Granite Range Highpoint Trip Report

Elevation: 4,341 ft
Date: January 12, 2003

The Granite Range highpoint is number 32 on the California Fifty Finest list of prominent mountains and is located about 50 miles west of Blythe "in the middle of nowhere". One approach is to drive north from I-10 out of Desert Center along route 177. Seventeen miles from Desert Center you find a monument on the left (west) and a dirt road heading east on the right. At this point the Granite Range is to your northeast some ten miles distant.

Last winter Edward Earl and I drove my Saturn sports car down said dirt road and got stuck in the sand after two miles. That was the end to our previous attempt on Granite - we spent much grief and money getting the car extracted by a towing service... with my cell phone proving quite useful making arrangements.

Here is the link to a trip report about that experience.

Empowered with my new green Tacoma 4 wheel drive truck, we had no problem driving in 7.0 miles along this very sandy road to a point that obviated a two day backpack by shortening the hiking distance to a tolerable figure. Edward drove the first 2 miles and then I took over for the rest. I felt the controls getting "mushy" when I slowed down - and so maintained a nervewracking 30 MPH over the sand. Whenever I got to a section with rocks instead of sand the major danger was a tire puncture. For those sections I slowed down to about 10 MPH.

Edward backed the car off the road and then we had little to do but admire the scenery, talk, and cook supper from 3:45 PM onwards. Again, this time had been planned for a three hour backpack.

I had difficulty sleeping through the night and was glad when first light appeared. We were hiking at 6:28 AM in a northeast direction towards the base of the Granite Range. The line-of-sight distance to the highest point along the main ridge was some five miles from the vehicle.

It took about 90 minutes to arrive at the first actual climbing, having gained perhaps 1,300 feet as the desert floor gradually sloped upwards to the range. The day was warming up quickly.

We decided on a ridge route that gained the main ridge just south of a subpeak. Heat quickly became the limiting factor and I was very careful not to squander my three quarts of water by drinking too much at once.

Once at the main ridge that trends north-south we took a short break and contemplated the remaining 500 feet of gain over some 3/4 mile. Staying on the ridge the entire time was not necessarily the best alternative owing to dicey sections that I avoided by traversing east of the ridge and perhaps 20-50 feet below depending on terrain. Edward tended to stay higher. We surmounted the subpeak and noted that the main peak was still 600 meters away over more class 2 terrain. No problem except for the increasing heat adding to over 3,000 feet of gain behind us.

We arrived at the summit at 10:55 AM and spent perhaps 50 minutes enjoying limitless views in every direction including San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the west. I ate lunch while Edward signed into the summit register (as did I a little later). Edward took a nap and we started down.

The descent was uneventful apart from skepticism regarding which exact ridge we took on the ascent in order to gain the main ridge. It hardly mattered since both possible routes led to the canyon that we had walked up. We arrived at my truck around 3:30 PM - a nine hour affair that we thought would be just six. Had we a six mile backpack still to do it would have been exhausting.

I drove out the seven miles under considerable stress that we'd either have a puncture or, worse still, that we'd get stuck in the sand (at least we could repair a tire). Since it was slightly downhill I found that only 20 MPH was sufficiently rapid to avoid getting that "mushy" feeling indicative of sand diminishing our forward momentum.

Edward drove the rest of the way to San Diego, returning the way we had come - via Indio's route 111 and the "Palms to Pines Highway" with its impressive views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

We had stopped for gasoline and food in Indio - and I enjoyed a pint of Baskin Robbins with three wonderful flavors: cappuccino/espresso fudge chocolate, winter white chocolate with cherries, and the January flavor-of-the-month "Resolution Breaker" (or something to that effect) - which was their richest chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips, chocolate fudge swirl ... chocolate "everything".

It was well to have gotten the lowest elevation desert climb of the CA Fifty Finest list in the dead of winter owing to heat considerations - actually, on my "anti-birthday" of January 12.