Valley Mountain P300
Valley Mountain East P300
Peak 2,966ft P300
Peak 3,372ft P300
Peak 4,514ft P300
Peak 4,313ft P300
Samuelsons Rock

Fri, Feb 3, 2023

With: Iris Ma

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX

After an enjoyable outing to Joshua Tree the previous week, I decided to come back for more. Iris was available to join me for much of this weekend, driving out from Orange County this afternoon. I would have the morning to myself.

Valley Mtn - Valley Mtn East

Valley Mountain is found about 5mi northeast of 29 Palms. Both summits are located just within the southern boundary of the Marine military reservation. I was intrigued because Barbara Lilley had recorded an ascent in 2014 when she was 85yrs old. I figured it must be pretty safe if Barbara had no qualms about breaching the base perimeter. I had driven in the night before, finding a quiet spot to camp less than a mile from Valley Mtn, just outside the base. I was up early, finding signs suggesting one best watch their step due to unexploded ordnances. There are no fences demarcing the boundary, and there are signs of regular incursions by OHVs and motorcycles. It does not seem that this part of the base is used by the military. It is, however, used for shooting practice, including a small pile of mannequin parts that had been spent and left in the desert sands, not far from where I camped. The hike to the summit is pretty straightforward, initially across a shallow drainage, then up to the summit from the southeast, all class 2. After less than half an hour, I reached the summit where I found a very large cairn (visible from my camp), a benchmark, and the expected register from Barbara. I took a variation on the descent, no better or worse than the ascent, finishing back at the Jeep just under an hour after starting out. I then moved the Jeep about half a mile to the east and started up to the eastern summit from there. This was shorter than the first, but took about the same amount of time. There is a good deal of sand on the slopes, mixed with volcanic rock higher up. I left a register on the second summit, finishing up by 8:40a.

Peak 2,966ft - Peak 3,372ft

These are the two northernmost summits in the Sheephole Mountains, about 13mi further east from Valley Mtn. The range is primarily granite, more of a scrambling exercise than Valley Mtn. I drove north over Sheephole Pass and parked on a BLM road just west of Peak 2,966ft. It took 30min to find my way up the west side of the peak, class 2-3. I left a register here before continuing on my way to the second summit. I did a poor job identifying its location, leading me to descend all the way off the south side without using the connecting ridgeline which would have likely been faster. The topo map shows a small network of roads on the south side of Peak 2,966ft, but these are no longer driveable as they fall within the Sheephole Valley Wilderness that covers most of the range (though oddly, not Peak 2,966ft). I went up the west side of Peak 3,372ft, taking about an hour between summits, and left a second register. I descended the gully north of my ascent route to return to the wash system below, and followed this back out to where I had parked. About 2hr20min for the two peaks.

Peak 4,514ft - Peak 4,313ft - Samuelsons Rock

These three are all located within Joshua Three National Park. I met Iris at the Visitor Center in the town of Joshua Tree around 12:30p, then drove both of us into the park. The summits are located on the southwest side of the paved park road where we parked to make a loop of it. This side of the road has far less granite boulders, making for a more casual outing that would occupy us for the next three and a half hours. In a counterclockwise direction, we first visited Peak 4,514ft, climbing it from the southeast in about 45min. The uppermost part of the summit had granite boulders, but nothing more than class 2. We descended another line down the southeast side, dropping to a wash which we followed a short distance in the continuing direction before I realized our next peak was to the southwest. We made an abrupt turn, happy that our second peak turned out to be closer than we'd guessed, and ascended it from the northeast. It took us a little over an hour between summits. It was only when we were atop the second summit that I noticed I still had a register in my pack. I had planned to leave it on the higher, first summit, but had forgotten all about it while we were there. So we left it on Peak 4,313ft before heading off the southeast side.

Samuelsons Rock is a very minor point, named on the topo, that sits below the base of Peak 4,313ft. It is named for John Samuelson, a native of Sweden, who lived nearby in the 1920s. In his spare time he carved musings on flat-faced rocks scattered about the hillside. Two of these are located near the summit, a simple class 1 effort that takes but a minute. One can find more about Samuelson's life online, but his legacy is mostly about the badly spelled words and phrases carved into the rocks. Bits of the homestead still lie about, including a rusting bedspring at the summit. After a nice walk through joshua tree forest, we were back to the Jeep before 4:30p, ready to call it a day and start on refreshments. That first sip of cold beer after a hike is always the best...


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