Peak 4,409ft P300
Peak 4,475ft
Peak 4,511ft P300
Peak 4,425ft P300
Peak 4,812ft P300
Button Mountain P300
Beale Mountains HP P300
Peak 3,891ft P300
Peak 4,714ft P300
Rocky Ridge

Mon, Feb 1, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3


This was a productive day to a lot of mundane summits, mostly cinder cones in the Cinder Cone Lava Beds area in Mojave National Preserve. Still, I had a fun day exploring the area, and with extra time picked up a couple of peaks I hadn't planned on, including a range highpoint. Clouds covered the sky most of the day, muting the sunrise and most of the photos. Temps, however, were near ideal with a welcome breeze.

Peak 4,409ft - Peak 4,475ft - Peak 4,511ft - Peak 4,425ft

I had spent the night camped at the start of this four peak loop in the Cinder Cone Lava Beds, at the end of the driveable portion of a spur road. The old road continues, but is blocked to vehicle traffic due to the Mojave Wilderness. The first two summits are located within the Wilderness, but the last two are outside, in an area with extensive mining in the past and lots of gear and vehicles left to rust. All four of these peaks are cinder cones, making for mostly unpleasant climbing, with loose cinders covering steep slopes. Up early before sunrise, I followed the old road to the base of the furthest summit, Peak 4,409ft. I reached the top shortly before scheduled sunrise (I didn't really notice a sunrise today), finding the top had been bulldozed at one time, purpose unknown - do cinder cones have other valuable minerals hidden in them? I descended to the northeast, aiming for Peak 4,475ft in that direction. After crossing the flats in-between, I found the climb of the second peak less tedious, with firmer footing on larger vocanic rocks. The third summit, Peak 4,511ft, was another mile further to the northeast, and had loose cinder slopes from all directions. Getting off the peak to the southeast was a little tricky as there was an old road cut near the base, leaving a precarious drop onto the road if one didn't choose a line carefully. The last summit was a half a mile to the SSE, with abandoned mining equipment on the northwest side. It appears they were mining black cinder from this one. Like Peak 4,511ft, Peak 4,425ft was a tedious climb with loose slopes. Andy Smatko had been to the last three of these summits, but I found no sign of his registers on any of them. Perhaps not surprising, since the mining activity was still going on after his visits in 1972. I finished the loop up back at the Jeep by 8:30a, a good number of peaks for two and half hours, but lacking in quality.

Peak 4,812ft

This summit is located about 5mi northwest of the first group, in a more isolated part of the preserve. Bob Sumner and I had been to nearby Club Peak in 2015, but this one, best done in conjunction with it, wasn't on the radar at the time. Even if it had been, it would have been improbable to get Sumner interested - he really doesn't like "wasting time" on bonus peaks. From the edge of the Wilderness boundary, it's almost four miles one-way to the summit. There is an old road that gets within half a mile that I used to make things easier. I parked at the unmarked junction, found the road in decent shape, and followed it to the southeast side of the mountain. The peak is volcanic, but not a cinder cone, and the ascent was fairly easy. The summit lies near the edge of a six mile-long bluff that drops off to the west. The bluff can be seen prominently from that direction, from both Kelbaker Rd and Interstate 15. I left a register here before returning - it was one of the few summits in the area that Smatko had not visited.

Button Mountain

This one is a short distance from the starting point for Peak 4,812ft. On that previous trip with Bob Sumner, I'd asked if he wanted to do Button Mountain since it showed up as the only other named summit in the area. Since it appeared on no list and in no guidebook, he scoffed at the suggestion. As we were driving in his Jeep Liberty at the time, I didn't press the issue - I figured I'd get back here again eventually. The topo map shows several old roads on this cinder cone, including one that goes to the summit. None of the peak lies within Wilderness, so I thought it might be a drive-up. I tried the road from the northwest shown going to the top, but it became undriveable shortly after leaving the main road. I then used another old road from the north that worked to get me within 1/4mi. There was some lingering snow on that side, but it did not make the ascent appreciably more difficult. The loose cinder did that well enough, but the climb itself took less than 10min to accomplish. A bulldozed path went across the summit, a small collection of cinder rocks serving as the highpoint.

Beale Mountains HP - Peak 3,891ft

It was not long after 11a when I left Button Mtn in the Jeep driving east and then SSE. My route took me across the west side of Cima Dome and the site of the 2020 Cima Fire which burned 43,000 acres in the Mojave Wilderness. The area is home to a vast joshua tree forest that grows best at this 4,000-foot elevation. Grasses, creosote, brush and 1.3 million joshua trees were consumed in the rare desert range fire. Charred remains of the trees and telephone poles are fresh and apocalyptic-looking. Nothing has yet to begin regrowing here. The desert will recover, of course, but it will be a slow process.

The Marl and Beale Mountains are found on the southwest side of Cima Dome. I had been to the Marl Mtns in 2016, but had only discovered the Beale Mtns afterwards. They are named for Edward Beale, a prominent figure of the Old West who had a storied life, with successful episodes in the military, politics and adventure. The range is one of the smallest in the state, less than three miles in length. There are two summits featured in LoJ, and it was to these I set my sights as I was driving through the joshua tree forest. I ended up at a secluded BLM campground at the base of the range on the northwest side. From here, it was half a mile to the range highpoint found at the north end of the range. It took only 30min to reach the summit. Andy Smatko had recorded an ascent in 1969, but I found no sign of a register, and unfortunately had forgotten to restock more of my own. The other summit is located at the south end of the range, connected by a two mile-long ridgeline that would take me an hour and twenty minutes to traverse. There were two significant saddles and several smaller ones, but the terrain was pleasant for the most part. After reaching the second summit, I descended to the northwest, dropping into a wash on the western side of the range. I would spent the last thirty minutes of the outing hiking the sandy wash back up to the campground and my Jeep.

Peak 4,714ft

This was the last summit I had left in the Cinder Cone Lava Beds, about five miles west of the Beale Mountains. The shortest approach is from the southeast, along the Mojave Rd, starting at the Mojave Rd Mailbox (a feature found on Google Maps). The mailbox and flag were installed in 1983 by off-road enthusiasts. There are a number of quirky displays in the surrounding desert - a frog collection, gnome collection, and jeep collection, the first two of which I came upon completely by accident as I was hiking towards Peak 4,714ft. I didn't find the toy jeep collection, but my research afterwards suggests it's out there somewhere. The peak lies about a mile from the mailbox, half the distance across sandy desert flats, weaving through joshua trees and around brush. There is a short volcanic cliff band to ascend at the edge of the lava flow, then another half mile to the summit with little of the cinder cone annoyances. I left a register at the summit, adding an entry for Smatko's 1972 visit.

Rocky Ridge

After returning to the Jeep, I spent much of the next hour driving west on the Mojave Road to Kelbaker Rd, then south on a powerline road to Rocky Ridge on the east side of Jackass Canyon. Rocky Ridge is named on the topo map as a subsidiary ridge rising from the west to meet the more major ridge running NW-SE, an off-shoot of the Kelso Mtns. From the road, it was less than a quarter mile to the highpoint identified by LoJ, though with less than 100ft of prominence, it isn't much of a summit. Still, it was odd to find an over-ducked trail running most of the distance from where I parked to the summit. It was after 5p and the sun was getting ready to set. It came out briefly to light up the underside of the cloud layer in a colorful fashion only moments before it set for the evening. I would spend the night camped under the transmission towers with plans to hike out of Jackass Canyon in the morning...


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