Peak 3,274ft P500
Peak 4,895ft P300
Peak 4,977ft P300
Peak 3,274ft P300
Peak 3,408ft P300

Jan 29, 2024

With: Patrick O'Neill

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


I was in the Mojave Desert for a shortish roadtrip that got shorter with inclement weather forecast for the tail end. Patrick came out to join me for what would be three days of decent weather before the predicted storm was due. His arrival time from Dana Point wasn't fixed, set at sometime between noon and late afternoon, depending on preparations and traffic. Consequently, I picked a selection of individual peaks that might accomodate this uncertainty.

Peak 3,274ft

This standalone summit is located on the southwest side of the Kingston Range, at the northern edge of San Bernardino County. It is 3.5mi inside the Kingston Range Wilderness boundary, making for a long walk for a single, nondescript peak - probably why none of the other regulars have bothered to pay a visit. The nearest approach is from the northwest. Well-graded roads lead from Tecopa to Lower Noonday Camp (on the topo), the site of the defunct Anaconda Mill (on Google). From there, a lesser BLM road heads southeast to the Wilderness boundary, high-clearance needed. A nice BLM sign indicates the boundary and the neccessity of travel by foot or horse. The road continues a short distance past the sign. My route traveled southeast across a broad alluvial fan that empties from the large canyon draining much of the Kingston Range. There are eleven dry creeks shown on the topo map that needed to be crossed, and a similar number of minor ones, too. None of them were very deep, lessening the tedium that such across-the-grain travel can often entail. It took about an hour to reach the base of the peak on its north side. I climbed onto the long North Ridge, composed of granite and darker volcanic rock, and followed this to the summit, taking another 35min. There is another summit of similar height 0.20mi to the southeast which I went to check out. I didn't know it at the time, but both summits had been surveyed, with the northwest summit being one meter higher. Rather than return along the longish ridgeline, I dropped to the northeast into the wash on that side and followed it back to the north side of the peak, then the 3mi across the grain back to the Jeep, about 4hrs all told. Patrick had texted that he was just leaving home, so I had more hours to burn.

Peak 4,895ft

I drove partway out on the BLM road I'd taken, turning north on another that would take me to Smith Talc Rd. This old paved road, combined with the Excelsior Mine Rd, runs through the northern part of the Kingston Range. The Excelsior Mine is still active, and the portion of the road from the east is well-maintained. The Smith Talc section west of the mine is not as good, but still probably driveable by any vehicle. Peak 4,895ft is located north of the road and west of the mine, above the defunct Crystal Spring Mine. A road forks off Smith Talc and goes a short distance up to the old mine. I didn't realize I could drive this, stopping instead at a forelorn cabin near the main road. Crystal Spring is still active, with a metal tub filled to overflowing with water piped from the spring. The fencing around the spring is mostly intact, though no longer maintained. I hiked up through this bit of a mess, finding the source of the spring at a small cave in the side of the mountain below the mine. I then followed the dry gully upstream towards the peak about 3/4mi to the north. I climbed moderate slopes up to a saddle south of the summit, then class 2-3 scrambling to the summit, taking a little over an hour. I spied an old road reaching to a saddle northeast of the summit that looked like it would be an easier way to reach the top. I hadn't researched this one ahead of time or I would have noted the road is depicted on the topo map and comes up from the old mine. After leaving a register, I had to partially retrace my route to collect my trekking poles I'd left when the scrambling started. I then made a descending traverse across the peak's South Slopes to reach the road and follow it back through the old mine. The old road above the mine is no longer driveable, but makes for an easy enough foot trail. I was back to the spring and the Jeep shortly before 1:30p with a few more hours to burn before Patrick was expected.

Peak 4,977ft

I headed east past the Excelsior Mine, turning at an unlocked gate just west of Tecopa Pass. Peak 4,977ft lies about half a mile northeast of Tecopa Pass and can be climbed from there. I passed through the gate and headed a short distance north to an old corral almost due west of the summit for an easier ascent from that side (later I discovered one can drive higher and closer to the summit on the east side through Horse Springs Camp). Parking at the corral and passing through a second unlocked gate, I walked east across a modestly brushy drainage still used for cattle grazing (thus the gates I passed through). It took less than 30min to make my way to the summit where I left a second register before returning the same way. There are good views of the rugged higher elevations of the Kingston Range to the south and southwest. Views north take in most of the California and Pahrump Valleys with far views to Mt. Charleston.

Peak 3,274ft - Peak 3,408ft

After returning to the Jeep, I backtracked west some 10mi where I was to meet Patrick at the south end of the Nopah Range at the junction of Smith Talc Rd and Mesquite Valley Rd. He showed up around 4p, leaving us about an hour before sunset, perhaps time for a short one. We set off in search of Peak 4,635ft at the northernmost end of the Kingston Range. Our efforts were stymied when the reality on the ground didn't match up with the topo map. Had we cell service, we could have checked the satellite view, but instead we punted and decided to head to the north end of California Valley where we planned to hike the next day. These two summits are both only a short distance from BLM AR051, but we would spend the remaining time before sunset just driving there.

I was ready to punt a second time, but Patrick needed a little workout and we had headlamps. We parked due west of Peak 3,274ft (coincidently the same elevation as the day's first summit), only 1/3mi distance. The sun was just setting on the peak as we headed out. The rocks on these summits are dark volcanic jumble, not easy cruising but at least the footing was decent. We took just over 15min to get to the summit. We expected to find a Mark Adrian register from his visit in 2020, but found none (I suspect it's there, but we were in a hurry to get done with it). We left one of ours before heading back down, no headlamps needed for this first one.

We moved the vehicles a short distance north along the road to place us half a mile south of Peak 3,408ft. This one was a bit steeper and a little longer, but it still only took about 20min to get to the top. I used my headlamp from the start, but Patrick managed without his in the failing light all the way to the top. Adrian had visited this one as well, but again we ended up leaving one of our registers without locating his. No views at all from this summit, save the end of twilight on the western horizon. It was close to 6:30p by the time we finished up, leaving us satisfied with the early evening workout. We rearranged our vehicles to be fairly level and camped just off the road where we were. I'd gotten a few more peaks in than I expected, so a pretty good day overall...


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