Fri, Nov 15, 2019
Tom and I were in the area for Iris' birthday weekend in Joshua Tree. With an extra day beforehand, Tom rode shotgun while I drove around the east end of the San Bernardino Mtns tagging a few points of dubious interest that have been on my todo list for a couple of years. One is the Bighorn Mtn Wilderness HP, a liner on the side of the HPS Tip Top Mtn. The other was the HP of the Bighorn Mtns which is not quite as obvious as one might hope. The other summits were just bonuses on the way between the two main objectives. Up until this trip, Tom had only hiked with me during the Sierra Challenge, starting in 2011. Now he got to see what I do the other 50 weeks in the year and he seemed to have some trouble making sense of it all. He was a good sport though, and it made for lots of friendly ribbing.
If one looks at the topo map, it seems to indicate that the Bighorn Mountains are restricted to a roughly 4 mile-long ridgeline going over the HPS summit of Bighorn Mtn. Bighorn Mtn has a spot elevation of 5,894ft, but there are four nearby competing points to the south that have a 5,920-foot contour, one of which is given on LoJ as Peak 5,940ft (based on average elevation interpretation). All of these points are part of the same summit plateau shared with Bighorn Mtn. And if this isn't confusing enough, less than two miles to the southeast is the even higher Peak 6,093ft, connected by a ridgeline to the other points. Is this outside the Bighorn Mtns? It can be argued either way, and which side someone takes is probably motivated my which one they've climbed. I decided to tag both and leave it to future OCD-enabled peakbaggers to determine the highpoint by whatever means they may invent.
The first mile of our hike took us over the remaining section of rough 4WD road, portions of which were fine, others even rougher than we'd seen before parking. The road goes over two saddles before dropping to a small valley on the southwest side of Peak 6,093ft. At a road junction, we headed cross-country up to the West Ridge and followed that to the summit of Peak 6,093ft, taking about 50min. The summit is wide and open, with several outcrops competing to be the highest. The eastern one has better views in that direction, but the western one had a register dating back to 1974. The numerous pages were filled with HPS entries, covering up until about 1990. Then the entries become more sporadic, with only a few in the last decade. The cover page had been labeled as Bighorn Mtn, but seems to have been questioned by several entries and eventually renamed by another to Antler Peak. The HPS archives show Pt. 5,894ft as the HPS summit as far back as 1966, so I'm not sure what prompted all these HPS visits.
After about 20min we headed off to the northeast along the connecting ridgeline to Peak 5,940ft. There were half a dozen dips along the way, plenty of rock but mostly straightforward hiking, taking us about an hour and a quarter to cover the 2.3mi distance between summits. This second summit was much less obvious, as expected, and no register was found at the two (of four) bumps we visited. Rather than subject Tom to more peakbagging silliness, I elected to call it good at the point indicated on LoJ. If lidar or some future visitor with a surveying level find otherwise, perhaps I'll come back another time. We considered several options for our return. The easiest would have been to simply follow the road we could see just to the northeast back down and around the east and south sides of Peak 6,093ft. We decided on the shorter and probably faster cross-country route to the southwest, about half the distance. This worked nicely with the help of an animal trail that took us halfway down the mountain before losing it on the rocky slope. We dropped into an unnamed, sandy wash that we followed south towards the road we'd hiked in on. It would be after 3:30p before we returned to the jeep, ready to call it a day. We had another hour of daylight, but would use that and then some in driving back out to Yucca Valley.
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