Whale Mountain P300
Sharp BM P300 RS
Peak 3,585ft P500
Carsons BM P1K
Lincolns Nose P300 LLT

Mon, Apr 30, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2


I was making my way slowly between Las Vegas and Huntinton Beach where I was due to meet my wife on Friday. In the meantime, I've bee rambling about Southeast California doing more peakbagging while the weather is more cooperative (it was a bit too hot in Las Vegas the previous week). I spent the night camped in a gravel wash outside Needles. This allowed me to get breakfast in town before heading south for the day's objectives.

Whale Mountain

This is one of two named summits (of 32 total) in the Chemehuevi Mountains, the other being the range highpoint, Chemehuevi Peak. Whale Mtn is located on the northern edge of the range, easily visible from Needles. I had picked it out the night before while perusing maps, noting that Gordon MacLeod had climbed it on LoJ. I decided to make it my first stop. There is a BLM pipeline road that runs along the base of the range on the north side, a convenient approach route. My starting point was near the mid-point of the road between I-40 and US95, so I drove in from I-40 to the east and afterwards, exited west to US95. The hike was about 2mi each way, gaining 1,700ft to the summit. I parked near a wash that drains the north side of the summit. I went up this wash for a short distance before going up a ridgeline on the right (west) side that took me to the crest a few hundred yards southwest of the highpoint. It was a fun little climb with some easy scrambling, but nothing tricky. The summit has a large cairn and some good views overlooking the Colorado River, but today the views were rather hazy and washed out. I found one of the reference marks, but the benchmark appears to be buried under the cairn. I looked all through the cairn, hoping to find Gordon's register, but found nothing. I descended another ridgeline directly below the summit, following it about halfway down before exiting into the wash on my right. I spent about two and three quarter hours on the effort.

Sharp BM

This one came from Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, a short, easy summit just off the west side of US95 and Lobecks Pass. He reports, Delightfully, the upper mountain features about 200ft of really nice scrambling. East Face ***. I think he must have been in an alternative mood that day, probably having ingested some kind of mushroom, because the sober truth shows the East Face is a trash heap of choss. If there's even 30ft of scrambling on the uppermost mountain, that's being generous. I avoided the East Face by climbing up to a saddle and then up the NE Ridge. The summit benchmark is courtesy the CA DOT circa 1986. I found no register here, but left one of mine. The ascent took 15min, the descent something less.

Turtle Mountains

The main event of the day was a climb of Carsons BM at the north end of the Turtle Mountains, a P1K that I've had my eye on for years now, but had so far eluded me. Turtle Mountain Road reaches the north side of Carsons BM from US95, but it's gravel/sand for almost 10mi, then rocky and rough for the last five miles to the Coffin Spring TH. The BLM has made improvements here with signs, designated parking and such. There are other "sights" in the area including the car corral (rusting car parts that were collected from sites within the Wilderness area back in the early 1990s) and the Lost Arch Inn, but I can't believe people would make the long drive out here to see rust and a collapsed cabin. Indeed, the striking geology is a far better reason to visit. I hadn't realized how rugged this part of the range is, an impressive sight as one makes the long drive in from the highway. As one gets closer, the the features become yet more striking, towering desert summits that look to have no easy way up. There are more than a dozen such summits, some of them looking to be class 5. My plan had been to make a circuit around Carsons BM, tagging 4 other nearby bonus peaks along the way, but this was modified when the first two (Peak 3,336ft & Peak 3,339ft) turned out to be far more serious undertakings than I was prepared for. My route started from near the Coffin Spring TH, following an old road into the Wilderness that now serves as a trail that goes 2.25mi to Coffin Spring at the base of Carsons BM. The road starts off nicely, but soon deteriorates as it enters one wash, then out, then into the main wash where the old road completely disappears until it reemerges from the wash a short distance from Coffin Spring. I was awed by the towering cliffs around me on both the right and left sides of the wash. Would I get up any of these? Yes, just not the ones first seen during the hike. I hiked up the wash, noting ducks that sort of mark a route through it (to little effect - the wash is easy enough to negotiate without them), for about a mile and three quarters before turning up a side wash between those first two peaks and my third one, Peak 3,585ft. I went up this wash for a quarter mile before leaving it to start up the north side of Peak 3,585ft, going around a difficult-looking tower on its west side. Most of the route up was class 2 with some easy class 3 scrambling nearer the summit. Cliffs on the upper part of the mountain had good bypass routes. Looking back north to Peak 3,336ft & Peak 3,339ft, the former looked like it might have a class 3 route up from the saddle between the two, while the latter continued to look unclimbable. Or at least, unscramblable. I know, that's not a word.

I reached the summit of Peak 3,585ft after an hour and half, finding the climb a good one. To the east, Carsons BM looked to have an easy way to the summit along the connecting ridgeline with Peak 3,585ft. And indeed it did, though I had to work a little to get through the cliff bands on the east side of the Peak3,585ft. The route then goes up from a saddle to a intermediate point whose highpoint can be avoided by using a convenient sheep trail to the saddle with Carsons BM. From the second saddle, it's a short but steep climb up to the highpoint of the northern part of the range. I was happy to find that it took less than an hour between the two summits. I expected to find a register here, but like Peak 3,585ft, found none. They would have both been excellent candidates to leave one, but alas, I had forgotten to put more in my daypack after doing Sharp BM.

The traverse between Carsons BM and the last peak of the day, Peak 3,602ft turned out to be the most enjoyable. With no more than easy class 3 scrambling, I found my way from one to the other, bypassing a tricky intermediate bump on the west side, a convenient gap in an arete neatly getting me out of some cliff trouble. The volcanic rock is quite colorful with shades of pink, orange white and red. It took only 40min between the last two summits. Under a cairn I found a PVC register with chain that took some work to get open. It was left by the Leaping Lizard Tribe of Lake Havasu City in 2003, naming the summit as Lincoln's Nose because it looks like that from Lake Havasu, apparently. I could barely see Lake Havasu on the Colorado River to the east today. I descended the drainage l eading to Coffin Spring, finding no cliffs and no dry waterfalls to make trouble for me. There was no water at the spring, but there was lots of greenery that must be drawing water from below the surface. A metal water tank and a cattle trough, both dry, are found just below the spring. Overall, these two items are pretty poor reasons to hike the trail, but the surrounding peaks in the amphitheater are pretty cool. I followed the trail/road/wash back to the car, finishing up by 3:40p. I will have to come back here with friends on a future desert trip as there's easily 2-3 days worth of scrambling from the same TH.

I showered before driving back out to the highway and then south. I had intended to drive to Yucca Valley, but the 2hr+ drive discouraged me. Instead, when I reached Vidal Junction I turned left and drove to Parker, AZ, deciding on a whim to spend a day hiking around the Parker Dam area. I'd been there on several previous trips and had always enjoyed the great scrambling found there. I would spend a day here and then drive to Yucca Valley. Or not. It's nice not to have a set schedule...


Matthew comments on 05/17/18:
I climbed Sharp BM with Courtney (the same day we did Snaggletooth), and FWIW my recollection of the peak was also that it was an enjoyable scramble. No mushrooms involved. I can't reconcile my (hazy) recollection with the photo of the chosspile you show, however.
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