Peak 1,961ft P500

Mon, Jan 18, 2021
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I was on my own for this last day of a 7-day roadtrip in the Mojave Desert. I returned to the Soda Mountains to tackle the two remaining summits I had left in the range, though I only ended up doing one of these. Peak 1,961ft is one of the lowest summits in the range, but has more than 600ft of prominence. It lies on the east side of the range not too far from Baker, CA. I spent the night camped peacefully on Silver Lake Rd at the edge of Silver Lake. I got up around 5a to begin my day early, well before sunrise. The heavy trucks that ply the road would not begin rumbling up and down the road until after I had started out before 6a - they would have been a rude awakening if I'd still been asleep when the first one went by. Near as I can tell, they are used to transport material from an open pit mine in the Ft. Irwin Military Reservation. The mine is located in the eastern end of the reservation, part of an extension that was added in the 1990s. I suspect the road is open to this mine in the Avawatz Mtns without a military checkpoint, but the public is strongly discouraged from doing so with ominous signs on Silver Lake Rd at its junction with SR127. My route this morning would be well outside the reservation boundary, in the Soda Mountains Wilderness.

I started by headlamp in the predawn hour, crossing the western edge of dry Silver Lake. I left the lakebed after a mile, beginning a slow rise to the southwest up gently rising terrain with easy walking. I eventually made y way to the northwest side of the peak after 2.5mi, choosing to ascend a gully rising to the north side of the summit. About 2/3 of the way up the gully I turned right to climb onto the North Ridge and followed this to the top, arriving by 7:10a, only 15min after sunrise. It was cold and chilly, but there was little wind today, and the lighting was quite favorable. Andy Smatko had been to the summit in 1972, the only ascent recorded online. I had hoped to find one of his tiny registers, but had no luck finding it among the summit rocks. I added his name to a register I'd brought with me, leaving it under a small cairn before heading down. Rather than return down the gully, I found what seemed a better route down a series of ridges northeast of the summit. I straightened out my route back across the flats (easier to do when it was light out and I could see the terrain better), getting me back before 8:30a. I had plenty of time to do the second summit I had planned near the Rasor Rd exit, but I was more in the mood to save it for another time and get on with the business of driving home. Seven days had been enough and I was missing home and wife...

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