Peak 1,909ft P300
Peak 1,811ft
Peak 1,712ft
Peak 1,665ft P300
Peak 1,712ft P300
Peak 2,988ft P500
Peak 2,342ft P300
Peak 2,142ft
Peak 2,168ft P300

Feb 11, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profiles: 1 2


Day 2 of a 3-day roadtrip was a busy one. It was the only full day I had available, so I wanted to make the most of it, hiking from sunup to sundown. There was driving in-between, of course, otherwise I would not have had the energy to keep it up all day. I was on the north side of the Bristol Mountains, just outside the western boundary of the Mojave National Preserve and the sandy plains called the Devils Playground. The Union Pacific Railroad runs through here as does the Mojave Trail, now an OHV route across the Mojave Desert. The roads are decent, allowing speeds over 20mph, but there is a good deal of sand and 4WD is recommended if you're going to venture out this far. Most of the peaks were located in the Kelso Dunes Wilderness, which encompasses the northern half of the Bristol Mtns. I'd spent the night camped at Broadwell Lake and was up at 5a to start my day. I had 30mi of driving to reach my starting point that took more than an hour. Consequently, it was 6:45a before I started hiking, right at sunrise.

Peak 1,909ft - Peak 1,811ft

These two summits are found near the old RR stop of Glasgow. I parked along the railroad tracks northeast of the two peaks. The short loop was less than 2.5mi, taking an hour and a quarter. I followed the spine of the connecting ridge up to Peak 1,909ft, left a register there, and continued southwest to Peak 1,975ft, another half mile to the southwest. After reach the second summit, I dropped north off the ridge to the sandy desert flats and walked back along the base of the ridge.

Peak 1,712ft

This was the first of two peaks with the same elevation on the day. It is located 4mi WNW of the previous peaks, also on the south side of the railroad tracks, and similarly a 2.5mi roundtrip effort. I crossed over an old road (now within the Wilderness) on my way across the flats. I ascended an easy drainage slope with good footing, reaching the summit in 30min. As it was a soft-ranked summit and not particularly noteworthy, I didn't leave a register here.

Peak 1,665ft

The next two summits are located in the Devils Playground, along the Mojave Trail. I had planned to do these with Tom and the others a few weeks earlier, but we had ran out of time. After returning to the Jeep, I drove back west along the tracks, looking for a way to the north side. I found several crossing points but they were marked as Private Crossing - No Trespassing. The occasional undercrossings did not have the height to clear the Jeep, so the only way across was to use one of the private crossings. I went over one west of Sands, another old railroad water station, then proceeded to the powerline road running northeast to Jackass Canyon across the Devils Playground. Peak 1,665ft is found on the south side of the powerline road, near the road's apex where it crosses this collection of low hills. It took but ten minutes over sandy terrain to reach the highpoint.

Peak 1,712ft

This one is mostly a pile of sand. The difficulty here was driving-related. I could see the continuation of the powerline road to the north, at the base of Peak 1,712ft, but could not figure out how to drive to it. I tried one option that ended in a sand quagmire, and then continued east until my tracks were the only ones driving across the dunes in a barely-perceptible rut. I think this road eventually connects with the northern one further east, but I didn't want to risk getting stuck in the sand. So I parked atop a bluff south of Peak 1,712ft and simply walked the half mile distance between the two roads across the dunes, then climbed the tedious sand slope up to the highpoint. I had planned to leave a register on this one, but the highpoint was itself a dune with no solid rock to anchor a register. After defiling the wind-sculpted ridgeline to reach the highpoint, I took a few pictures and returned back down.

Peak 2,988ft - Peak 2,342ft

Back at the Jeep, I carefully negotiated the sand dunes to get the vehicle on firmer ground, then returned to the south side of the railroad tracks. I found another Private Crossing and parked immediately on the other side of it. These two summits were the meat of the day, comprising a 7mi loop with more than 2,000ft of gain. Peak 2,988ft has more than 700ft of prominence and takes a bit of work to reach. From the north, I followed a wash south until it turned into a rocky gully that climbs steeply up to the 1,900-foot level. The gully was a bit tedious to ascend, but the terrain above this becomes easier and more benign. I worked my way across shallow drainages to reach the north side of Peak 2,988ft, then ascended from that side to reach the top after almost 2hrs. The summit offers a commanding view across the northern Bristol Mtns and north across the Devils Playground and Soda Lake. I found a large cairn, likely built by surveyors, and hoped to find a register from Smatko, who'd visited in 1973. Finding none, I left one of my own before heading to Peak 2,342ft, about a mile to the NNW. This was an easier effort, taking about an hour to drop to a low saddle and then climb to the summit from the southeast. There was a small cairn here, but little else, save for more nice desert views. I descended to the northeast into a wash, one that drains off to the west, around the north side of Peak 2,342ft. This would have been a longish way to return, so instead I ascended another fork of the same wash to the north, going over a rounded divide between drainages, then off the northeast side into a deeper ravine to return more directly to where I'd parked. Returning by 3p, I'd spent about four and a quarter hours on the effort.

Peak 2,142ft - Peak 2,168ft

With a few hours of daylight remaining, I decided to get in a few more summits. These two peaks were part of a 4-peak, 8mi+ effort that I had planned, but that would not be reasonable unless I wanted to be out hours after dark (I didn't). So I chose to do the two easier summits that could be done in a more reasonable 4mi loop, saving the other two for the following morning. I drove six miles back along the powerline road that I had used at the start of the day, stopping when I was at the closest point to Peak 2,142ft, just under a mile away. The hike starts almost immediately with a steep ascent, about 600ft in half a mile. The route then levels off some as I made my way southeast towards the summit, reaching the highpoint about 45min after starting out. With daylight running low, I wasted no time heading to the second summit, Peak 2,168ft, another mile to the southwest. There is a deep drainage between them, so rather than follow a direct line, I followed the north and west edges of the drainage to save some elevation loss. I'm not sure if this actually saved any time or effort, but it made for a pleasant walk, taking about 45min. I left my last register at the summit before looking for a way off the mountain. The quickest route would probably have been to retrace part of my route to the northeast and north, but since I had sufficient time to make a larger loop, I descended to the northwest and north, into a drainage emptying to the west. The sun, having disappeared behind increasing clouds around noon, came out briefly as I was walking out the wash. Once on the open plains, I turned out of the wash to contour north and northeast around the base of the mountains, eventually returning to the powerline road and the Jeep where I finished up by 5:20p. I drove only a few miles southwest to where I would camp for the night and continuing my hiking the next morning. I was halfway between Baker and Ludlow, about 20mi from each. I could just see the lights of Baker from my campsite, but no truck or train sounds could be heard, leaving me a very quiet place to spend the night...


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