Sat, Mar 26, 2022
We were in the heart of the Providence Mtns, home of the somewhat-feared Edgar and Mitchell DPS summits. They are said to have some of the worst cacti in all the Mojave, a reputation I may have helped establish with the TR I wrote when Matthew and I climbed them 17yrs earlier. Today, Patrick and I were after a northern neighbor, Peak 6,105ft, and a few others further north. I had primed Patrick to expect getting jabbed and he was not misinformed, though probably wished he had been. We had spent the night camped at the Bonanza King Mine. It is miles from the nearest pavement and further yet from Interstate 40, but somehow it had decent cell coverage, on top of being a pretty neat place to camp. The Grand Cherokee's tire had been punctured on the drive to camp the previous afternoon, but the patch we installed seemed to be holding and Patrick was feeling better about its prospects for continuing our week-long adventure. We were up early around 6a, and ready to head out of camp by 7a. Let the fun begin...
The distance to Peak 6,105ft was just under 1.5mi with a gain of some 1,900ft. More than half the distance went up the narrow canyon northwest from camp, easy at first, but soon becoming overly brushy, pushing us out of the drainage for low sidehilling. Cacti made their appearance early and would remain prolific all the way to the summit. The going was slow and it didn't help that today was expected to be the warmest of the week, with temperatures in the 70s at 6,000ft. We spent about 45min in the brushy wash before it was time to climb out. The terrain was terribly steep and initially, quite loose. Ahead of Patrick on this portion, I would pause in the shade (where I could) to wait for him, happy to have the additional rest. Patrick stumbled upon the head of a rusty pickaxe from bygone days. He briefly considered carrying his neat find in his pack, only to discard it due to the weight - we would have enough trouble without it. Our route led us onto a class 3 limestone arete with some exposure that we ascended with due caution. This led higher to where the angle lessened and the going somewhat easier, but there was a near-constant "Fuck!" - "Ouch!" - "Fuck!" behind me, each time Patrick would get stabbed by one variety of cactus or another. I chuckled to myself, mostly because I had so far avoided all but a few quick encounters with the nasty stuff. There was much pausing as Patrick pulled needles out of his hand or pants or elsewhere. The last hour was easier than the first, with better views and more interesting terrain, though none of it I would classify as "easy". In all, we spent two and a half hours to reach the summit where we found some pretty swell views overlooking the range and surrounding valleys. Mitchell and Edgar rose 1,000ft higher to the southwest, with our next stop, Peak 5,656ft, almost 3mi to the northeast. A MacLeod register we found dated to 1978. It had only three other entries, the most recent from Andy Smatko in 1989 - more than 33yrs it lay dormant until our arrival.
We rested for quite a while at the summit, but it didn't quite serve as the restful healing to steel us for the route ahead. Patrick was beginning to have doubts about continuing. Clearly the flat tire on his Cherokee was weighing on him, making it easier to get him to cash in his chips. At the same time, the terrain we'd already covered was as rough as I'd imagined and there was twice the distance ahead of us along the main crest to the 2nd summit. To add to the doubts, the route looked arduous, particularly the first 1/3 where there were cliffs and obstacles to get around. It was only a bit past 9:30a, but this could easily be an all-day affair, and then some. I was pretty committed to continuing the route, but Patrick was only partly so. He started following me off the east side of the summit, but we quickly ran into difficulties. It seems there was a cliff face impeding us that we hadn't seen from the summit. We made some exploratory wandering, stiffled at two attempts before I settled on a nervy class 3-4 route to get through the cliff band. It was the deciding factor getting Patrick to throw in the towel as he announced he was going to head back down. We discussed briefly about his plans when he got back, and though he announced he might hang around, I was pretty sure the afternoon heat and staring at the wounded tire would have him gone before I got back. We parted ways at this point, though with decent cell coverage we were able to keep each other abreast of our efforts as the day progressed.
The class 3-4 descent section turned out to have decent, but not great rock, but with care I made it down unscathed. Once through this problem, I was met by yet another unseen cliff just before the saddle I was in spitting distance of reaching. This led to me descending about 150ft down the south side of the saddle before I could find a way through and return up to the saddle. Somewhere in this effort I backed into a cactus that unleashed a dozen quills to my rear. I picked out some gingerly after removing my gloves, but others were more deeply seated. I had to drop my pants to get more of them and my underwear to get still more. I looked ridiculous standing there half-naked surrounded by cactus and unfriendly terrain and was thinking maybe I should have joined Patrick. I was far more careful after this, at least where my pants were concerned. I would still pick up several needles through my boots that would require stops to take them off and remove the needles poking through, but these were much easier to deal with. And once I had climbed back up to the saddle, things got quickly better.
The obvious cliffs we'd seen from the summit were before me, and the best option seemed to be to pass them low on the north side. After passing over the saddle, I found that the sheep that inhabit the area thought likewise and had developed a trail of sorts through this section. There were shady caves and alcoves at the base of the cliffs that were used by the sheep to avoid the summer heat. The trail connecting them wasn't great, but it beat raw terrain and made short work of what I had expected to be the hardest part. Once past this, I returned to the crest itself and found the going much better than earlier. The cactus were still present, but only at about half the density, but that seemed to make things about four times easier. I could move faster and had more options, and there were only minor rock obstacles to be avoided. There were half a dozen bumps to go over along the way, but these were not onerous and far better than the initial ascent Patrick and I had suffered. In all, I spent almost 3.5hrs on the traverse, arrive atop Peak 5,656ft around 1:10p. Beyond this summit, the continuing ridgeline drops significantly lower, going over drier, browner points much different than the higher elevations.
I settled in for a well-earned break and perused the old register left by MacLeod in 1984. Smatko had also visited, but like MacLeod, had done so on a different day than his visit to Peak 6,105ft. There were a number of entries by a Jim Foote who had a fondness for the BLM, and the most recent entry was by Eric Su and Jonah Olson in 2017. This was of interest to me because I had seen a similar entry at the southern end of the range a month earlier. The pair had embarked on a 5-day, north-to-south traverse of the entire range, something that seemed both impressive and torturous, particularly carrying a heavy backpack. Ugh. They had not left a note in the register on Peak 6,105ft, but that would have been easy to miss since it was well-hidden. Later I would look up Eric's website to see how this effort had gone, but alas, it was one for which he had not written a trip report.
I had exchanged several texts with Patrick by this time, so I knew of the troubles he had in descending, knew that he'd returned to camp, and knew that he planned to leave for home shortly. I got him to refill my water jugs before he left, which should hold me for the rest of the week, and bade him well on the drive home.
After about 20min at the summit, I turned towards my last stop, Peak 4,698ft, about a mile and a half to the southeast. I had to return back over a short portion of the main crest before I could begin descending the connecting ridgeline to the lower summit. I had to drop about 1,300ft over decent terrain (not much cacti), with a significant cliff found about halfway down the ridge. I found a way through the cliff by favoring the southern side of the ridge. At the saddle between the two peaks I took a break to clear debris from my boots, then continued up, gaining over 400ft to reach the summit around 3p. This one had no register that I could find, so I left one before turning south to continue my journey.
I descended the peak through two modest cliff bands, down to the wash adjacent to the Silver King Mine where an old mining cabin still stands. There are claim markers and rusted tins in abundance, with the feeling that this area once had some semblence of civilization about it. I picked up an old mining road that I followed up to the Bonanza King Mine. I checked out one of the horizontal mine shafts for a short distance, but did not pull out a headlamp to explore further. Higher up, I came across a guy camped out near some tailings, the same guy Patrick had encountered on his return to our camp. Seems he was keen on using our campsite if we were leaving, but as yet I hadn't decided if I would stay the night. I spoke with him briefly and told him I'd honk the horn on my way out if I chose to leave.
It was 4:15p before I returned to the Jeep, fairly exhausted from a hard day. I hung about for several hours, rehydrating, enjoying a cold beer, snacking, and taking a most refreshing shower before the sun was ready to set behind the Providence Mtns behind me. By then, I was feeling revived, and decided I could spend the next few hours driving to the next day's starting point, saving me from doing the same in the early morning. I drove out to paved Black Canyon Rd and took that north to the Hole-in-the-Wall area, then west on unpaved Wild Horse Rd. It was fully dark before I arrived near the end of a spur road at the far north end of the Providence Mtns. This was cattle country, and evidence of the leathery beasts were everywhere. I settled in for the night in a small meadow and was not long in drifting off for a long sleep...
This page last updated: Sat Apr 9 19:12:38 2022
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