Uwe has been working on a new list of Desert Peaks. He had 3 in mind in the Joshua Tree NP area and invited me and John.
We started the first day at Twenty-Nine Palms Mountain after a 2 1/2 drive to a dirt road. Another 6.5 miles of fun 4-WD off-road driving, and we parked at the bottom of a road to the mountain. Unfortunately, a gate blocked further access to the road and had no parking spaces. So we had to start a little further down the mountain. When we got to the gate, we found the chain just draped over the gate and not locked. Hah! After a 2 1/2-mile steep road hike, we headed cross country to the peak. It was a steep bushwhack, but an uneventful hike up.
Hike Stats: 4.9 miles, 1,850 ft elevation gain.
That evening we found a great campsite in a wash at the base of Sheep Hole Mountain, our next day’s objective. Sitting around a nice warm campfire (in our portable fire pit) after dinner, we heard what we first thought were coyotes, but it turned out it was a flock of geese headed back north to their home. We had never heard them in a night flight. Pretty cool.
The next morning, we started up Sheep Hole Mountain. Within the first 1/2 mile we ran into an old mine. The ruins of the Sheep Hole Mountain gold mine were extensive. There were the foundation and partial wall of a building, a well, an arrastra, and several water holding tanks. The way up led us through a steep boulder-strewn wash with some easy dry-falls. It was moderately difficult, but the fun really started after the wash and the boulder hopping started in a serious fashion. At almost every turn, it seemed huge house-sized boulder walls were blocking our way. However, in most places we were able to find our way around and up. We had two “wormholes” (spots were we crawled under the boulders) to climb through to get to the top. Once the summit was in view, we were concerned about our stamina and ability to scramble up the summit block. It didn’t look so intimidating when we got to the base of the summit block. There we scrambled up a Class 3 climb to get to the top of the summit. (Class 1 = a fall is just ouch; Class 2 a fall is a serious hurt, but you can walk out; Class 3 = a fall means broken bones; Class 4 = a fall means serious injury and medivac; Class 5 = a fall means you’re dead*) A little scary but we made it. [Uwe: it took me a little longer to get into the right mindset for that scramble] We left our packs at the base of the block, so we knew we had to get back down for lunch. The hike back down the mountain was equally as difficult as the way up due to slippery footing and gigantic steps. The hike up and down was like doing 1,000 single-leg presses. It was a short hike, but with exploring the mine and over an hour on top, we were away from the trucks for 8h. We made it back to our campsite, built another fire, and had a beer to celebrate our achievement.
Hike Stats: 5.3 miles, 2,250 ft elevation gain.
As opposed to the previous night wind came up and it became really cold. So in the morning after some hot coffee and a warm breakfast, we were ready to attack the third mountain. We thought Joshua Mountain could be a nice 1 ½-mile walk up, but no, it was another very steep and rocky path after the ¾-mile approach across the desert. Joshua Mountain also had a Class 3 summit block but, not quite as bad as Sheep Hole Mountain. But it was a very windy day and that added to the challenge. The hike was another single-leg press hike. Having a snack a the bottom of the imposing south-east wall of the peak out of the wind, we were wondering where climbers might go up. We started to notice a number of shiny objects in the rock. A closer look with binoculars revealed that they were pitons and rope anchors. Nothing we would do.
Hike Stats: 3 miles, 1,200 ft elevation gain.
A great three days. Three peaks, two Class 3 summit blocks, two “wormholes”.
* Note: The Class ratings of the hikes/climbs are the authors and not of an official rating system
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