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
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.