Peak 3,039ft P300
Horn Peak P750
Peak 3,031ft P300
Peak 2,870ft
Peak 2,153ft P300

Sat, Feb 27, 2021
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I had spent the night camped about a mile from SR62 in the southern part of the Turtle Mtns, not far from the Colorado River and the CA/AZ border. I was here to do a 13mi loop taking in Horn Peak, a summit with more than 750ft of prominence. It had been on the agenda to do with Eric, but we had bypassed it earlier in the week in favor of another day spent in Arizona. With Eric having returned to New Mexico, I had a few days before needing to return home myself, so Horn Peak made it back on the agenda. The southwestern part of the Turtle Mountains is composed mostly of granitic rocks, not the more interesting dark volcanic rocks we scrambled on a week earlier, or later in the Whipple Mtns. Still, it is not without its charm - the peaks are higher for more of a workout, and with better views. And I enjoy the occasional long day of class 2 rambling from peak to peak. Today's ramble would cover 13mi and more than 3,500ft of gain, taking the better part of nine hours.

I was up early for the 5-6mi drive north to the Wilderness boundary, starting out just after sunrise around 6:20a. I followed pieces of an old route into the Wilderness along the edge of Vidal Valley, passing a number of old cairns that had been erected at various places along the route up the wash system. After about an hour's time, I turned west into a side wash that would lead into the mountains between Horn Peak and the first summit of the day, Peak 3,039ft. The wash narrowed as it split off in different directions. I climbed out of the wash southeast of Peak 3,039ft, eventually gaining the South Ridge which I could then follow to the summit. It took more than 2hrs to reach this first summit, portending of a long day. Horn Peak rises prominently about a mile to the southwest. The range HP is much further, 3-4mi to the northwest, and less distinct from this vantage point. I left a register before continuing on to Horn Peak.

I dropped west and southwest off Peak 3,039ft to reach the low saddle with Horn Peak, then began the 1000ft+ climb up Horn Peak's NE Ridge. I reached the summit an hour after leaving the first peak, finding a large cairn, a benchmark, and a busy register with more than 26 pages. It was one of the oldest desert registers I've come across, dating back to 1969. It was left by a member of the Rockatomic Stamp Club, of Canoga Park, CA, where I was born and grew up. As I understand it, the club was formed by Rocketdyne and Rockwell employees who didn't want their employer to know they were really getting together to go rockclimbing and peakbagging, the sort of extracurricular activity they didn't think would be approved. This is the same group known amongst themselves as the Vagmarken, a short history of which can be found here. It appears that Bob K. was trying to climb the range HP, a DPS summit, mistakenly landing himself here. Andy Smatko and pals visited Horn Peak later in the same year and castigated him for the error, but others would do the same thing - an easy mistake to make before GPS was widely used. There were other amusing entries, bickering among peakbaggers and the like, spanning 50yrs. The most recent page were all folks I know, not too surprising.

The next stretch to Peak 3,031ft was more than 2.5mi in length, following a long ridgeline between the two peaks, separating two major drainages in the range. Animal trails helped make some of this easier. It would occupy me for the next two hours, up and over intermediate bumps, passing through several saddles. The last saddle, just before the final climb to Peak 3,031ft, was the location of the Virginia May Mine. A rough road climbed to this point from where I had parked earlier, now all part of the Wilderness and not driven on in years. There were still bits of the bluegreen mineral they were extracting from the side of the hill, but judging from the lack of significant tailings, nothing much came of it. Barbara & Gordon had left a register atop Peak 3,031ft (which they called "Virginia May Mine Peak") in 1992, with only a few entries that continued the bickering from the previous register.

Another mile to the southeast rose Peak 2,870ft, my next stop, along the same continuing ridgeline. This would take most of an hour to negotiate, some Joshua Tree-like granite features found along the final climb on Peak 2,870ft's NW Ridge. Though it had only 295ft of prominence, I thought the summit a good one and left a register here before continuing on. There is a slightly lower summit shortly along the ridge, then further down is a point marked as May BM on the topo map. I found the benchmark at this point and an unexpected register left by Richard Carey and Mark Adrian in 1997. Bob Greer was the only other visitor in 2019. May BM marked the end of the long ridge, after which it drops steeply to the desert floor below. I decended the SSW Ridge, a not-unpleasant scramble for much of it, losing almost 1,000ft. Once on the desert flats, I continued southeast towards the last summit, Peak 2,153ft. I skirted around some intervening hills to reach this standalone summit from the northwest side. From a distance, the NW Ridge seems straightforward, but upon reaching the base of it, it looks more complex. Still, it was no more than class 2, taking less than 15min to scramble. The views stretch over Vidal Valley to the east and south. To the west, the Turtle Mtns continue reaching south for another 5-7 miles. The Jeep could barely be seen just over a mile to the east, and after leaving my last register, I started off in that direction. I descended Peak 2,153ft's NE Ridge, traversed the head of a small drainage, then through a low saddle to drop into Vidal Valley. It would take an hour and change to get from the last summit back to the jeep, arriving by 3:15p.

I showered where I'd parked, put on some fresh clothes and spent the next few hours driving back to SR62, east to Vidal Junction and north on US95 to Needles. I got gas on the AZ side of the river ($2/gal cheaper than on the CA side) and dinner from Jacks before leaving town. It would be dark before I settled into the Sacramento Mtns for the night, about a mile south of I-40. One more half day of hiking, then home...


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