Eagle and Orocopia Range Highpoints Trip Report

Eagle (5,350 ft) and Orocopia (3,815 ft)

Dates: October 25-26, 2003

Two more peaks on the California 2,000 foot prominence list. Both desert climbs, it was doubtful whether the season was cool enough for this two day weekend east of Indio and astride Interstate 10. The weather was unseasonably warm for late October.

Nevertheless Edward Earl and I decided to continue with our plans. We drove in his truck at seven p.m. Friday night from my place, and arrived at a campground in Joshua Tree National Park by eleven p.m. for the Eagle Range highpoint by morning.

The climb began with a three mile nearly flat stretch heading east to the base of the range, gaining perhaps 700 feet in the process. Then we gained a 4,550 foot saddle next to an obvious peak, encountering high winds as we topped out.

Our goal was the obviously highest visible peak two miles east. We went in a large, clockwise semicircle to avoid losing significant elevation. Some class 2 scrambling was involved. The wind was fiercer than the heat as we neared the summit area. After a good summit break of nearly an hour, we began our descent amidst much wind. As with the ascent, we encountered a "boulder park" about ten or fifteen minutes north from the summit. Edward dropped his pack to climb up to and examine a precariously placed boulder - losing his sunglasses to the high wind.

We had started at 6:55 a.m. from campground "B", and returned to the vehicle at around 2:30 p.m. Assuming a starting elevation of 3,100 feet, the net gain was about 2,250 feet and the total elevation gain perhaps 400 feet more - 2,650 feet.

We were in no hurry for our next venue, choosing instead to lie back in the cab seats and talk about prominence concepts. At 4 p.m. we departed, eventually getting sodas and snack food at Chiriaco Summit along Interstate 10.

We drove back west five miles and took a series of dirt roads south for our campsite just north of the Orocopia Range. Driving into a gully, the sandy road became impassible to Edward's car and we unfortunately got stuck.

To extricate ourselves, Edward jacked up the vehicle and placed wooden board and bricks to allow for traction with the "problem tire" - the left rear in this case. I hand-shoveled sand from out and around the tires.

Freed of this mess, the car was turned around so as to face downhill, and we stayed there for the night - some third mile short of our intended campspot. It was nearly six p.m.

At about eight p.m. a truck drove past us. Perhaps twenty minutes later a passenger car drove by, and got stuck in the same general area we had. Edward and I walked over to offer assistance if needed. We learned that an annual "music festival" was in the works. Since the sand was generally impassible to most cars, some of the party members stationed themselves at the sand trap and cautioned entering vehicles to park along the gully's side rather than continue.

The last people drove in around two a.m. - an annoyance since the headlights shined right into the front cab where I was trying to sleep. Furthermore, the music was quite audible as a mindless "boom boom boom b-b-boom!!" repeated incessantly with neither respite nor adornment into a more complicated and hence enlightening tune.

We were up before sunrise at first light and hiking at 6:26 a.m. The climb was shorter than yesterday's, reaching the summit after about one hour fifty minutes elapsed time.

Views of the Salton Sea were wonderful. After perhaps forty minutes we departed at 9:05 a.m. and returned to the vehicle by 10:45 a.m. Assuming a starting elevation of 2,400 feet, the net gain was some 1,400 feet and the total gain was perhaps 600 feet more at 2,000 feet.

Daylight savings time had ended in the night, and the actual time of our return was just a quarter of ten in the morning. We drove home, stopping around Indio for soda and corn chips (Edward) and a pint of Ben & Jerry's "Karamel Sutra" (Adam) - a core of caramel sauce encircled by chocolate and vanilla ice creams with chocolate chips. The volcano theme was complete - as was by happiness level.

Upon entering San Diego County the wildfire situation became all too clear. Santa Ana winds had created a veritable storm of fires throughout the county - so much so that Edward packed his valuables upon returning home in case a quick exit was needed. In Del Mar I was not concerned since the temperatures near the coast were lower; the winds were nearly nil; and the fires were farther away.