Avawatz Gateway Hill Trip Report

660+ meters (10 m contour interval)

The plan was to drive up Friday evening in Edward's high-clearance 2WD vehicle and get the prominent point of the Avawatz Range on Saturday - followed in turn by Kingston Pk for Sunday.

That was not to be.

At about 7:30 AM Edward's vehicle got stuck in the sand 4 miles before our intended starting point. Using a wooden board (which split in two owing to pressure applied as the car's weight) and bricks, we were unable to extricate the vehicle after an hour of effort. It surprised Edward (who did most of the work) and myself that his normal supply of emergency materials proved inadequate to the task.

Noting the beautiful weather and the relatively early hour I suggested making a go for the summit. The rational was that the alternative - getting help immediately, would surely destroy our chances for any summit that day since there would simply be insufficient time after all vehicle-related matters were resolved.

Thus with a full gallon of water for me (2.5 qts for Edward - [should he have known better?]), we started hiking anyways despite 1,400 extra feet of gain and 8 extra miles - having calculated that the remaining eleven hours of daylight (it was about 8:30 AM) would be sufficient.

After 4 1/2 hours, several miles and four thousand feet of vertical gain we topped out on a ridge (having just left a lonely jeep trail that took us efficiently up most of the vertical gain) and were daunted by -

1) No obvious cross-country route to our summit (Avawatz Mtns prominent highpoint at 1,875 meters) with a ridge blocking the view. The maps indicated much up-and-down behind the ridge with 1,400 ft of NET gain remaining;

2) We each had only a quart remaining and would run out of water after lunch on the summit ... with perhaps 8-10 miles hiking down 5,400 vertical feet;

I did not like the concept of no-water-remaining while going cross-country prior to meeting up the jeep trail lower down - and THEN a 3 hour walk.

3) The temperature was just too-damn-hot to hike efficiently. Heat was limiting rather than aerobic ability.

So we bailed out.

At lunch 1/2 mile back (but still with awesome views of the desert some 4000 feet below) Edward could not urinate and had spontaneous sweats plus nausea.

At the canyon entrance I quickly scrambled up a prominent hill located immediately south of the jeep road - it has perhaps two 40 ft contours. When we passed it earlier that morning I noted to Edward that I'd do it should we fail to summit the Avawatz Range highpoint for any reason.

I christen it "Gateway Hill" because it acts as a sentry guarding the canyon entrance. A USGS topo chart gives the hill an altitude of either 662 or 667 meters - I cannot tell from the map owing to underlying contours that obscure the interpretation of the printed elevation.

Two hours after lunch we were back on the desert floor - having walked down the jeep trail very efficiently. Edward had finished the last of his water higher up so he got a pint of mine and I finished the remaining 1 1/2 cups. I got muscle cramps from dehydration and we decided to leave immediately and not stop again until the car 2 1/2 miles and 40 minutes later.

After a restful half hour with plenty of fluids, Edward walked perhaps 1/4 mile to route 127 and used the call box to phone help.

A backcountry outdoorsman spotted Edward, saw the truck sitting in the middle of nowhere, and offered assistance.

He had much experience to impart to us regarding off-the-road driving in the desert and we took all of his advice to heart. He then hauled us out with a (retired) climbing rope Edward keeps for just such a purpose.

His only charge was a promise from us that we will propagate the goodwill by helping the next person we see who requires assistance.

Although we could have done Kingston Pk the following morning (Sunday), we said "just forget about it" because it was pitifully obvious that the hiking season for the desert is finished for the year: too hot.

We car-camped near Barstow that evening.

The next day was better - it started pretty well with a pint of ice cream (driving back on I-15 as EE's passenger). That is my habitual reward for gaining 4,000+ vertical feet (evidently even when the summit bid was unsuccessful).

We arrived in San Diego mid-morning.