Peak 2,444ft P300
Peak 2,979ft P300
Peak 2,700ft P300
Peak 1,952ft P300
Peak 2,214ft P300
Black Ridge P300
Peak 3,100ft

Tue, Mar 9, 2021
Black Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Bristol Mtns Loop

The Bristol Mtns are a large desert range stretching more than 30mi on the west side of Mojave National Preserve. I had first been to the range in 2012 when I tagged the range highpoint. I forgot about it for another three years, then began coming back more regularly, first to tackle the P1Ks, then the P900s, eventually pretty much anything. Though it doesn't have the good scrambling of my favorite desert ranges, I enjoy it for its solitude - it sees few visitors despite being bisected by Interstate 40, and it's one of the few desert ranges of this size that doesn't have a DPS summit. I had camped just outside Amboy on a BLM road on the south side of the range. I was here to do a loop of 5 five summits, almost half the remaining summits I've still to do in the range. It would occupy me for much of the day, but I still had some time to do a lot of Jeeping to new places and pick up a few other summits in the area.

I was up at 5a to warm the Jeep and get ready to start my day. From the pipeline road I had camped on, there's a spur road heading north that I drove for 2.5mi to get me close to my peaks on the west side of the range. The road sees very little traffic but worked nicely as I took it easy in the Jeep, making my way up the broad alluvial plain, gaining 500ft in the process. I parked off the road and was ready to head out around 6:20a. The first summit, Peak 2,444ft, was about a mile and a quarter distance with 1,000ft of gain. From the Jeep, I continued northeast on foot up the alluvial wash to the south side of the peak. I then turned north, following a gully up the peak's south side. Nearing the top of the slope, I came across a cairn that I guessed had been left by a prospector back in the day. Looking inside, I spotted a rusty tobacco tin that held a mining claim from 1949. I suspect the claim was never filed with San Bernardino County (that would have cost a dollar and some effort), but simply recorded here with plans to return and file the claim with the country recorder if any valuable minerals had been found in the quartz rock. It was similar to countless quartz outcrops one finds scattered across the desert - they are often picked over by prospectors and rock hounds, but most of them prove of little commercial worth.

I topped out on what I thought was the summit by 7:20a, finding nice views and a slightly higher point to the north. Another ten minutes saw me to the other summit and by 7:30a I had reached Peak 2,444ft's highpoint. After a brief stop to leave a register, I dropped 500ft steeply off the east side on my way to the second summit, Peak 2,979ft. I crossed the upper end of a wash before ascending a gully heading east up another 1,000-foot slope. Like the first summit, the slope was steep but class 2, comprised of your standard broken granite and other volcanic rocks, decent footing but not very memorable scrambling - more of a workout than exciting. By 8:40a I had gained the main crest of the range about 1/3mi northeast of Peak 2,979ft. I hiked the ridgeline towards the summit, finding three points vying for highpoint honors. The middle summit was clearly lower than the other two, but I could not tell which of the west and east summits was higher. I visited them both in turn, pausing briefly on the east summit but not leaving a register - I'll leave it to some future visitor with more accurate surveying gear to figure out which one is the highest.

I turned southeast and began making my way towards Peak 2,700ft, about a mile and a quarter in that direction. It was the only traverse between summits that didn't drop down to a wash, but it did cross a low saddle before climbing more than 350ft. I reached the top of Peak 2,700ft by 10:15a and took another rest while leaving a register for future visitors. The view to the southeast is dominated by the profile of East Bristol BM, a near-P1K I had visited in 2015. I was now well past the halfway point, with the last two summits much lower. Peak 1,952ft was a mile away to the southwest. I descended 1,200ft down Peak 2,700ft's SW Ridge, crossed a wide wash, and ascended Peak 1,952ft from the northeast, about as direct a route between the two peaks as one could fashion. There was a cairn on the summit but no register. I decided to save my last one for the final summit, Peak 2,214ft, another mile to the northwest. Once again I dropped into a wash, following it north to approach Peak 2,214ft from the east. This would save me some of what looked like a tedious ridge traverse had I followed a more direct route. I found a loose gully that would take me up to the East Ridge which I then followed around and over a few obstacles before landing at the summit around 12:30p. At this point I was only a mile away from the Jeep which I could see on the desert plains below to the west. I left my last register here before starting down the NW Ridge, enjoying the descent at first, but finding it much longer than I would like. So rather than continue to its end, I dropped north into the wash on that side and hiked the wash back to the Jeep by 1p. All in all, it made for a fun loop, taking about 6h40m.

Black Ridge

I spent most of the next two hours driving. It wasn't a lot of miles, but lots of fun. It took a while to drive back out to Amboy, then west on Historic Route 66. Near the old RR stop of Klondike, I turned off onto an unsigned BLM road that would take me under the BNSF tracks that run along the north side of the highway. It was an interesting odyssey with some iunusual graffiti and old roads fading into obscurity. The initial route I tried to follow past an undercrossing was washed out and an alternative in the wash seemed to go nowhere. I backtracked some, following the RR road on the north side of the tracks for half a mile towards the Klondike site, then north again. This road was good in places, washed out in others. Detours had been informally developed to get past the washouts in three places. I would get out of the Jeep to survey the terrain to see if I could continue or would have to turn back. The road headed northeast around the west side of Black Ridge, a standalone ridgeline part of neither the Bristol Mtns nor the Lava Hills. Once I reached a pipeline road to the north of Black Ridge I turned east to use the much better road. I drove this until I was about a mile due north of Black Ridge's summit. The hike itself was not nearly as interesting as the drive, but it was nice to be walking again. I spent about 25min making my way to the highpoint following the North Ridge, finding a cairn, dilapidated survey tower, benchmark and a register left by Gordon MacLeod (sans Barbara) in 1981. It had sat their for nearly 40yrs waiting for a second entry. It was easily the best register I would find on this trip. From the summit, one can take in most of the Bristol Mtns stretching north to southeast. Interstate 40 was clearly visible (and heard) only a few miles to the north. After returning to the Jeep, I came to find there's a much easier way to get to Black Ridge via an unsigned junction of the BLM road and I-40. I used this to get myself quickly to I-40, saving almost an hour of driving back to Route 66. You'll need a GPS or cell phone to find this junction from I-40 - it's very easy to miss if you don't know where to look.

Peak 3,100ft

Once on I-40, I drove east a few miles to tag this minor summit on the north side of the Interstate. I had found a suitable crossing point from eastbound to the westbound side, then parked off the freeway less than half a mile from Peak 3,100ft. Peakbagging from I-40 is probably not exactly legal, but if you're parked less than 4hrs you're not likely to run into any problems. With this one, there was the added stress of being visible from the highway almost the entire time. Luckily no state troopers stopped to see what I was doing scrambling about the slopes. I knew from the topo map that there were two points 700ft apart with equal closed contours. I made my way to the western one first, finding that the east summit was obviously higher - by some 30ft or more. I followed the ridgeline between them to the higher point where a small cairn is found, but no register. I didn't leave one, thinking it was a little too close to the highway to be deserving of one. I zipped down the slope as fast as I could safely manage to get back to the Jeep before 4:30p. And I was quickly back on the highway heading west.

I planned to hike the next day in the Bristol Mtns north of Broadwell Lake. I was looking forward to getting dinner at the Dairy Queen in Ludlow, at the exit for Broadwell Lake. Unfortunately the DQ and 76 station were closed for remodeling. I would settle for soup tonight. I drove about halfway to Broadwell Lake on the good BLM road, finding a flat spot off the roadway near some transmission lines. I would be in bed before 8p with plans for an earlier rising so I could get a good hike in before driving home...


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