Travelers Peak 2x P500 SDC
Clay Point
Rainbow Rock
Mecca Hill BM P500

Mon, Feb 25, 2019

With: Karl Fieberling
Patrick O'Neill
Tom Becht

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPXs: 1 2 Profile
Travelers Peak previously climbed Fri, Dec 10, 2010


Travelers Peak

As a way to entice Tom to extend his weekend stay in the desert, I had offered to climb Pike & Cody with him, two peaks on the SDC list that he was keenly interested in, but I'd already visited. He wanted to do them from the east, starting at Borrego Springs which would a very arduous undertaking. I wasn't all that excited about it as the date approached and was not unhappy to find a storm had dropped considerable snow on the peaks. If that wasn't enough to squash Tom's enthusiasm, the accident that befell him the day before was certainly enough. His bones and muscles ached from the event, not enough to send him home, but enough to look for something easier. Travelers Peak was something easier, another SDC peak located at the southeast end of the Santa Rosa Mtns. Karl, Patrick and I had all been to the peak, so this was a pretty generous case of the whole group throwing Tom a bone - the least we could do for our semi-injured friend. :-)

I had been to the peak more than eight years ago, but had very little recall of it. Much of this was because the route we were using today was very different from the previous one. I hadn't been aware at the time that the approach from the southeast takes advantage of a rough 4WD road going up to a calcite mine, and then a good use trail the remaining distance to the summit. This was the route we planned to use today (and by far the most commonly used route) and to facilitate that, we'd spent the night camped at the start of the 4WD road just north of S-22. We drove Tom's jeep about 2/3 of the distance to the calcite mine, finding it a bit rough to continue. To be fair, I wouldn't have had the nerve to drive as far as Tom managed, so props to him for getting us that far. From our starting point where we parked, we had less than 2mi to the summit, the first half mile taking us along the remaining road to the calcite mine. The mine has been picked over pretty good over the years, but one can still see remnants of the calcite (a crystaline structure of calcium carbonate) scattered about the ground in places. From the calcite mine which we reached in ten minutes' time, it would take us another hour to climb the remaining 1,500ft along the trail on the SE Ridge. We found the benchmark and a busy, old register dating back to 1992 left by Paul Freiman of the San Diego Sierra Club. He listed other entries dating back to 1979 that included Wes Shelberg and Andy Smatko, among others, though those originals were no longer available. I also found my old entry from 2010, joined at the time by Adam Jantz.

In addition to some fine views (far better than we had on nearby Marble Peak earlier in the week), the flowers were coming out in abundance. Along with a profusion of classic yellow desert poppies, there were lupine and ocotillo blooms, along with cacti and other varieties just beginning to display. It was 10a before we got back to the jeep and another 15min before we were back to our other vehicles at the highway. The others wanted to head for home so we said our goodbyes there. I retreated to my own jeep to look for a few extra peaks I could do before the day was done.

Clay Point

This was a very quick stop on the way east out of Anza-Borrego towards the Salton Sea. This minor point has little prominence and is just north of the highway. I pulled over and drove as close as I could get, within about 400ft. There's actually a way from the west that can make it a drive-up, but the walk was short enough as it was. Just as I was about to start up, Tom drove up in his jeep, evidently spying me turning off the road after following me from Travelers. We went up to the flat highpoint together, took a few pictures, and went back. This time we parted ways for good, the last I would see him on this trip.

Rainbow Rock

This is a USGS feature located on the western edge of the Santa Rosa Mtns, not far from the Salton Sea. Straight up, it isn't worth the visit, despite it being on the LoJ website. The feature is located at an old mining site and whatever there was to give it such a colorful name has long been destroyed. The obvious road to reach it appears to be blocked by an active gravel mine in the desert flats between the old mine site and SR86. Not wanting to mess with large trucks and possible tresspass issues, I opted to use an unsigned dirt road to the north of the gravel mine to get to the base of the range and within about a mile and a half of the feature. I then wandered on foot to the southwest up washes and along old roads to reach the old mine site and find my way to where Rainbow Rock was supposed to be located. I spent about an hour and a half on this not-so-great exploration. Later when I did more study of the maps in this area, it appears that all my travels on foot were through portions of the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation. There weren't any signs or fences or anything to delineate the boundary, so seems it may not be a big deal, but still it seemed like bad karma.

Mecca Hill BM

With a few hours of daylight remaining, I turned my attention to the Mecca Hills, a badlands area found on the east side of Coachella Valley. PB showed several ways to reach the highpoint. I first visited the gravel pit to the northeast, the route Adam Walker had used. It was about 10mi roundtrip and I didn't think I'd be able to get back before dark (not sure why this bothered me at the time, and it seems I would have easily been back in time), so I then thought the Painted Canyon route from the south would be easier at half the distance. I found paved Box Canyon closed (though folks seem to drive up there anyway) but the dirt road to Painted Canyon forks just before the closure and is still open. I drove up Painted Canyon to what seemed like a likely-looking side canyon, the shortest route to the highpoint judging by my GPSr map. I spent over an hour exploring up this canyon and several of its forks, finding that I had badly underestimated the difficulties one finds in these badlands. The easy hiking in the washes leads to complacency, but they all eventually narrow and become difficult scrambles. The walls are not very solid at all and I found myself doing several sketchy climbs, only to back down from each one as the way ahead got scarier. I finally had to admit I was in over my head and would need more than a few hours of late afternoon sun to find my way up from this side. I decided to call it a day and just use Adam's longer, but established route from the gravel pit the next day. There's a fine GPS track on PB to help with this. Unfortunately there was no track available from the Painted Canyon side, just a written description that didn't help me very much.


Michael G comments on 03/08/19:
I also failed to find a reasonable route to Mecca Hill BM from the Painted Canyon side last December. All canyons I explored ended in vertical walls without reasonable ways to gain a ridge earlier. Still had a great time though.
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