I still had a few days left of an extended road trip. I was back in
California the previous night, sleeping off US95 in a wash somewhere
between SearchLight and Needles. In the morning I drove out to Essex for
some peakbagging fun in the Piute Mtns. I had visited the area in 2012
to do the range highpoint, a P1K, then ignored it. Some online research
showed that the Piute Mtns Wilderness has a cut through it to allow
OHV access north-south across the range. This looked to make for some fun
Jeeping while allowing access to a bevy of minor summits. It proved to
be a very enjoyable day, garnering 9 summits before the day was up.
Portions of US66 between Needles and Ludlow have been out of commission
since floods wiped out some pavement. Caltrans has installed some
Road Closed barriers at several locations, but one can drive around
them, seemingly without repercussions. I went around the easternmost one so
that I could access the BLM's Piute Crossing route starting from US66.
It turns out the junction is about 1/4mi east of the first road washout. I
checked out the washout - still no work to repair it - but there is a
graded bypass that any vehicle can use - just not at highway speeds. The
Piute Crossing Route is suitable for high-clearance. 4WD may be needed for
sections with deep sand. The Jeep had no issues, though there was
pinstripping to be had in some places.
This was the first summit encountered after driving the first 3mi of the
BLM route. The peak looks like a mini-volcano, standing out by itself
from the rest of the range. I parked about mile to the south of it,
following a wash downhill to the north to reach the base
of the peak, then
up the east side where the gradient is slightly easier. Though steep, the
footing is decent and goes quickly. I left the first of nine registers
on the day, a record, I believe.
I drove a few more miles south on the main route, then a spur road to the
southeast that gets one within half a mile on the west side of the
peak. I went up and down the West Ridge, using a nice burro trail to
start. At the summit I found a tattered mining claim in
a rusted tin. It dated to
the 1920s, though the exact date had disintegrated. I left the claim in
the tin along with a new register at the highpoint.
This summit (and the next two) lies on the west side of the Piute Crossing
route, about 1.5mi southwest of the previous peak. I parked about half a
mile east of the peak and went up the East Ridge for the
ascent, and an alternate route to the southeast for the descent. Andy
Smatko had visited
the peak in 1966, but I was unable to find any evidence of his visit. I
added his name to the register I left before descending.
Peak 3,874ft - Peak 3,891ft
These two peaks can be combined with the previous one as they lie only a
short distance to the south. I probably would have done this, but I forgot
to bring more registers. So back to the Jeep I went, moving it a short
distance south, and then doing these two peaks in a nice little loop -
up the Northeast Ridge of Peak 3,874ft, then southeast to
Peak 3,891ft across the connecting saddle, then down
the NNW Ridge of Peak 3,891ft. Most of these and the previous
peaks are composed of darker volcanic rock with good footing.
Peak 4,114ft - Peak 4,051ft - Peak 4,183ft
The last four summits were decomposing granite peaks, loose slopes with
better granite at the summits. This group of three are found east of the
main route and the previous two peaks. A spur road leads to a game guzzler
on the southwest side of Peak 4,183ft (later I found the spur I used was inside
the Wilderness now. It's not really needed as it adds less than half a mile to
the outing). I parked before the guzzler, due south of Peak 4,114ft
and started from there. It was a short but steep climb up its south side.
The summit is a jumble of granite blocks, but still class 2 (as all
the peaks today were). The traverse between Peak 4,114ft and Peak 4,051ft to
the east went across some rolling terrain, surprisingly lush compared
to most of the desert in this area. The southwest face of Peak 4,051ft
looked intimidating, leading me to look for an easier route - I found it on
the SE Ridge, easy class 2. Because it needed investigating, I decided
to check out the SW Face on the descent, finding it easier than it had looked
easier, thanks to a convenient groove and slope connecting to
easier ground below. Though the highest of the trio, Peak 4,183ft
proved the easiest, going up the NE side and down the NW Slope. John
Vitz had visited in 1999, but I found no register as expected, sadly.
This peak is the furthest south of the day's summits, just outside the
Wilderness boundary and south of BLM route 212. I parked
north of the peak about 1/3mi away, going up one route and
down another on the north side.
It was 4p by the time I returned and time to call it a day. I decided
to drive out west on BLM route 212 that goes through the
Lazy Daisy Ranch. I thought I might find a locked gate, but it appears
there is an easement
through the ranch (some cattle are grazed out here, though I saw none
today) to allow through traffic. I drove out through Essex on US66 and
then to a campsite about a mile away (need to get some distance from the
busy railroad that goes through Essex). More fun tomorrow...