Peak 3,645ft P500
Peak 2,851ft P300
Peak 1,774ft P500

Jan 11, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


My second day in the Clipper Mountains had me finishing off all the peaks in the range listed on LoJ. It was cold and windy today, the weather not quite so fine as it had been the previous day. I was able to finish up in the morning, then several hours of driving to Joshua Tree where I was to meet Tom and Iris in the evening. I had enough time for a last summit to break up the drive, and still arrived at our designated camp before dark.

Peak 3,645ft - Peak Peak 2,851ft

I had camped the night along a good utility road that runs east-west to the south of the Clipper Mtns. In the morning, I had only a short drive east on this road until I turned north onto a little-used BLM road that can be followed for several miles towards the first summit, Peak 3,645ft. The road is primarily in sand/gravel wash, requiring high-clearance, and maybe 4WD for the sand. The weather had started out looking bad - a fast-moving storm had brought rain in the early morning while I slept, but as I drove up the rough BLM road I could see that it was dissipating, leaving me with less worry about getting wet this morning. Much of the sky was blue when I started out just before 8a.

The first hour was mainly spent following one wash or another upstream to the north, occasionally moving over a low rise to get into the next one. A better route could have been chosen to avoid the minor rises I went over. I wasn't paying close attention to where I was going, thinking I still had much more ground to cover to reach my peak to the north. When I checked my GPSr, I was surprised to find I was only 1/3mi from the summit and was about to walk by it. Seems the peak I had been aiming for was on the main crest well to the north. I guess I was just having too much fun to notice I was almost there. The steep West Slope leading up to the summit was mostly loose and unpleasant, but the summit rocks were a more solid, darker volcanic stuff and more interesting. Tough-looking on the approach, I went around the large outcrop to the south and found a short class 2-3 scramble on the east side that got me to the summit about an hour and a half after starting out.

A huge cloud of sand and dust could be seen to the south around Cadiz, evidence of the stronger winds in store for today. Elsewhere, the views were still mostly clear, but these would deteriorate as the day wore on. I left a register at the summit before starting down the northwest side, hoping for better footing than I'd found on the west side. It worked out to be a bit better in a rocky gully, but not by much, and I concluded that Peak 3,645ft simply had little going for it. I returned to the wash system and worked my way southwest and south towards Peak 2,851ft, about two miles away. Once again, my route wasn't optimal, but it worked well enough and was all class 2. I even happened upon an old road not shown on the topo map that I could follow for a bit. After crossing over a number of drainages, and an hour and change from the last summit, I reached the base of Peak 2,851ft and hopped onto its NE Ridge. I would follow this up to the summit, all class 2 despite some sections that had appeared to be a little challenging from below. Again, I found no register on this summit when I reached it shortly after 11a, leaving a second while I took a short break to rest. The return to the Jeep would be the shortest leg of the outing, taking just over 30min, about half a mile to the northeast.

Peak 1,774ft

I would spend more than two hours driving, about half that time on dirt roads, the rest on pavement. I found the washouts on Route 66 had still seen no progress since I was last here a year ago, but the dirt bypasses allowed one to follow the highway west with little trouble. The sandstorm in Cadiz Valley was still going strong when I drove through Chambless to Amboy, improving once I was past dry Bristol Lake (seems much of the dust blowing off the lakebed is from the chloride beds being harvested there). I drove south on Amboy Rd nearly to Sheep Hole Pass before turning off onto a BLM road. I followed this very sandy road (4WD needed) for 10mi to the northeast as it follows the boundary of the Sheephole Valley Wilderness. Peak 1,774ft lies at the northern tip of the Calumet Mountains and sports more than 700ft of prominence. Andy Smatko had visited the summit in 1971 and I was hoping to find a lonely register at the top. This end of the range is a mix of rock and sand dunes, making for challenging ascents but easy descents. I got as close as I could drive to the summit, a little over a mile away, before parking off the BLM road.

I headed southeast into a wash system, a little too confident in my approach to the summit. I had headed some distance up the wrong wash before realizing I was heading to Collins BM instead of Peak 1,774ft. I climbed onto the rubbly ridge to my left thinking I could fix things by following a connecting ridgeline between the two, but after reaching a shoulder on the north side of Collins BM, I could see the ridgeline is far from direct and I had a good-sized drop to an intervening wash between myself and my target. Rats. Down I went, across the wash and then up towards Peak 1,774ft, now approaching on its South Ridge. It was a bit of a mess of loose rock held weakly together by shifting sands, and it was an hour before I had reached the summit by my poorly-chosen route. I was disappointed to find no sign of a Smatko register, so left one of mine with his name added to the top. To the southwest rose the two competing summits in this area of nearly the same height - Collins BM and Pt. 538m, only about 10ft lower. It would have made for a more interesting outing to do all three together, but I was running short on time today with the sun heading lower.

I was intrigued by a sandy ridge heading north and northwest from the summit and headed off to follow that for the descent. There was much more sand here than on my ascent route and I thought it would make for a quicker descent. I didn't get far down the ridge before deciding the intervening rock portions looked harder than I'd like, so I abandoned the ridge for a steep sand descent (very fun) down to a gully on my left. This made for a fine return with some scrambling fun before I emerged into the wide wash I should have used initially on my ascent. It was c lose to 4p before I finished up back at the BLM road.

I showered before starting the drive back out to the pavement. The sun would set before I got done with the sandy drive, after which I headed south to SR62 via Iron Age Rd. I would meet the others a few hours later on the south side of the highway in Wonder Valley near the base of the Pinto Mountains.


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