Peak 3,425ft P750
Peak 3,001ft
Peak 3,172ft P300
Peak 3,461ft P500
Peak 3,038ft P300
Peak 3,231ft P300
Cooper Mountain P500

Thu, Jan 14, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


This was the second of three days spent in the Soda Mtns, attempting to reach all its summits listed on LoJ. Today's list of seven peaks are located in the eastern half of the range. I had camped off the Rasor Rd exit, on the north side of Interstate 15, though this was not where I had intended to start my hike in the morning. I realized my error after waking, leading me to drive back out to the highway and use the next exit to the northeast, the famous Zzyzx Rd. There are several cherry stems into the Soda Mtns Wilderness from this exit, allowing one to drive closer to some of the peaks than would otherwise be possible.

Five peak loop

I stopped at the Wilderness boundary at the start of the cherry stems for this five peak loop. My first stop was Peak 3,425ft with 750ft of prominence, almost three miles to the southwest. The first half was a pleasant hike across the desert flats to reach the base of the mountain, followed by a steady climb of some 1,500ft, the first half a good deal steeper than the upper part of the mountain. Like all the day's peaks, the climbing was no more than class 2, your standard desert fare. It took an hour and a half to reach the open summit where I found a Lilley/MacLeod register from 1978. Wes Shelberg had been among their party, along with a few other names I didn't recognize. Andy Smatko signed in at the end of 1988, but commented that he'd climbed it about 20yrs earlier (his records show it was 1977, so that was a bit of an exaggeration). A Robert Young climbed it in 2005, then a 16yr hiatus in entries until I showed up. Though it was the most prominent of the day's summits, it was only the the third highest (though not by much).

Next up was Peak 3,001ft, the lowest and least prominent of the bunch. It is connected to the first peak by a low saddle, requiring a 700-foot drop to reach it. I descended Peak 3,425ft's NW Ridge to reach the saddle, then a modest climb to reach the summit about 45min after leaving the first. The summit sits like a low island surrounded on all sides by the other four summit in the loop. I found no cairn or register, didn't build or leave one either. It would take another 45min to reach the third summit, Peak 3,172ft another mile to the west, dropping down to an intervening wash first. I started up the wrong ridgeline heading north, not realizing the error until I was 100ft above the wash. I reversed course to descend to the wash system a second time, then climbed a ridge leading to Peak 3,172ft from the northeast. This was the furthest summit from the car, deep inside the range, no cairns, register, or online record of other ascents, though I'm sure more than one prospector must have wandered over the top in the last 100yrs. I left a register here before continuing to the 4th summit.

The stretch to Peak 3,461ft was the longest of the loop, taking just over an hour. Peak 3,461ft lies about a mile and a half further north, but the connecting ridge does some serpentining on its way, making the distance about 2mi. This was the most enjoyable segment of the day, a quiet ramble through the middle of the range, with the desert seemingly all to myself. The summit offers outstanding views - north to the Avawatz Mtns and Silurian Valley, east to Silver Lake, south across the Soda Mtns to Soda Lake and beyond as far as the Bristol Mtns. Andy Smatko had been to this peak back in 1977, but I was unable to locate one of his tiny registers (in fact he'd been to the last four peaks I visited on the day, but I found no register on any of them). Again, I left one of mine before continuing east to the last summit, Peak 3,038ft. This was another pleasant stroll on easy terrain, especially the last half with a gentle grade for most of the way. I came across a random cairn while dropping to the saddle between the two, another reminder that these hills have seen plenty of traffic in days past. I spent most of an hour reaching the summit and the same amount of time to descend off the east side back to the Jeep. I was pleased to find that it was only 1:30p, giving me time for the last two summits I had planned for the day.

Peak 3,231ft

I had parked at the junction with the two cherry stems cutting into the Wilderness. The eastern one, which leads to a mine deep in the range, is unmarked save for a small cairn. Notably absent was a BLM road sign. Luckily I had the route marked on my GPSr and was able to spot the faint road heading northeast when I had parked earlier. Driving it now to the last two summits, the road becomes more pronounced and the expected BLM signs appear much further up the road - it seems they would like to let this one go back to nature sooner rather than later. The road follows up a broad wash that eventually narrows and splits into several canyons. I followed the road north until I was about half a mile east of Peak 3,231ft, making for a short hike to the summit of less than 20min. Though there was nothing special to the climb, the views are as nice as on any of the day's other summits.

Cooper Mountain

After returning to the Jeep, I drove back down the BLM road a short distance to a fork in the wash, about a mile southwest of Cooper Mtn. There was some mining detritus here, including a rusty refrigerator with a door labeled "explosives". Not sure if that was serious or someone's j oke. The ascent up a rocky gully would take most of the next hour, the summit located some distance north of where I gained it at Pt. 1,046m, only six feet lower than the highpoint. I had thought I was on a direct line to the top, but found I still had almost a quarter mile further north to the summit. I found the expected benchmark and left a register for future visitors. I continued along the summit ridge for an easier descent that went more directly down to the wash without returning back over Pt. 1,046m. This went quickly, getting me back to the Jeep in only half an hour. It was now 4p and time to call it a day and recoup. A shower and a cold one for the drive back out to the highway helped tremendously. Dinner in Baker before heading out to find a campsite was pretty good, too.


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