Tue, Dec 20, 2022
The last day of an 18-day desert roadtrip had us in the northeast corner of the Orocopia Mountains, south of Joshua Tree NP and Interstate 10. The main objective was Peak 2,799ft with more than 850ft of prominence, but that was really just an excuse - it could have been any collection of summits that we could do before it was time for me to join the family in La Quinta. We got off I-10 at the Red Cloud exit, left Tom's truck along Summit Rd, and drove the Jeep on a rougher dirt road to the base of the range, behind a small hill where an informal camp is found. This whole side of the range is outside the Ococopia Mountains Wilderness, but the reason wasn't obvious to us - it looks to be as wild as those parts inside the Wilderness.
From our start, we hiked across the desert flats, finding some twisted plane wreckage parts less than 10min out. There wasn't hardly enough for a whole plane - perhaps these were the pieces someone collected after the main wreckage had been hauled away. We entered a rocky wash heading south, following it up to where it became a rocky gully leading to the summit of Peak 2,799ft in about 45min. We found the first of three Mark Adrian registers we would find on the day, all from Nov 2019, though three different dates. We next enjoyed a nice ridge hike to the southwest and west, very pleasant terrain that we wouldn't have minded lasting all day. Where the route turns south, we dropped to a mid-level saddle on the north side of Peak 2,740ft before climbing up to the top, taking a little over an hour between summits. We signed Mark's register here while taking a break and working out a way to our last summit, Peak 2,062ft.
This last one lies on the northern edge of the range, almost detached from the bulk of the Orocopias. The drainage off the north side of Peak 2,740ft descends to a small basin adjacent to the last summit, making this a convenient route. It turned out to be far more fun than we could have imagined. Once down the upper slopes, we reached a narrow, sandy wash that narrowed further with huge granite boulders, pools of water, scrambling through tunnels, and all the things that make this such a fun hobby. Not long after exiting the exciting part, we found an unexpected Jeep road and a neat campsite in the small basin at the base of our peak. We crossed the basin past several more informal campsites, some where gear had been stashed for future use, and then ascended the South Slopes to the summit of Peak 2,062ft. About an hour and a quarter between the last two summits.
TomB had called Iris several times through the morning, counseling her on work matters and, coincidently, looking to come out and play. While we sat atop Peak 2,062ft with good cell coverage, TomG and Iris were working out a plan on the peakbagger app as to where to meet him the following day. After their business was concluded, we descended the northeast side of the peak, steep but still class 2 (as was all the day's scrambling save for the fun wash descent), then another 45min across the desert flats on the north side of the range to return by 1:30p. I drove us back to Tom's truck and bade my companions goodbye, then headed west on I-10 to the Palm Springs area where I would meet up with the family later that afternoon...
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