West Maria BM P1K
Picacho Peak Wilderness HP P300
Top BM P500

Mon, Mar 19, 2018
Picacho Peak Wilderness HP
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


West Maria BM

With more than 1,500ft of prominence and standing as the highpoint of the Rice Valley Wilderness, West Maria BM had been on my radar for a number of years now. I had been up Midland Road to the same area earlier in the season for several hikes in the Little Maria Mtns to the west, but had run out of time for West Maria BM. Today seemed like a good day to get her done. The last of my friends had left me the day before, leaving me to myself for the next 4-5 days as I continued a long desert trip. I camped the night off Midland Rd at the Long Term Visitor Area between Blythe and Midland, rising in the morning before sunrise to drive north the rest of the way to Styx, my starting point. Styx is an old RR stop at the pass where Midland Rd continues north to Rice on SR62. The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe used to cross the road at this point, but the tracks and ties have been removed, leaving a pretty good road if one has high-clearance to get over the berm at the edge of the road. Lacking this, I parked on Midland Rd and started for the summit by hiking the first mile along the old grade. Once I left the grade, I headed northeast to a wide gully that looked to lead to the NW Ridge. The lower part of this was rather mundane with lots of small volcanic rock to wade through, but higher up the gully had some fun scrambling down the dry watercourse. Rather than reach a ridgeline, the gully turned to the southeast as it continued up between two opposing ridgelines, nearly to the summit. The gully ends with a few hundred feet of more mundaneness before eventually topping out 1,700ft above the base of the mountain, about an hour and a half's effort.

There was the expected benchmark and survey tower as well as a MacLeod/Lilley register from 1986. Nine other parties had signed in since then, most recently by Adam Walker and pal only two weeks earlier - it's getting a little too busy in these parts. The view north overlooks the vast Rice Valley while to the west stretches the Little Maria Mtns with the McCoy and Palen Mtns further yet. The rest of the Big Maria Mtns can be seen to the southeast. The range would make for a fine traverse starting with this first summit, but I'll leave it to the likes of Eric Su and others to make an epic of this. I took an alternate gully down the west side from the summit that also proved to have some good scrambling. There are numerous other gullies one might descend and I suspect they all probably have decent scrambling on this fun little mountain.

Picacho Peak Wilderness HP / Top BM

After taking an extended lunch break in Blythe, I drove south for an hour to climb these two summits from Indian Pass. A 9mi dirt BLM road extends from paved Ogilby Rd to Indian Pass, suitable for most vehicles. The first half is graded quite well and I was able to drive 30mph quite easily. It then grows a little rough for passenger cars and I slowed considerably, to around 10mph. I had to get out to move rocks at one point and eventually stopped just short of the pass when another rocky section looked like more than I needed to deal with - what's another quarter mile of hiking anyway?

The Picacho Peak Wilderness HP is less than a quarter mile southeast of Indian Pass and less than 1/3mi from where I parked. The terrain is mostly of the desert varnished volcanic vomit variety - a tedious covering of rounded rocks from softball to basketball in size, requiring constant vigilance to walk across. We'd come across this terrain in the same corner of California on two separate occasions earlier in the season. Because it was only 1/3mi, getting up and down the Wilderness HP was fairly easy despite the terrain and I managed it in about half an hour. Barbara Lilley (sans Gordon) had left a register in 2009 and the other half dozen or so visitors were all recognizable names from the usual suspects. There is a distance view of Picacho Peak to the southeast and a really interesting view north and east to other pinnacles between 1.5mi and 3mi away. One of these in particular looked to be class 5 and I wondered why I had never heard of it before. Has it been visited? Making another trip to visit these summits east of Indian Pass would be well worthwhile (with some gear and Rope Gun Scotty).

At Indian Pass I steeled myself for another steep climb up the rocky vomit, this time on the north side of the pass to Top BM. The slope was similar to the previous one, but once I topped out at an elevation just above the first summit, I had to hike almost 2mi up an easy gradient that rises to Top BM. The problem, I found, is that the entire distance is mostly continuous acreage of vomit. To add more fun, there are random cholla and ocotillo gardens to dodge through. The strategy I used to make progress was to keep my eyes glued to the ground with occasional quick glances upwards to avoid running into a cactus. It took 70min to make my way from Indian Pass to the summit. There are more interesting rock pinnacles off to the northeast and Black Mtn with its antenna complex to the northwest. I found no register, but there was a rusty gas can-looking thing filled with sand among the summit rocks. I left one of my registers after taking a few photos of the benchmark and . To avoid the tedious return across the SE ridgeline, I looked around for an alternate. I spotted a trail in the wash to the southeast, so I dropped 700ft down in that direction (more vomit acreage) to reach the wash. What a relief I felt walking in the gravel wash after so much crud. The wash eventually led to a trail which eventually became a rough road. Part of this road is shown on the 7.5' topo map as 4WD, but it has been driven further into the wash than shown on the map. Because it turns to the south after exiting the canyon, I had to leave the trail/road after a little more than a mile to finish the last mile cross-country back to the van, overall a much better route than the ascent. It was 6p when I finally finished up, time to call it a day. I showered before starting back down the road, driving most of the way back to the pavement as the sun was setting. There are lots of camping options off Indian Pass Rd so I took advantage of one of these to have a quiet place to spend the night. More fun on tap for tomorrow...


Skip in Carson City comments on 03/20/18:
Wow Bob.... you really stylin' with those duct-taped shoes!

Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Tue Mar 20 16:04:26 2018
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com