Raphael P300
Leonardo P300
Splinter P900
Michelangelo P300

Wed, May 2, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


Rather than a boring collection of unnamed summits, Peak X,XXXft, etc, I decided to go bold and name these after various characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Seemed fitting for the Turtle Mtns.

I'd spent a second night camped on reservation lands on the outskirts of Parker, AZ. Despite my complaints the first night about the rotating airport beacon, I picked the same spot to sleep - force of habit, I suppose. I was pretty tired so it didn't bother me a whit, this time. And there were no planes making late-night takeoffs like the first night, either. In the morning I was up, grabbed breakfast in town, and headed back into CA, west on SR62 to the Turtle Mtns. I was after a P900 in the heart of the range, about as hard a summit to get to anywhere in the CA desert. There is a BLM road from the west that gets within about 3mi, but the road is rough, neglected, and hard to find. I had studied this one well, using satellite imagery and topo maps, both old and new, in an attempt to find a way that works. Well-graded dirt Cadiz Rd runs northwest from SR62 for nearly 50mi to old US66 at Amboy, following along the west side of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. The satellite view and topo maps show a dirt road paralleling Cadiz Rd between the RR tracks and the Turtle Mtns, but how one gets to it is a bit of a mystery. It seems that since the RR tracks were upgraded, old crossings were removed, probably decades ago, and the access roads have become disused. The old topo maps show two roads connecting Cadiz Rd to the parallel one, though newer topo maps have removed these. My first effort was an aqueduct road off SR62 that I thought might connect to the road I was after. This seemed to lead nowhere except along the aqueduct, obviously a service road. Getting off the aqueduct path isn't easy, since there are dikes built up along the uphill side (Turtle Mtn side) of the aqueduct to channel rainwater to specific locations where the aqueduct goes below ground through siphons. My second effort was to look for the old connector near the Cadiz Rd & SR62 junction. This necessitated driving over the tracks without the benefit of a crossing. Doable in the Jeep, it turns out, but not recommended. I found no old road on the other side and went back to Cadiz Rd. My last effort before giving up was to drive 5mi north to the old stop of Sablon and look for the other access road from the old topo. There is no crossing at the indicated point, but there is a bridge that one can drive under. Tire treads in the sand show this to be done every now and then. There is a big step initially, but some well-placed rocks made it fairly easy for the Jeep. Once on the other side, I had trouble finding any trace of the old road. Determined, I started driving northeast cross-country, initially following another set of tracks but soon on my own. 3mi later, I finally found the road I was looking for. Success! Sort-of. It turns out, BLM Rd 616 does indeed start from the bridge, but it takes a hard left up some deep sand before finally becoming a recognizable road. I found this on the way back which was nice, because that old road I was eager to find was in poor shape. It goes against the grain of the drainages which means lots of dips, some of them big, often with partial washouts. Sticking to the 616 route is far better. This can then be followed for about 12mi into the Turtle Mtns, skirting the boundary of the Turtle Mtns Wilderness for the last five miles or so. I was unable (more like afraid) to drive the last mile of road to the pass because of some rather nasty boulders clogging the wash serving for a portion of the road. I parked at this point. I'd been driving off pavement for 2hrs now and was ready to put my boots on.

What started off as a hike to the P900 and a couple of bonus peaks, morphed into something more, adding three additional bonus peaks while covering almost 11mi with 4,500ft of gain over 7hrs. It was a pretty big day, thanks in part to the cooler than usual temperatures. A winter storm watch was in effect for San Bernardino County until 11a today. No real precipitation was expected in the desert, but temps were in the low 60s with heavy overcast most of the day. At 8:25a I started up the remaining part of the road that goes up to a saddle and a prospect at 3,100ft. There is a old mining cabin ear where I parked that is maybe a decade from completely collapsing. Above the prospect, the rest of my route would be all cross-country, following one ridgeline or another to the various peaks. The first stop was Raphael, on the main crest running N-S along the western half of the range. Just a quarter mile off my path to the P900, I reached Raphael by 9:40a. There was a rather large cairn but no register, so I left one of my own. There are views across the wide valley in the middle of the range to the DPS summits of Mopah and Umpah. To the northeast, the next two summits look very far still. It was necessary to drop a long way off the crest to a low saddle that acts to divide the two halves of the range. Though separated by less than a mile and half, it took me a full hour to traverse between Raphael & Leonardo while dropping through the low saddle. No large cairn nor register at Leonardo, to no great surprise - this is getting pretty remote within the range. Without as large a drop to Splinter, it would take less than hour to reach it from Leonardo. There is some cliff-ish rock directly on the ridgeline connecting to it, but there is easy bypassing on the left or right of this. There was another large cairn on the day's highest summit and evidence of surveyors - pieces of wood from a survey tower and an old battery that might have been used to light a beacon atop the tower. To the northeast are the rugged volcanic summits in the range, a few of which I had visited two days earlier. There were no roads or other signs of civilization in any direction one might look from Splinter - remote, indeed.

After returning back to the main crest of the western half, I was surprised to have more energy than I expected. The warmer temps I'd had earlier on the road trip had the effect of sapping my efforts and I'd gotten used to lower mileage days. I decided to head northwest along the crest to tag two more summits that I knew had been visited by Gordon MacLeod. The first of these, Donatello, I reached at 1:40p, two hours after leaving Splinter. There was the expected MacLeod/Lilley register from 1988, showing only one other party in 1999. The next party should be due around 2030. 0.4mi to the WNW is Michelangelo. This, too, had the expected register left the same day in 1988. Though it appears I'm the only one to visit since, the backside of the register showed a visit from Bob Greer less than two months ago - that was a surprise. The last summit of the day, April, is located just above the saddle I had first hiked up to. I dropped south off Michelangelo, traversing the basin between the two peaks, finally climbing up to April, the lowest of the six summits, by 3p. No cairn, no register, and sadly, I was out of the ones I'd packed with me. Nicely, my Jeep was parked at the base of April on the south side, so I simply dropped off in that direction down a ridgeline to return by 3:30p.

Only a few sprinkles had fallen all day, all of which had dried almost as soon as they'd hit. It made for nearly ideal hiking weather for which I was grateful - May in the desert is usually a pretty iffy proposition. My only regret was that my shower water wasn't even warm - a small price to pay, I suppose. After my shower I drove back out (stopping to check out an old homestead with a large truck parked there) the long drive back to Cadiz Rd and SR62. I continued west on SR62 to Twentynine Palms where I got dinner and would spend the night. I had plans to drive into the San Bernardino Mtns the next day...


Nick Geo comments on 07/06/20:
I 100% support the official dubbing of the unnamed Turtle Mountains after Ninja Turtles Characters.
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