Peak 3,446ft P300
Peak 3,500ft
Peak 3,500ft P300
Reef BM P750
Swede Hill
Peak 2,740ft P500
Peak 2,620ft
Peak 2,652ft P300

Mon, Dec 2, 2019
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile

South of Ludlow and Interstate 40 are a couple of old mining towns, Ragtown and Stedman. The latter is home to the Bagdad Chase Mine, at one time the largest producer of gold and copper in San Bernardino County. But this was a different age and all mining stopped some decades ago. I was after four peaks west of Stedman, in the northern part of the Bullion Mtns. The westernmost, Peak 3,446ft, is actually on the 29 Palms Marine Base, but there are no signs or fences separating BLM land from the military reservation that I found. I did these four peaks in a 7mi loop, taking up my morning. The other four summits were all individual outings, the longest about 3mi roundtrip. I was busy from sunrise to sunset, but that's not saying too much at this time of year when the days are so short.

Peak 3,446ft - Peak 3,500ft - Peak 3,500ft - Reef BM

I had started the morning camped west of Barstow, so in the morning I had some driving to do, along with a stop in Barstow for gas and coffee. Once in Ludlow, I followed an unsigned road to the railroad undercrossing, then found the BLM road heading south. In Stedman, I followed old roads through various washes to a gate before the largest of the mines found in the area. The gate had a drive-around, allowing me to drive perhaps another half mile up the wash before I stopped just before a dryfall. Though I had gotten up by 6a, it wasn't until after 8a that I was ready to head out. I spent a little over four hours making a loop to visit the four summits, an enjoyable romp, all class 2. The hills in the area are quite colorful, making it easy to see how it attracted prospectors and led to the development of the mining district. There are lots of old mineshafts, claim markers, survey markers and other stuff from those bygone decades. On my way to the first summit, Peak 3,446ft, I found several items of military hardware but no unexploded ordinance. Plenty of empty large calibre shells, too. There are two summits listed on LoJ as Peak 3,500ft which I visited next, in turn. The first one had a large solar array powering a small instrument setup and antenna. The second, to the north connected by a saddle with a 300-foot drop, is higher than the first, but not by more than 10-20ft. The highest peak in the area is Reef BM, my last stop, with more than 700ft of prominence. The peak is pretty steep on all sides, but still class 2. I left a register after finding only the remnants of an older one, possibly left by Andy Smatko. After descending the south side, I had about a mile and a quarter hiking across the grain over a number of low hills between various washes.

Swede Hill

This is an exceedingly easy peak just off the west side of the main BLM road. It's even easier with high-clearance that allows you to drive to the base on the southeast side. The summit is riddled with small mining holes and prospects.

Peak 2,740ft

About 3mi south of Ludlow, a well-graded NW-SE pipeline road crosses the N-S BLM road I had traveled on. There are actually two parallel pipelines, each with its own road, but the one I favored is better than the other. There are occasional connector roads between the two pipeline roads. I used these pipeline roads for the last three summits. I was able to drive within about 1.5mi of Peak 2,740ft. The hike to reach it crossed over a handful of washes and ridges, eventually finding a wash that reaches up to the SW Slopes, all class 2. This is the highest point between the pipeline roads to the southwest and I-40 to the northeast, with more than 500ft of prominence. I left a register here before returning via a less direct route that avoided some elevation loss, but overall no faster than the ascent route.

Peak 2,620ft

A spur road off the pipeline roads gets one within about 1/2mi of the summit on the west side. The direct route I used on the ascent drops into a shallow wash before the summit while the longer route I used for the return follows the various ridgelines. The direct route is certainly faster.

Peak 2,662ft

This last summit is found about 1.2mi south of the interstate, southwest of Ludlow. The same pipeline roads I used for the previous summits extend to the northwest, passing within 1/2mi of the summit. The rougher track going over the SW shoulder of the peak gets even closer, within 1/3mi, and it was this one I used for a quick dash up to the summit just before sunset. A somewhat steep, but standard class 2 climb via the SW Ridge. There is a good view of Ludlow to the northeast from the top.

After returning to Ludlow, I showered at the train undercrossing before driving east to Kelbaker Rd where I would spend the night. I saw only one other person the whole day while I was south of the railroad tracks - a friendly gas employee drove by on the pipeline road while I was parked there. He got out to take some quick pictures, waved, and continued down the road.

Continued...


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