Peak 3,147ft P300
Peak 3,020ft P300
Peak 3,494ft P750

Fri, Jan 15, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


My third day in the Soda Mtns was as enjoyable as the first two, but not nearly as prolific. This was due to a combination of factors - a long hike to the first peak and lots of driving on a pretty crappy road. I ended up with only three summits, having to save the last two for a later date. I'd spent the night camped south of Baker about a mile from Interstate 15. This would allow me to grab breakfast and coffee in Baker before heading north on SR127. I turned off at dirt Silver Lake Rd (excellent condition), driving it to near the southern boundary of the Ft. Irwin military reservation. Here I picked up a powerline road heading southwest along the reservation boundary, north of the Soda Mountains and the associated Wilderness.

Peak 3,147ft

This first peak is located deep in the range with no easy way to reach it. The closest approach is about 4mi each way from the powerline road I drove in the early morning. The road is in terrible shape, washboarded to such a degree that alternate routes have sprung up adjacent to it, and these, too, have become terrible in turn. I had something like 12 miles of this road to drive and it wore me out, taking more than an hour. I had been on this road two years earlier with Matt Yaussi in his car to do a couple of other peaks in the range, but had forgotten just how bad it was. Consequently, it wasn't until nearly 8a that I started out for the first summit. The hike to, and climb of the peak are pretty tame, but the distance is long at almost four miles each way. It was a pleasant walk from the powerline road for three miles, gaining 400ft in the process. The footing is very good and the surface mostly flat, if a little sandy. I followed a wash up from the north, eventually climbing out to reach the open summit. I found the upper part of the wash/gully a bit too rocky and somewhat slow-going, so on the way back would descend one of the rounded ridgelines on the east side of the wash. I left a register at the top during my short break - when I'm by myself, my summit stays tend to get truncated to only a few minutes. The temperature was more comfortable on the way back, probably in the low 50s, better than the 40F when I had started. I was back a little after 10:30a.

Peak 3,020ft

This summit is located within the Ft. Irwin reservation. It is part of an expansion to the base done in the 1990s. The peak lies in the South Avawatz Mountains Wilderness Study Area, a Wilderness that never came to be with the expansion. On the visit with Matt in 2018, we had paid a visit to the adjacent Red Pass BM, a few hundred feet higher and a P1K. Peak 3,018ft has just under 400ft of prominence and is slightly further inside the reservation boundary, about a mile and a half from where I parked under the transmission lines. I forgot my GPSr in the car when I headed out, so no GPX track for this one. Approaching from the southeast, the reservation boundary is encountered less than 10min after starting. It is a simple barbed-wire fence with a never-used patrol road immediately on the other side of the fence. Past that are some deep channels bulldozed to keep vehicles from driving into the base across the desert - like a moat to keep out invading hordes. After crossing the mile-long flat portion, I went up the SE Ridge via one of several class 2 options, reaching the summit in under an hour. There are two points vying for the highpoint. The west summit appears to be about 15ft higher, but the spot elevation is on the east summit and only a short distance away. On the descent, I decided to drop southwest to the saddle with Red Pass BM and then follow some thin animal trail down to a wash just south of the ridgeline I had ascended. It was no better or worse than the ascent route, just different. I was back by 12:40p, thinking I still had plenty of time on the day.

Peak 3,494ft

This last summit is the third highest in the Soda Mountains and fifth most prominent with nearly 800ft of prominence. It lies a little over a mile from the powerline road, rising steeply some 1,800ft above the surrounding desert. It is a bit unlike other parts of the range, composed of limestone and other metamorphic rock along with the usual mix of volcanic rock. There had been some mining on the south side of the peak and the mining road that reaches it from the powerline road is a cherry stem into the Wilderness, allowing closer access if one has a high-clearance vehicle. The road is slow-going, and it would take me nearly an hour to reach the end of it from the previous parking spot. I parked where the road ran out at the base of a mine complex, long in disuse. The terrain here is steep and highly complex, making for the most interesting scrambling on the day. The safest way (and mostly class 2) appears to be to ascend a gully leading to a saddle southwest of the summit. I had started up this way, but got distracted by a more interesting class 3 route that presented itself going up the southeast side of the summit. The climbing was not hard but a bit exposed in a few places, and I went slowly to ensure my hold were secure. The footing was quite solid on the places where it counted the most and I enjoyed the 40min it took me to make the half mile distance to the summit.

There are two summits separated by a quarter mile, both appearing equally high. The discussions in the registers said as much. A Lilley/MacLeod party had left a register on the west summit in 1978. It was only two days after the register they'd placed on Peak 3,425ft elsewhere in the range that I visited the previous day. A small handful of visitors had signed the log since then, most recently in 2014. It took about 15min to traverse to the east summit where I found a second register, left by John Vitz in 1999 who indicated the east summit was higher as measured by his hand level. I descended to the southeast off the east summit, looking for an alternate way down without knowing if I could even find one in that direction. I dropped into a gully that grew steeper, eventually blocked by a chockstone that I was able to work around, no more than class 3. I then moved to the right (west) hoping to get into an adjacent drainage that would take me more directly back to where I had parked. I came across the first of several prospects and mineshafts, conveniently connected by a trail built by the miners back in the day. Oddly, the trail did not reach all the way back down, but sort of petered out when I reached a saddle about 100ft above the Jeep. The scramble back down from there over loose rock wasn't dangerous or difficult and by 3p I had returned to the Jeep.

It was clear by now that I wasn't going to get another peak in before the sun would set. They would have to wait for another time. I drove back out to the powerline road before stopping to take a warm shower with the last of the day's sunshine. I then drove back out to SR127 and to Baker where I had dinner for the third evening running. With all outdoor dining in the state closed, it would have to be take-out of course, but that suited me fine. I ate part of my meal as I drove west on I-15 towards Barstow, the other half after I'd pulled off at the Harvard exit where I was to meet Iris and Tom. It would be several hour and nearly bedtime by the time they arrived - they had climbed Argus and East Ord today, not arriving at the second summit until sundown - much more effort than I had put in today...


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