Peak 4,816ft P500
Peak 3,421ft
Peak 4,498ft
Peak 4,625ft P300
Peak 5,390ft P300
Peak 5,954ft P300

Fri, Feb 19, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Day 2 of an 11-day desert roadtrip had me camped in the Providence Mtns of Mojave National Preserve, just outside the Mojave Wilderness. All of today's peaks are found within the preserve and would easily occupy me for most of the day.

Peak 4,816ft

This summit is located near the defunct Bigorn Mine at the south end of the Providence Mtns. A rough 4WD road climbs above the mine to get within half a mile of the summit. I had gone to bed early the night before and was up by 5a to start the day. This was well before sunrise and my headlamp was needed when I started out around 5:30a. I followed the remnants of road on which I had camped to a couple of minshafts shown on the topo map northwest of the summit. I went cross-country from there to a saddle with the main bulk of the range, then up to the summit from the northwest side. It was still half an hour before sunrise, so I wasn't going to get any decent pictures. I did manage one of the eastern horizon and a longer exposure shot of the higher Providence Mtns to the northwest. It was breezy and quite cold, so I stayed only a few minutes, enough time to leave a register and take those few shots before starting back down. I was back to the Jeep by 6:20a, not long after the sun had finally risen. Before driving back down from the Bighorn Mine, I stopped to visit the cabin found there. The main room was tidy enough, but the adjacent bedrooms were left in disarray. Some work has been done to restore the porch and other structural items. It seems to get some use as a public-use cabin - door was not only unlocked, but unlatched and left open.

Peak 3,421ft

I spent the next hour driving south about 10mi into Van Winkle Mtn for a couple of unnamed summits. I had climbed Van Winkle's highpoint in 2012 on a first visit to the area. I followed a road down the east side of Van Winkle Mtn, parking a little more than a mile from Interstate 40 and about the same distance east of Peak 3,421ft. As a soft-ranked summit it doesn't have much prominence, its sides having eroded from the main bulk of the mountain enough to give it some distinction. I hiked southwest and west around the base of the mountain to approach the peak from the east. The first half was easy walking on sandy flats and washes, but the second half was terrain littered with dark, desert-varnished rocks that made for clumsy and sometimes annoying travel. I took different lines ascending and descending the NE Slopes to the summit, finding neither preferrable over the other. The summit is large and flat, a mix of dry grass and more volcanic rubble. A pretty forgettable summit, to be honest.

Peak 4,498ft

This was the better of the two unnamed summits in Van Winkle Mtn, only about 80ft short of the highpoint and less than a mile to its northeast. I drove roads back around the east and north sides to park within 2/3mi of the summit. I spent 30min to climb the north slopes on decent volcanic footing, finding some short stretches of class 3 scrambling, though they could be avoided. There are two summits, the western being about 10ft higher. There was a register dating to 1983 by Andy Smatko and party, along with a few loose scraps totaling about half a dozen parties in the past 40yrs. It wasn't yet 10:30a when I finished up, but I still had the bulk of the day's climbing remaining.

Peak 4,625ft - Peak 5,390ft - Peak 5,954ft

This group of summits are in the Granite Mtns on the west side of Kelbaker Rd, also in Mojave NP. I used the TH in Cottonwood Canyon most commonly used to climb the popular Granite Peak, the range highpoint and a DPS summit. Mine was the only vehicle at the TH, not surprising for a Friday afternoon. As I drove in on one of the dirt access roads, I noted a fence on the south side of the road marked as No Trespassing. The square mile of land is State property within the Mojave NP, perhaps related to the Sweeney Granite Mtns Desert Research Center located on the south side of the range. Peak 4,625ft lies immediately above and inside this area, but as the fence ends at the TH, I'm guessing the purpose is mostly to keep out vehicles. In any event, I simply walked past the end of the fence and began climbing the steep slopes leading to Peak 4,625ft. As the name suggests, the range is primarily granite, not of the best quality and eroded over eons to create an abundance of sand. The footing is decent and the flora is thicker and healthier here than in the lower parts of the preserve. Not exactly bushwhacking, but it would require more weaving about to avoid the thickets. Some junipers and pinyons are found in the higher elevations starting about 5,000ft. It took about 15min to find my way to the summit where there are two points vying for highpoint. The north summit is about 10ft higher than the spot elevation at the south summit. There was a register left by Mark Adrian a year earlier, and it was no surprise that mine was the only other entry.

The first summit was merely the warm-up for the bigger adventure to the next two peaks. While Peak 4,625ft is tame class 2, the other two have some stiff class 3 challenges, and are much higher, part of the range's main crest running roughly west to east. I dropped 300ft to the saddle with Peak 5,390ft and then started up the 1,000-foot slope on the northwest side of the mountain. Despite having a GPSr with the correct coordinate marked, I had some trouble identifying which of several large granite pinnacles was the highpoint. When climbed from the northwest, two such imposing points on the North Ridge come into view and it seems one of them must be the highpoint. Climbing closer, I correctly guessed the southern of these two to be higher and made my way up to attempt it from the south. Fortunate breaks in the rock left a relatively easy class 3 way to its summit, but before reaching it I noticed the GPSr pointing me to another point several hundred feet further south. It would prove to be the highpoint. I finished scrambling the one block before attempting the true highpoint. I had to descend some distance on the west side of the ridge before finding my way to the higher point, a trickier class 3 scramble. I found two viable routes, one going up a steep chimney on the south side with a tunneling move under a large chockstone near the top that I used for the ascent. Once above this, one finds three closely-spaced points vying for highpoint honors. I visited all three, not being able to determine which was highest. I left a register at the base of the westernmost one before starting down. I found an alternate route off the west side that involved tunneling through a narrow gap to emerge at the bottom on easier ground. Good fun, this one.

The third summit, Peak 5,954ft was more than a mile to the southwest and would take me a full hour to manage. The saddle between them is found shortly after leaving Peak 5,390ft. I found a duck marking a set of rusty tools that had been left here at least a decade earlier, probably longer. As I started along the ridge, weaving through brush, trees, and large boulders, I found an overabundance of ducks marking out a route along the ridgline. They seemed completely unnecessary, as there were many options one might take and I would knock them over as I encountered them. As I neared the higher summit, I came across numerous towers and blocks in the vicinity, some of them with no obvious scrambling routes to the summit. The highpoint looked similarly difficult, but I found breaks on the west side of the huge granite rocks that offered two class 3 options up from that side. I attempted to descend off the east side to see if that would work, but got stopped by a drop that I judged too dangerous, and returned back down the west side instead. The summit offers a great view of Granite and Silver Peaks to the west. The Desert Research Center buildings could be seen below to the south. All around were piles of rounded granite features, a bouldering playground if the location weren't so remote.

After leaving the summit of Peak 5,954ft, I turned northwest and north to descend back down to Cottonwood Wash. I thought this would be a straightforward affair, dropping 1,500ft over the course of a mile, but it would be quite challenging in practice. On numerous occasions I would find myself looking over a huge granite boulder I couldn't descend and would constantly redirect my efforts through the steep terrain. In several places I found I was scrambling over large boulders piled in ravines with gaps that led down to caves and tunnels below the boulder surfaces. One of these I dropped into nervously, knowing I couldn't reverse the move and not actually knowing if there was a way out of the twisty maze of passages. It was all great fun (save for the short moment of concern) that would take me well over an hour to negotiate before I was through. Even when I though I was on safer ground, I found more boulders and tunneling below. It wasn't until I was on the wide, sandy wash at the bottom that I could relax and follow the wash back out to the trailhead. The sandy wash still held the numerous bootprints of the many climbers that had used this wash to reach Granite Peak from the TH. It was 3:30p by the time I returned to the Jeep. I showered here, changed into some fresh clothes, and readied myself for several hours of driving to Needles at the AZ border where I would get dinner. I was to meet up with my pal Eric later in the evening off US95 near the Turtle Mtns. More fun tomorrow...


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