Peak 3,563ft P300
Mellon BM P750
Peak 3,503ft P300
Peak 3,324ft P300

Fri, Jan 8, 2021

With: Karl Fieberling

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Karl and I were heading into the Cady Mtns on the last of a five day roadtrip. It wasn't intended to be the last when we started the day, but I got a text from my wife halfway through the outing that her purse had been stolen along with her phone and checkbook. A broken car window would be the biggest expense, but she would need help sorting out the various credit card companies and banks that needed to be contacted. We left Karl's Element at our desert wash campsite and drove about six miles east into the Cady Mtns. Our goal today was a quartet of summits about six miles northwest of the range highpoint. We followed a series of roads into Hidden Valley, found in the middle of the range. We parked off the road about a mile and a half southeast of the first summit to start our 11mi loop. The four peaks are aligned in a row, connected along a ridge running southwest to northeast. We would visit each in turn, finishing with a long walk back through Hidden Valley to end the day.

We had done most of the drive before sunset to make it easier on our eyes heading east, so it was only minutes after sunrise when we started to Peak 3,563ft. Our route went northwest across the valley flats, eventually gaining the somewhat vague SE Ridge that we would follow to the summit in about 40min's time. A survey tower built upon a rock cairn still stood at the summit. A weathered register was found in the top of the cairn. There was a loose, undated page from a large Smakto party (1974, according to Smatko's own records), and a small notebook left by MacLeod/Lilley in 1979. No one had made another entry until Karl and I arrived, a span of more than 41yrs. The Smatko party had named this "Water Peak", a play on the nearby Mellon BM we would visit next.

Mellon BM was another mile to the northeast, the highest of the day's summits and featuring more than 800ft of prominence. The connecting ridgeline drops about 300ft and makes for a pleasant traverse. We spent 40min making our way between the two summits. Another MacLeod/Lilley register had this as the highpoint of the Maverick Brothers Mtns, an old reference found in the DPS archives and a few other sources for this part of the Cady Mtns. The name seems to have fallen into disuse back in the 1980s. The register entry was dated "1978" though this was off by a year - a common enough mistake that I've made quite a few times now. There were a few other entries as well, most recently by John Vitz in 2003.

The next two summits were further afield and would require a bit more work. It would be about 2mi to the third summit, Peak 3,503ft, with a drop of more than 600ft. We had just descended to the low saddle when I got the text from my wife about her troubles. I had poor reception there, so I needed to get to the next summit where I could contact her. We bypassed part of the ridge upon which Pt. 3,549ft lies, dropping further into the drainage to the northeast before then climbing Peak 3,503ft more directly. At the summit was a rock inscribed with "H.L. Mellon" dated 1911, along with another name I couldn't decipher. I'm guessing this Mellon was the homesteader for which Mellon BM was later named by the surveyors. The benchmark itself was not apparent, but we didn't really put much effort into digging around for it. I was 10mi from the nearest cell tower and my phone struggled to maintain a voice connection. I must have dialed and redialed my wife's number a dozen times before we could piece together a conversation about her morning's unfortunate event. Karl was very patient for the half hour it took for me to conclude this business, checking stock prices and other online activities all the while. Not finding a register at the summit, we left one of our own before continuing on to the last summit, Peak 3,324ft.

The most interesting part of the outing was the stretch between the last two peaks. Peak 3,324ft is hard to distinguish among several competing points from a distance, but we would figure it out with the help of the GPSr as we got closer. Like the previous section, we had to drop more than 600ft off the one summit, following a drainage down to the northeast. The drainage narrowed to only a few feet in sections and had some easy class 3 scrambling as a bonus. The rocks here were a variety of volcanic and sedimentary types in a pictureque little narrows. We climbed Peak 3,324ft from the northwest, reaching the top around 12:10p. Karl was still making his way up while I sat at the summit to take in the views. After Karl had joined me and had the usual break, we left a register before starting our descent. We headed south from the summit, dropping into Hidden Valley and the dry lakebed found there. A fence had been erected around parts of the lake to keep out vehicles, but plenty had found there way to the dry mud lakebed anyway. It was a long walk back to the Jeep, taking us more than an hour and a half. We thought the road would make the best route, but quickly abandoned it when the loose gravel and sand proved more tedious than simply walking on the more compact surfaces on one side or the other. We got back to the Jeep around 2:20p, leaving us plenty of daylight to get back to the pavement.

After returning to Karl's Element and our camp, we showered before heading back towards Barstow. We split up before reaching Interstate 40 where I hightailed it for home, not stopping until I needed gas near Tehachapi. Karl planned to spend more time in the desert and made use of the remaining daylight with a drive up to Elephant Mtn, found a short distance east of Barstow. It would be after 10p before I got home that evening after many hours of driving...

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