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Today was a bit of a rematch in the Whipple Mtns in Eastern California. A year ago, I was with a group of friends doing a number of summits around Bowman Wash. Peak 2,940ft, with more than 750ft of prominence, was the big unknown, scary and difficult-looking from a nearby summit that we did together. I decided I didn't want to be disappointed if it was unclimbable and went off to do two other summits instead. The other three went to Peak 2,940ft and reported a fine scramble by an improbable route. Today I would return for the rematch, along with two other summit in the area that I had yet to climb.
I had spent the night camped in Parker, AZ, against my better judgement. I wanted to get ice and some other supplies in the morning, so found an empty lot off the main drag to spend the night. I had done this once before and slept poorly, due to the airport beacon flashing green and white all night. I made sure to have a tree block that this time, but other things transpired to make it less than ideal. Somewhere in the early AM, I heard someone going through the garbage bins at McDonalds, a few hundred yards from where I camped. Would they eventually find the Jeep and the cooler outside and harass me? The thoughts ran through my head, keeping me from sleeping for several hours until the trash bin noise finally stopped. In the morning, I was stopped by the Parker police as I was driving to Safeway, taking a shortcut across a closed parking lot. I got a grilling as to what I was doing and my purpose for being in AZ, but luckily no ticket. Better, he didn't run my plates or license, or he might have found the two unpaid speeding tickets from a decade ago. I should be more careful in this state.
The hike, on the other hand, went pretty much as planned. I spent just over 7hrs on the 11mi, 4,000ft of gain, outing. I drove about 6mi up Bowman Wash to find the start of an old mining road that would take me most of the way to the first summit. I did a poor job locating it intially, costing me an extra half mile, but nothing serious. The old road, and one of its many branches, though no longer open to vehicles since its now Wilderness, were quite nice as hiking trails to get me most of the way to the first summit. The last 3-400ft of gain were cross-country up lava rubble slopes, with some class 3 for the final bit to reach the summit in about an hour and a quarter. Copper Basin Reservoir can just be seen in the distance to the SE. Other volcanic plug summits surround the summit on most sides. Peak 2,940ft is about 1.7mi to the northwest. Getting there would make for the longest leg of the day, and the most challenging.
One has to first drop all the way to Whipple Wash, a 1,200-foot descent. I dropped to the northwest off the summit ridge (some fun class 3 along the ridge), standard class 2 stuff until I reached the bottom of the drainage. This soon narrowed and became a challenging bit of dry wash scrambling, dodging clat claw and other brush all the while. Deep in the canyon, it was very shady, the vegetation green and more plentiful than elsewhere. It took an hour and a quarter to descend this drainage to where it empties into the sandy, broader Whipple Wash. I followed the wash downstream for about a quarter mile until it was time to turn left and climb back up towards Peak 2,940ft. I was aiming for the only possible way through from this side, a notch on the ridgeline about 1/3mi south of the summit. The climb of more than 1,000ft went well thanks to the burro trail I followed just right of the gully's center. Once at the notch, I connected with the GPX track that the others had created a year earlier, coming from Peak 2,660ft. I had simply to follow the track as it traverses on the west side of the ridge for 1/4mi before ascending a class 2 chute, the only reasonable route up this fearsome-looking summit.
Once the class 2 chute is ascended, it ends in a large alcove where the route becomes more serious. A first glance, it seems to offer no way up the overhanging amphitheater, but upon closer inspection, the left side offers an amazing series of steep ramps with a few class 4 moves that combine to make this a desert classic by almost any measure. I enjoyed the scrambling here immensely, not finding myself spooked, but certainly making careful, measured moves when required. The difficulties end on the summit area to the west of the highpoint, with class 2 scrambling in an arc leading easily to the highpoint. It was nearly 11a by the time I summited, more than four hours from the start. I took in the swell views, answered the many texts I'd received for my birthday, and left a register here before packing up to leave.
Once off the technical portions of the summit, the remainder of the day was far more relaxed. I descended the class 2 chute, traversed back towards the notch, then followed Chris Kerth's continuing GPX track. There was one last summit, Peak 2,573ft, that the three had also done on that outing a year ago. The route traverses a dividing ridgeline for a short distance before dropping into a wash that would lead to the northwest side of Peak 2,573ft. The terrain here is quite different from the dark volcanic rock that forms most of the summits in this area. The rock is much lighter in color and far more broken, leaving much sand and gravel mixed with the rock. Where the wash turns northeast, I climbed out onto the right side to begin the climb up to Peak 2,573ft. This was a standard desert class 2 affair (with some cholla to dodge) until the summit plug, which is the darker volcanic rock, class 2-3 from the west side. I spent almost two hours on this leg, reaching the summit shortly before 1p. I left a second register on this one.
My return route followed much of Chris's track, though it is unlikely the most expediate way. After decending the west side, it follows ridgelines to the south, southeast and east, along the edge of the Whipple Wash drainage. It's quite scenic and fairly easy with burro trails to follow, but hardly direct. At the base of Peak 2,525ft (which I'd climbed previously), I turned north to pass through a saddle on the northwest side of that summit, then dropping steeply back down to the old road I had ascended initially. It was 3p by the time I returned to the Jeep, having thoroughly enjoyed the outing. Chris had done something like 5-6 summit on his outing to my three, so props to him and the others for making a much bigger day of it.
This page last updated: Tue Dec 27 14:48:44 2022
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