Pilot Knob P500
Pasadena Mountain P750
Ogilby Hills P300

Fri, Dec 16, 2022

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


Our last day together found us in the far SE corner of California and Imperial County, west of Yuma, AZ. We had come far south looking for warmer temps and found better conditions, but still unseasonably chilly. Overcast skies and a stiff wind would change to bluer skies and less wind in the afternoon. We'd spent the night camped east of Yuma, on some sandy state trust lands south of town that we thought would give us some peace and quiet. We were visited by the Border Patrol around midnight, having been reported by "spotters," which we took to mean well-meaning citizens trying to keep their country safe. The net result was that after a short, pleasant exchange, they let us be for the rest of the night. We were up before dawn to grab Starbucks on our way out of town and west into California. Our efforts today were pretty chill, a collection of three relatively easy summits.

Pilot Knob

This summit is located in the southeast corner of California, only a few miles from the CA/AZ/MX junction, south of Interstate 8. There is an abandoned quarry on the north side of the peak. We got off at the Sidewinder Exit where the BLM Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Area is located. We left Eric's car near the highway and drove the Jeep south on Sidewinder Rd to where it makes a sharp turn to the west. We parked here and headed up the NW Ridge, a fun bit of scrambling that had Eric nervous because the acid we had taken earlier was starting to kick in. Did I mention that already? We'd taken it with our Starbucks before heading to California, timing it about right. I was more comfortable on the class 2-3 terrain, so wasn't having any issues. We took about 50min to reach the summit, the last part on some use trails that appear to be part of the quarry.

The summit had a collection of poorly constructed flagpoles with solar lighting, none of which worked any more, and no flags on the poles. There were other small structures, no longer in use, including an array of short antennae. The summit overlooks the NE corner of MX that abuts that section of AZ acquired through the Gadsen Purchase. Large sections of the US/MX wall can be seen as it makes a sharp turn around the mexican town of Los Algondones. Included in this wall is a colorful section of illegally stacked shipping containers on federal lands that AZ would shortly be forced to dismantle. After Eric described his discomfort with the ascent, I assured him we could get down an easier way, all trail and road through the quarry. This worked very nicely, and would undoubtedly make for the easiest ascent route as well.

After returning to the Jeep, we drove south, hoping to get a close-up look at the border fence. Unfortunately, the All-American Canal runs along the border on the US side of the fence, and we could find no access across the canal. We might have been able to swim across, but that might have not ended well via a variety of possible scenarios gone bad.

Pasadena Mountain

This summit lies in the Cargo Muchacho Mtns and has more than 800ft of prominence. As Bob G succinctly puts it in his TR on PB, "A trail goes up." It was about 6-7mi north of our first peak and required only backroads to reach it. We drove both vehicles north on Sidewinder Rd across the Interstate. A residence just north of the Interstate suggests the land has a mystical quality. Further north along the road we found scatterings of long-term visitors, probably long-term residents too. This area was once part of Camp Pilot Knob, a US Army training ground connected with Patton's WWII training site at Desert Center off Interstate 10. Though the camp only existed for about a year, starting in 1943, the satellite view shows rows of streets and clearings where hundreds of wooden structures once stood. We followed Bob G's GPX track off Sidewinder Rd that took us to the base of the range and the start of the trail. The site was very clean and neat, with a firering and rocks neatly lined along the perimeter of the camp area. Someone had spent hundreds of hours collecting, carrying and placing rocks, for reasons that are not imprinted on their work. We decided this would be a fine place to spend the night.

The trail we followed to the summit had also been lovingly constructed, obviously not an old mining trail, but one built for no other reason than to go up a mountain. The upper portion had been more sparsely laid out, and it seems that the trail builder ran out of time or ability to finish it to the same standards the lower half had been. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to make our way to the top where we found an ammo box holding a busy register/geocache. On the way back down, I thought it might have been fun to descend the gully south of the summit. It looked like it could be a nice scramble all the way back to the bottom (or maybe just a fun Wilderness-y adventure while tripping), but I didn't suggest it because I knew Eric would prefer the trail and didn't want to be alone for the hike down. When we got back to the cars, Eric decided to take it easy the rest of the afternoon while I wanted to go off and tag the last summit we had planned for the day. Even acid can't keep me from doggedly pursuing a peakbagging agenda.

Ogilby Hills

This is the highpoint of a small group of summits southwest of the Cargo Muchacho Mtns, and the only point that has more than 300ft of prominence. My route to get there was meandering, which I didn't mind, as it made for some fun Jeeping on the OHV roads between the two ranges. I eventually found my way to the east side of the summit, going up one gully and back down another, taking about 30min. The summit had a Richard Carey register from 2001, with about half a dozen entries. The most recent was from MacLeod/Lilley in 2005 - then a 17yr gap. I was back to the Jeep by 2:45p, then made my way back to camp where I found Eric reading his book. We had a very fine campfire that evening with tons of dead wood we found in the small wash adjaccent to us. Quite a fine day, this one...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Fri Jan 13 17:28:46 2023
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com