Wed, Apr 22, 2020
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I spent the night camped inside the China Lake NWC at the base of the Slate Range, east of Searles Lake and Trona. Not exactly legal, the boundary fence here is not well maintained and jeep tracks on a BLM road had led through the fenceline. I'd been to the Slate Range on several previous occasions, primarily to tag Searles Peak, a delisted DPS summit, and Layton BM. Today I was in the mid-section of the range between these two higher points, to tag a trio of unnamed summits. It was a good loop, covering 11mi and more than 4,000ft of gain. In order to get myself home for dinner with the family, I was up early, around 5a, hoping to complete the loop before noon. With a 5:30a start where no headlamp was needed, I was able to get done by 11a. The all cross-country route went up a ridgeline heading to the first summit, Peak 4,740ft, a short traverse to the second summit, Peak 4,947ft, then 2mi along the crest of the range heading north to the last summit, Peak 4,819ft. Finally, I descended into the drainage south of the last summit and used this to return to my starting point. It was forecast to be quite warm today, so the early start allowed me to avoid the heat of day. I managed to stay out of the sun until I had nearly reached the first peak, after which a pleasant breeze and the higher elevations above 4,000ft kept me reasonably cool. Though a fairly dry range more reminiscent of Death Valley ranges, the spring rains had brought color to some of the slopes with bright yellow flowers of various hues.
It took me two hours to reach the first summit, another half hour to the second, and another hour for the third summit. The first two were located within the China Lake property as was most of the hike. Somewhere along the crest I passed through the base boundary and into the adjacent Inyo County as well, but there was no fence nor signs found to indicate this. The summit on BLM land, Peak 4,819ft, had been visited by Barbara and Gordon in 1985. I found their register in a glass jar tucked into a small summit cairn, well preserved. Mine was the first entry since then. The other two summits had no register nor cairns. I left a register I carried with me on the higher Peak 4,947ft. I suspect it could be some years before any of the three sees another visitor. The wash I descended was pretty good, most of it standard class 2. There was some easy scrambling and a single dry waterfall, about 30ft in height. It was a bit spicy descending this, though I did so more for the challenge - it would have been easy to traverse around it to keep it to class 2. I crossed paths with a moderately-sized rattlesnake in the lower part of the wash, though it mostly just wanted to get out of the way and posed no real danger. It was getting warm by the time I returned to the jeep around 11a and I was feeling pretty tired. With a full day, I would have gone off looking for something else to do, but I had to admit I didn't mind switching to driving mode as a way to spend the rest of day. Homeward...
This page last updated: Sun Apr 26 15:38:19 2020
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