Peak 2,871ft P750
Peak 2,641ft P300
Peak 2,500ft P300
Peak 2,903ft P300

Apr 13, 2020

With: Tom Becht

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profiles: 1 2


The last day of a short desert road trip saw us tooling around in the Sacramento Mountains southwest of Needles, CA. We had originally planned for some scrambling opportunities in the Whipple Mtns, but that was the opposite direction to which Tom planned to head after I went home. So we went for an easier option, driving the backroads of the Sacramento Range. Tom was happy exploring the roads in his jeep while I was happy to pick up some stragglers I'd missed on previous visits here. We drove our own vehicles in keeping with social distancing guidelines during these strange COVID-19 times. None of the day's summits had any technical challenges, all class 2.

Peak 2,871ft

This was the only peak in which either of had any interest, sporting more than 800ft of prominence. Adam Walker and pals had visited a few years earlier. We drove up a sandy wash to Monumental Pass on the south side of the peak. We parked where the jeep trail comes closest, about a mile due south of the summit. We went up one of the ridges on that side and down a gully to the west of our ascent route. We took 45min to reach the open, rounded summit with a fine view of Eagle Peak (the most prominent summit in the range) to the north. As expected, we found the register left by Adam under a modest cairn. It had only a thin plastic tube to hold the loose piece of paper so we left one of our own that should last a little longer.

Peak 2,641ft

About five miles west of Peak 2,871ft, this summit lies out by itself off the west side of the range and the easiest of the day at less than a quarter mile each way. On the drive there, we passed through the site of an old homestead with a deep, sealed vertical mineshaft nearby. An old road goes up from our parking spot (don't try to drive it or you may end up on the rocky, steep hillside with a difficult turnaround. The road disappears and a trail emerges near the summit to take one to the top. An antenna of some sort used to reside at the summit. It can be seen fallen off the east side with the foundation of the tower still at the summit. Barbara and Gordon had been to the peak back in 1984, but we found no sign of their usual register. We left one of our own before heading back.

Peak 2,500ft

We drove further north, utilizing utility roads going north and east to reach a point about a mile and quarter north of Peak 2,500ft. The Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness lies on the north side of where we parked. Though the south side in the direction of our peak is not Wilderness, no roads were available to get us closer. The peak is the highpoint of a minor side ridge off the main body of the range. A pleasant walk across the flowery desert flats gets one to the rounded slopes of the summit, about 45min each way. We flushed out a rabbit on our way there, not so unusual, but this one stopped a short distance from us to check us out, long enough to get a picture. Normally they tear off into the distance and pictures are impossible. On our way back via a slight variation, we ran across a roadrunner's nest hidden in the brush. Mom came scampering out to lead us away from the nest. If there were eggs or small chicks in there somewhere, we didn't see them.

Peak 2,903ft

This last summit is found just off Interstate 40 near the north end of the range. The easiest way to climb it would have been to park off the Interstate and climb the half mile distance from there. I decided to make it a legal affair since it was only 1p and our last summit, so we did 2.5mi approach from the west. The hike was another long, flat walk, pleasant enough with lots of flowers and not a single cholla though we were well within the Wilderness. We found a register left by Mark Adrian six months earlier and signed our names to it. The most interesting find of the day was an old, rusty sedan from the late 1940s lying partially buried in a sandy wash. It had a CA license plate and in better shape than most such finds. As I went to peer in the open door on the driver's side, I instinctively jumped back when I heard the familiar rattle sound. A very large rattlesnake had made itself at home under the dash inside. After the initial fright, we tried to flush it out with a stick, only to get it to move into the engine compartment. The hood had two doors that open from the side, so I flipped one of these up to see if the snake could be found. It was, and not happy at all, coiled in a defensive posture and ready to strike if we got too close. The snake was probably two inches in diameter and three feet long, and we wondered just how far could it jump out at us. We took a few photos before reclosing the hood to leave the snake be. The inside of the car and engine bay looked to have been home to generations of rodents that had nested inside, only to have been driven out by the snake. He seemed a clever one, fat and healthy as any desert rattler could hope to be. We came across a few more desert creatures on our way back including a second, smaller rattlesnake. I don't think I'd seen even half a dozen snakes in the hundreds of days I'd spent in the desert and here I'd come across two within an hour. We were back to the jeeps by 3:30p to call it a day. Tom headed off to the Old Woman Mtns while I started for home. I only made it as far as the Central Valley, stopping to rest for the night around 11p when I was still several hours from home...

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