Fri, Dec 10, 2021
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We decided to stay on PDT time for the entire trip to save switching clocks back and forth between AZ and CA/NV. Times reported today are all PDT despite being in AZ.
Today we had a larger group, seven in all for our romp around the Black Mtns of Mohave County. When I had invited Chris to join us, he asked if he could invite a friend of his from the Las Vegas area. That friend turned out to be Stav, someone I've been wanting to meet up with for a few years now. I've seen his Stav-is-Lost blog posts for a while, making good use of them for my own desert outings. He and Chris are both much younger, with the stamina for long outings I haven't had in a decade. Tom was the only one among the rest of us that could run with Big Dogs, the rest of us I relegated as the Pups. The peaks for the day's outing were suggested by Stav who had seen them in satellite views as the volcanic plugs that make for some of the best desert scrambling available. There were no TRs for any of the unnamed bunch, so we were on our own for planning purposes. We looked at several driving options, one from the north and another from the south, eventually settling on the latter at Chris's recommendation. We left most of the vehicles at the Oatman Highway and took the two Jeeps on the 4mi drive along the Wilderness boundary to the end of the rough BLM road we followed. Our plan was to climb the first peak as a group, then unleash the Big Dogs to go at a faster pace, giving them time to get to all eight (or was it nine?) peaks they had planned for the day. The rest of us would make a more leisurely outing to the first 4-5 summits. The previous night's weather had changed from light rain to wind to clear skies, leaving us with a beautiful, chilly morning and sunny skies, nearly ideal for the day's adventure.
Our first summit, Peak 2,550ft, was less than a mile from our starting point, clearly visible up the wash we started hiking just after 7:30a. At a leisurely pace, there was much lively conversation. Stav, it turns out, is as wildly animated as Iris, giving us twice the usual fun. Stav had no trouble fitting in nicely, and we enjoyed his company tremendously. There was much banter hiking up the wash in small groups that changed regularly, eventually leading us to the base of the peak where we started up the class 2 slopes towards our summit. Tom, Stav and Chris pulled ahead once the climbing started, easily beating the rest of us to the top about 45min after starting out. There were some cholla gardens to negotiate and standard class 2-3 terrain, nothing difficult at all for the group. We joined the others at the summit in turn, collecting the lot of us there by 8:30a. Phones came out to log the summit to the PB app, a thoroughly modern take on peakbagging, that brought both mirth and good-natured ridicule. The peak is nicely located to take in the next 3-4 summits arrayed in a W-E line to the north of us. After rejecting scary descent options to the east, our front group headed back off the west side and down a gully heading north. It was the last we'd see of them for the day. Interestingly, we would recreate their route to the next four peaks almost exactly - as we like to say, great peakbagging minds think alike.
The Puppy group of four had a more leisurely descent off Peak 2,550ft. Iris in particular needed to take the descents slowly, so as to avoid slips and awkward movements that might reinjure her knee. For most of the day, I would generally be ahead of the others for a short distance, then wait for them to catch up, rinse and repeat. I admit enjoying the relaxed pace more than I would have in the past. Next up was Peak 2,620ft. After descending our gully, we crossed a shallow basin before starting the ascent of Peak 2,620ft from the south and southeast, ascending a long gully and climbing a short stretch of class 3 on the east side near the top. It took us a little over an hour between the first two summits. We had another restive break at the summit before heading off for #3, Peak 2,645ft. The traverse between the two was the easiest of the series, with a short drop of less than 300ft between them and a distance of less than half a mile. The only class 3 was the initial descent off Peak 2,620ft, after which it became an easy hike, taking about 40min. Though the easiest of the bunch, Peak 2,645ft was the only summit where we found a register. It had been well-hidden such that our front group never saw it. Nor had anyone else, as ours were the first signatures after the initial ones of MacLeod and Lilley back in 2001.
Continuing east, the next summit, Peak 2,700ft, would prove the most interesting of the day. Chris had sent me a short text that they had found a fun class 3 route up the improbably West Face, with some ducks found along the way. We dropped about 400ft to the saddle between the two summits before starting up the talus slope reaching up to the base of the Southwest Face. The West Face to my left was huge cliffs with no viable way up that I could see, so I surmised Chris had used "West" as shorthand for "Southwest". Ahead of the others, I walked up the first of a series of ledges to see that while I couldn't say the route would work, it was certainly worth exploring. As the others reached the base of the cliff and ledge system, I stayed in front, probing left and right to find the more likely route. It was quite fun, switching left, then right, then left again as we gained elevation up the ramps and through the cliff faces. We found the ducks mentioned by Chris, eventually finding our way to the top after about half an hour on the face - great fun. There were two options at the finish, either a crack that Eric climbed on the right, or an airy arete with juggy holds on the left that I preferred. We were curious as to who had left the ducks on such a neat route, but without a register we would be left guessing.
While taking another summit break, I wandered over to the east side to see if we could find an easier way off. The northeast and east sides did not look promising, and though there was some downward progress that could be made, those sides looked to have cliff issues lower down. Instead, we headed southeast, following the only route that seemed like it might have a chance on this side. It funneled down to a steep, brushy channel, class 3, and not all that enjoyable, but it worked. It dropped us off at the base of the cliffs on the South Face, leaving us class 2 talus slopes to return to the wash system below. I had enough energy for one last summit, Peak 2,753ft, another half mile to the east, but only Jim was interested in joining me. So the two of us made a descending traverse southeast across the slopes, while the others dropped more directly to the wash below which they could follow back to the Jeeps. After working our way down, we moved into an adjacent wash between Peak 2,700ft and Peak 2,753ft, crossed it, and started up the last peak from the southwest. It was an easier ascent than the last to be sure, mostly class 2 with an easy class 3 summit block that took one atop an airy perch. A bit behind me, Jim arrived at the base of the block by a slightly different route, a bit easier than my ascent route and one we'd use for the descent. We stayed long enough to survey our surroundings, identify the peaks further to the east that we'd miss out on, and take a short break.
Now almost 1p, we would spend the next hour and change descending back down the last peak and then walking the pleasant gravel wash back to the Jeeps. We found Eric and Iris hanging out, beer in hand (or already consumed), smiles on their faces. After swapping out of my boots and packing stuff away, the four of us headed back to the highway and the other vehicles. The Big Dogs would be another hour or two behind us, so rather than wait for Tom to return with the others, Iris decided to drive with us as we headed to Lake Havasu City for dinner and margaritas. Not a bad way to cap off a fun day...
This page last updated: Mon Dec 27 18:30:25 2021
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