John and I went out to climb some desert peaks in the Mojave.
Ship Mountain (3,238 ft; 3.6 miles, 2,300 ft elevation gain)
On day one we drove to the area and started hiking around noon. We soon realized that this short climb would take longer than the numbers on paper suggested. We decided that we had just enough daylight to complete it. The climb up the standard route in the gully is very steep and over big, loose rocks and boulders. The view from the top was spectacular. To the west we could see San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and San Antonio (Baldy) with their snow caps. To the north the Granite and Providence mountains loomed.
Arriving back at the trucks with just enough daylight left to set up camp we quickly set up, cooked our meals, and started a campfire in the fire pit we had brought along to enjoy dinner by the fire. We also got a nice view of the Amboy area to the west in the late day’s light with a cool reflection of the setting sun’s light off the railroad tracks.
Granite Mountain (6,762 ft; 7.93 miles, 2,900 ft elevation gain)
On day two we drove back to Kalbaker road, then to Granite Pass and the start of the Granite Mountain hike. We followed the standard route up Cottonwood wash and then up a ridge to the peak. There were some huge granite boulders to go around or over and it was rather steep in places, but overall a pleasant climb. We spent almost an hour on top enjoying the views. In addition to the snow caps from the day before we could also see Charleston Peak covered with snow outside Las Vegas. On the way down we diverged from our up-route to completely bypass the big granite boulders. It worked well.
We camped at the trailhead rather than driving to the next day’s hike’s starting point since there was only about an hour of daylight left and we wanted to set up in the light. We cleaned up, cooked dinner, and again started a little fire in our firepit and had beers/dinner by the fire.
Providence Benchmark (6,611ft; 7.6 miles, 3,100 ft elevation gain)
On day three we drove east over Kelbaker road after breakfast to the Pine Tree Ranch site and started our hike up to Providence Benchmark. We first went north across the desert to an old, very faint road that leads to a prospect. We then climbed up a progressively steepening ridge to the ridge of the Providence mountains. Towards the top, between 5,700 and 5,900 ft it was very steep and we had to deal with some loose gravel type ground where the deer and bighorn travel. We were able to bypass some of it by climbing up the rocks. The remainder of the climb was at a comfortable grade, even though we went a bit higher than we needed to. Again, spectacular views from the top with the 4 snow-capped mountains. We spent some time trying to identify the mountains we had been on. There were quite a few. We returned the way we came.
Along the way we found some evidence of life in these mountains: a couple of antlers, a desert tortoise plastron, and some mountain lion scat.
We finished our hike around 2:30 pm, cleaned up, and headed home. I stopped in 29 Palms for some “cheap” gas ($4.38 / gal, about 30 cents cheaper than at the coast) and then continued home with only one minor traffic delay along the way.