Pilot Mountain P1K
Peak 4,118ft P300
Hi Corn P750
Peak 2,906ft P750

Jan 19, 2018

With: Scott Barnes
Iris Ma
Matt Yaussi
Robert Wu

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3


Scott had some regrets about not joining us the previous weekend in Death Valley, so this was a chance to work off some of that anguish. A few days before, Iris had commented that Scott might be interested in an outing on Thur or Fri, so I tossed out the idea of visiting the Corn Springs area on Thursday. Scott was unavailable, however, as he had already made lunch plans with Robert. "Oh well", I figured, "I tried." Then I got another email from diplomat Iris, "Maybe you could suggest Friday?" Not only was Scott available Friday, but so were Matt and Iris, and as a bonus Scott was able drag Robert along, too. Robert had never done desert peakbagging and was grudgingly joining us to be sociable. Scott hoped that Robert would discover the wonders and delight that is obscure desert peakbagging. Both would be disappointed.

Corn Springs is a sad BLM campground (no fee or services) in the Chuckwalla Mtns that can be reached via a decent dirt road (2WD ok, high-clearance better) from Interstate 10. There is a P1K and a couple of almost-P900s in the area that I was interested in. Having never visited the area, it seemed like an interesting plac to check out. Everything except the campground turned out to be interesting. There were a few parties using the campground on our visit, most of the palm trees having died from either lack of water or sheer boredom. The campsites were dated and unmaintained, the whole place looking hot and dry. It appears that at one time someone tried to make an oasis out of it with the palm trees and other plants, but leaving them unattended makes the place look worse.

Pilot Mtn / Peak 4,118ft

Carpooling in from Orange County, the others picked me up at the meeting place outside Joshua Tree NP and together the five of us drove in Matt's Subaru the rest of way. We went past the campground, continuing to Aztec Well where there is a homestead that appears to be maybe abandoned - it was hard to tell - lots of shit everywhere, but no obvious sign of current usage. A fork off the road continues south past this site, eventually ending short of a washout. Not even a Jeep could make it past this point even though it isn't yet at the Wilderness boundary. Starting from here shortly after 7a, we made our way on foot up the continuing roadway for another 2.5mi. When almost due north of Pilot Mtn, we turned right off the road to head uphill along the North Ridge with about a mile to the top. Thinking the summit was somewhere that is was not, I made the minor mistake of shifting to an adjacent ridgeline to the west. Robert followed me up this while the other three continued on the North Ridge and consequently they arrived well before Robert and I.

When I finally caught up with them, Iris and Scott were perusing a neat Sierra Club register dating back to 1950. There seems to have been regular DPS trips to this summit back in the day, but these appear to have stopped before 1980. Since then, the peak gets climbed every few years on average, enough to fill 26 pages. Barbara and Gordon had visited in 1977, Barbara's second ascent after a first effort in 1958. As it was barely 9a, we were doing quite well on time. I noted there was a bonus Peak 4,118ft another mile to the southwest and it took only about 15 seconds to get the others approval to add it to our itinerary (though Robert expressed no real desire one way or the other). It took us only about 40min to reach the bonus peak over easy terrain. Gordon and Barbara had left a register here in 1983. There was only one other party to sign the register, back in 2008, before our arrival. From here we had about 4mi to cover for the return which took us about two hours, much of it along a pleasant ridgeline heading north. Iris took a tumble somewhere along here, though the brush she fell into seemed to cushion the fall and she dusted herself off without serious harm. Gentlemen that we were, three of us stood around taking photos before offering any help.

Tiring of the ridge, I eventually led us down into the Irish Wash system on one side, dropping us into the sandy bottom. Ahead of the others, Matt and I were the first to come upon the roadway we had used earlier. I continued down the wash thinking I was shortcutting the road while Matt waited for the others to join him, after which they continued on the road. It took some time for me to realize the wash was not the same one we had started up and my route was diverging from the correct one. By the time I had corrected this and crossed over into the correct drainage, the others were well ahead and had returned to the car. Matt had seen me go off in the wrong direction and they collectively wondered when I would clue in. A bit embarrassed, I eventually joined them around 11:30a.

Hi Corn

We next drove about 1.5mi back along the road we'd driven in on, until we were about a mile south, and some 1,200ft below Hi Corn. The name was bestowed by Gordon and Barbara on their 1983 visit (different month than the previous summit), in reference to the slightly lower Corn BM found a few hundred yards to the northeast. The scrambling to the summit was steep but typical class 2 terrain, neither a desert classic nor particularly difficult. The register was a bit of a mess, with Gordon's original one having become brittle in the hot sun and virtually disintegrating before our eyes. A second one was left by Mark Adrian in 2013, and it was to this one we added our own entry. We paid a visit to the nearby benchmark (since that point appears on the PB database) before returning back to the car around 1:30p.

Peak 2,903

The final summit, unnamed but with significant prominence, is located about 1,200ft above the campground, a virtual repeat of the climb we'd just done to Hi Corn. Less than enamoured by the whole thing, Robert decided he'd sit this one out ("What's the point?"), much to our dismay and Scott's considerable distress ("We've ruined it for him!"). We parked the car outside the campground in the wash just off the road where some petroglyphs are located, starting up from there. We took an hour to climb to the summit, located a bit north of the point visible from below. Once again, Gordon and Barbara had been here to leave a register, this time in 1986. I think it might be the first time I'd visited four summits in the same day that were done by those two on separate occasions. We descended back down a gully to the southwest which had some modest scrambling opportunities, but otherwise no real difficulties. It would be after 3:30p before we had collected ourselves back at the car, Robert looking about as bored as I could ever recall seeing him. Guess this desert stuff isn't for everybody.

We drove back out to the Interstate where the others dropped me off back at the van around sunset and we said our goodbyes. I was due to pick up my daughter at the Amtrak station in Los Angeles around 10p which gave me hours of free time. Rather than fight rush hour traffic in LA, I decided to hang out in Coachella until around 8p. I caught up with email and other online activities while there, eventually finding the drive into LA later in the evening more pleasant than usual. It would be after midnight before we eventually arrived at Grandma's place in San Diego, marking the end of this month's desert wandering...

Matt's Video

Scott Barnes comments on 01/31/18:
Now Robert doesn't love (or maybe strongly dislikes) desert summits and it's all my fault! I failed the team and I should be taken out into the street and summarily... reprimanded. In hindsight, I should have lured him to Picacho Peak where he could showed me up by climbing the rock at the second ladder. It's going to be difficult to get him back to the desert for hiking, but I'm certainly going to try when the time is right.

Also, the incredible Ms. Barbara Lilley was able to remember exactly where these summits were and the name of the trailhead. How cool is that? I was there not quite two weeks ago and I couldn't remember anything -- except failing Robert and the team. Hey ho.
Bob Burd comments on 01/31/18:
You did not fail the team. The rest of us had a grand time. You also didn't fail Robert. It just wasn't his cup of tea. I think even Picacho may have bored him. :-)
Matt Yaussi comments on 02/01/18:
As someone who is also new to (obscure) desert peak bagging, I would have to agree that this was probably not the best choice of outings to "woo" somebody (pun intended) into desert peaks. Don't get me wrong, I did have a great time myself, but I can certainly understand why Robert wouldn't be too excited about it. Even though I did point out some cool looking bouldering problems near the start of the first hike.

Also, for the record, I stopped where the wash met the road to remove my jacket (cold and breezy on the summits, but hot down in the canyons). The others caught up to me before I was finished, and we all started down the wash together for a while (encountering a pretty cool downclimb on some large polished rocks), before I suggested we leave the wash and follow the road before it veered away from the wash any further.
Robert Wu comments on 02/06/18:
Hello from Bratislava! Thank you for the most enjoyable post-breakfast read; I laughed out loud plenty of times. Boredom aside, I nevertheless really appreciate you all for getting me to go outside and dealing with my Johnny Raincloud/stoke-thievery that day. It was great to see everyone again :)
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