Peak 2,820ft P300
Peak 5,459ft P300
Peak 5,715ft P300

Mon, Nov 8, 2021
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX

The first desert road trip of the season had me heading to Las Vegas and Death Valley to meet up with some of my usual partners in crime. It's a long eight hour drive to Las Vegas, so I broke it up with some easy peakbagging on the way. I had gotten up before 5a so I would have a few hours of daylight in the shorter afternoon we get post-DST. The three summits are all located on the northern edge of the Mojave National Preserve, just south of Interstate 15. All unnamed, the peaks were climbed by Andy Smatko back in the 1970s, so I was hoping to find a few old registers.

Peak 2,820ft

I used the Halloran Springs exit off I-15, 10mi northeast of Baker, now a ghost exit with no services where the Hi-Lo Restaurant used to serve travelers. Behind the restaurant site is an old, sandy road called Park Ave on Google Maps heading southwest. It seems a bit sketchy to start, but gets better and has little encroaching brush. I followed it for a few miles before taking a left fork and then a left turn after a few more miles. Now heading southeast and south, I drove another 2-3 miles until I was almost due east of the peak, only half a mile distance. It took only 20min to hike up a subsidiary ridge to the top, or what I expected to be the top per LoJ. There are two summits, and the eastern one I stood upon is shown on the topo map as 4m higher than the western one, but it sure didn't look like it. I decided to visit the western one about a quarter mile away, first taking a reading from the GPSr on the east summit. The west one proved to be about 9-10ft higher, judging by the GPSr and my visual take, so I had to conclude that the topo map is in error. I found no register on either summit, but I did find an old 7-UP bottle and a very worn-out pick-axe. I left one of my registers on the west summit before heading back via an alternate route that skirted around the north side of the east summit. I spent just over an hour and a half on the effort.

Peak 5,459ft - Peak 5,715ft

Access to these two summits is a bit tricky. They are located southwest of Mountain Pass. The peaks are part of the Mescal Range, whose other summits I had visited on previous occasions. The topo map shows a dirt road originating from the Mountain Pass exit going under an overpass a few miles west of the exit. It does not appear that this route is driveable any more, but it could be hiked on foot. I believe it is now intended as an animal corridor under the Interstate. A close inspection of the satellite view shows a point just west of the underpass that might allow vehicle access from the truck lane on the east-bound side. The tricky part is that you have to slow quickly and get off the pavement rather abruptly, careful to be sure there are no trucks right behind you. I then found a wire gate that had to be untangled, moved aside, and then squeeze the Jeep through the opening with only an inch of clearance on either side. Though there are no signs, I wondered of the legality of this and was happy to get through the fence and away from the highway. The topo map shows a road heading southeast on the northeast side of the first summit, and another looping around to go up the wash between the two summits. I had intended to use this latter option, but found no sign of recent use on it, and suspect it is no longer viable. Instead I followed the first road southeast until I was abreast the first summit, within 1/3mi. I would make a 2.5mi loop going over both summits, starting from here.

It took less than 20min to reach the first summit via the NE Ridge, finding a nice view north to Clark Mtn, and views east and south of the Mescal Range. I looked around for a Smatko register, but found none and left one of my own. I then had to drop down into the wash where I'd hoped to park. I had some measure of satisfaction in finding no evidence of anyone driving up the wash, at least in recent times, justifying my choice of starting points. I then climbed up to Peak 5,715ft, taking about 50min between the two summits. Again I looked for a register, but came up empty, almost. I dug out a few last rocks, deeper than seemed reasonable, and discovered the small blue pill bottle that proved to be the Smatko register from 1977 I was looking for. There were no other signatures save for he and his pal, Ray Nelson, some 44yrs earlier. I now suspected there was probably a similar register on the first summit and I had simply not dug deep enough, but I was not going to go back to find out. Instead, I descended back to the wash and skirted around the south side of Peak 5,459ft to go over a low pass that would take me back to the Jeep by 5p. The sun had set almost half an hour earlier, but it was still sufficiently light to go without a headlamp. I drove back out to the highway as it was growing darker, going through a similar routine to get the Jeep through the narrow gate opening. I then had to wait a nervous minute for a gap in the traffic wide enough to drive onto the the pavement and get up to speed without causing an incident. Once back in the flow of traffic, I relaxed and continued on my way to Nevada where I was to meet up with Tom that evening...

Continued..


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