half-light, I missed the sign indicating the Soda Mtns Wilderness. I had thought I was going through a cherry stem corridor, but later found that was around the eastern edge of the lake.

Peak 1,835ft

My first stop was to climb a peak in the adjacent Cronise Mtns, a diminuitive range with only 4 summits. I had climbed the HP in 2012 and two other summit a week earlier with Karl. Peak 1,835ft is found at the northeast end. From my parking spot near the lake's edge, I hiked west to gain the NE Ridge, avoiding those slopes where sand has piled up on the peak's eastern flanks. It took less than half an hour to reach the summit, with bird's-eye views of West and East Cronise Lakes found on either side. A pile of rocks had been gathered at the summit, but there was no register to be found. I left one of my own before starting down, this time utlizing the sand slopes to my advantage for a quick return.

Peak 3,260ft - Peak 3,461ft - Peak 3,302ft - Peak 3,020ft

This was the meat of the day, a 12mi(and 4,000ft+ gain) tour of four summits on the west side of the Soda Mtns, across East Cronise Lake from the Cronise Mtns. I moved the Jeep a short distance and started from a BLM Closed Route sign. I headed due north towards Peak 3,260ft, three miles away. Most of this was across the low-gradient slope, the rock and sand litter spilled down from the range's western escarpment. It was not the pleasant, flat walking one appreciates in a desert experience, but it wasn't terrible. After almost an hour, I was finally at the base of the peak and could begin the climb that would take me a full hour to complete, all class 2 up the South Ridge. I appreciated that there were a number of breaks along the ridge that would give me a flat or slightly down section before starting the next steep climb. In all, it was about 1,400ft from the base to the summit. As a soft-ranked summit, the peak doesn't have all that much prominence. It is dominated by the much higher Cronise BM to the northwest. The Cronise dry lakes can be seen to the south and west. In other directions, most of the other summits of the Soda Mtns can be seen. Three of the four peaks I was after in this loop were along the western escarpment of the range. My next objective, Peak 3,461ft lay in the heart of the range, about two miles east of Peak 3,260ft. This was the longest stretch between peaks on this 4-peak loop. Upon leaving Peak 3,260ft, one gets a real Wilderness feeling - no more stretches of Interstate visible with truck noises, and I enjoyed the feeling of isolation a great deal. My route took me over Pt. 3,181ft not by design, and probably not the most efficient way to get from A to B. I spent an hour and a half getting between the two, finally pulling up onto Peak 3,461ft after 11a. Here, the scene is dominated by the range highpoint less than a mile further east. It was well out of my way, otherwise I might have entertained a revisit.

After leaving a register at the summit, I turned southwest, my attention now on Peak 3,302ft about 1.5mi away. I descended partway along Peak 3,461ft's SW Ridge that I had ascended before dropping more steeply off the ridge to the intervening wash between the two peaks. The 800-foot drop had seemed a big deal, but once accomplished it seemed otherwise. I crossed the wash flowing southeast to begin climbing back onto the western escarpment and the ridge connecting three of the summits. It took an hour and a quarter to reach Peak 3,302ft. The summit is wide and flat, a small rock cairn evidence of previous visitors, but no register. I left my last one here while I surveyed the terrain south to the last summit, Peak 3,020ft. The ridgeline is a bit more complicated and it seemed easier to take a more direct line, dropping into a high wash about 600ft below the summit. This worked pretty nicely to cover the 1.5mi distance between them, and I used the easy walking in the wash for about a third of this. It took an hour to get to the last summit, arriving around 1:30p. This summit is another soft-ranked one, views not appreciably different. I descended one of several ridge options off the escarpment, first going over nearby Pt. 3,013ft before beginning the real descent. It's a long way down, about 1,600ft to reach the flats below, then a mile-long walk back to where I'd left the Jeep. It was 3p by the time I finished up. I still had an hour and a half of daylight and wondered as I drove back across East Cronise Lake whether I had time for one more.

Peak 2,043ft

It seems I had time. This summit is also in the Soda Mtns, but found on the south side of Interstate 15, about 2mi from the highway. I exited the Rasor Rd exit (aka, Beacon Station) and drove a decent BLM road to within a mile of the summit on the northwest side. Better yet, I found tracks I could follow across the sandy terrain that would take me to within half a mile, right to the base of the peak. The climb would take only 20min each way, via some easy but fun class 3 scrambling up various steep gullies. I found the skeleton of a teenage bighorn ram in one of these, a bit of a reminder that this scrambling stuff has some dangers. It was the best scrambling on the day and a neat little summit separated from its higher neighbors to the east. There were good views all around, even if the highway was a little too close for an authentic Wilderness experience. The softer lighting in the late afternoon was especially pleasing. I left a register here before returning via much the same route. I was back by 4:20p, surprised that I had managed it before the sun had set. I quickly showered where I'd parked before the sun could finish the day, then headed off to Baker for some dinner. I would return to the Rasor exit to camp on the north side of the highway in preparation for the next day's adventure...


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