Peak 4,544ft P300
Peak 4,460ft P300
Peak 4,602ft P300
Peak 4,349ft P300

Mon, Feb 6, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


I was back in Joshua Tree National Park for the last day of a 4-day roadtrip to the area, on my own for the day. I planned a six peak tour around Willow Hole in the Wonderland of Rocks, but it proved to be more than I could manage. It has many square miles of jumbled granite boulders and rocks for which Joshua Tree is famous, and there are hundreds of established climbing routes throughout the area. Cross-country travel is slow through the complex landscape, with much scrambling getting from one place to another. Still, it was good fun and left me with a reason to come back again in the future.

Peak 4,544ft - Peak 4,460ft - Peak 4,602ft

I parked at the Keys West TH off Park Blvd, starting on the Boy Scout Trail just before 7a. It was quite cold to start, but the sun came over the horizon shortly after starting out. The first 45min were on the trail system across easy, flat terrain, finally leaving the Willow Hole Trail to head cross-country for my first stop, Peak 4,544ft. I approached the peak from the southwest, though I suspect any number of other ways would work. There was much class 3 scrambling, a cool tunnel, and a cruxy chimney, the latter probably wholely avoidable. A false summit that looked like it might be class 5 had me worried for a short while, but the true summit turned out to be easier to manage, and by 8:20a I had found my way to the top. There are cool views looking about the northern part of the park, but the view east towards the other peaks only looked to grow more jumbled and complicated. This was my first inkling that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I left a register here before looking for a way off to the east or north.

It would take about 20min to find my way down to the drainage between Peak 4,544ft and my next objective, Peak 4,460ft, about half a mile to the ENE. My route between the two was hardly direct - later I found that James Barlow had done a similar outing to these two summits and made a pretty neat line connecting the two. Mine was a meandering path that eventually approached the second peak from the south, with much hard class 3 scrambling that was wearing me out faster than I'd have expected, so early in the day. I was about an hour and ten minutes between summits, happy to get a chance to rest at the summit while considering my next moves. Looking east, the last three peaks stretched in a line off in that direction, looking harder still. The next in line, Peak 4,420ft, looked to have a large summit block that almost assuredly was class 5. My plan was beginning to fall apart. I descended to the east and southeast off the summit, initially making my way towards Peak 4,420ft. My heart wasn't in it, I soon realized, and I ended up just sort of wandering off towards Willow Hole, thinking I'd go visit that before heading back. I figured I could come back for the others out of Indian Cove from the north some other time, hopefully with some gear and a rope gun. By 10:30a I had found my way to the sandy wash that forms the Willow Hole Trail, but instead of visiting the Willow Hole feature to the east, I simply hiked west on the trail, with plans to climb Peak 4,602ft on the way back.

This last summit turned out to be another challenging one. I left the Willow Hole Trail to approach it from the north. This side has some very large boulders that make it tough to find a way up. I angled up and to the left, then made my way around to the east and south sides near the very top before I could find a way that worked. Looking around from the top, there was just so much rock to take in, a bit overwhelming. I left a second register here before looking (and finding) a way off the southwest side. There was a very fun gully that had more tunneling and good scrambling (better down, then up), leaving me guessing as to whether I'd find a way down until I was nearly off the mountain. I even found an unopened IPA that must have fallen from a climber's pack some years ago, though only about 2/3 of the liquid inside remained (not sure how it leaked out, but it smelled pretty rank when I opened it). I finished up back at the TH shortly before 1p, not really having the energy for another, but doing so anyway since I had a lot of time still.

Peak 4,349ft

This last summit lies but a mile from the Keys West TH, along the paved park road. I moved the Jeep to the southwest side of the peak, parking along the roadway. The distance was only about 1/3mi, but it was another scramble-fest that would take me about half an hour to summit. There are two highpoints to this one, I believe the southern one is highest. Easier than the other three peaks, but no cakewalk. I went up the southwest side and down to the south, the descent route a bit easier. I was back by 2:15p, ready to call it a day. I was due in Claremont to meet my wife and son for dinner, leaving me some time to clean up before I hit the road...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Sun Feb 12 11:42:10 2023
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: