Bob Packard suggested a peakbagging trip mid-December. I accepted, yet with the desire to only "get out of the house" for a trio of summits. In contrast, Bob set out on a week-long trip bagging California desert P2000+ summits - and I would join him for the final three: the Turtle Range highpoint, Whipple Range Highpoint, and Potosi in southern Nevada.
Later Potosi was replaced with Spirit Mountain because of a snowstorm that would largely put the former out of commission for the season.
Turtle Range Highpoint
I drive along Interstate 8, Highway 78, Blythe, and US Route 95 on Wednesday morning; meeting Bob at Vidal Junction as the intersection of the latter and Highway 62. We caravan to a camp for Turtle the following day, stopping at a wilderness boundary sign that precludes driving closer to the mountain and resulting in a 13 mile round-trip instead of 7 miles.
This evening we pour over topographic charts and data for our upcoming trip to Coahuila and Nuevo Leon states in Mexico. There is a lot to discuss. The camp is balmy - warmer than anticipated.
We climb the Turtle Range highpoint in roughly 7 1/2 hours round-trip. Many washes are crossed to reach the base of our chosen ridge. No technical or difficult routefinding issues are encountered.
Whipple Range Highpoint
We return along the often rocky and sandy track to Highway 62; pass through Vidal Junction; and head north on Highway 95 to a turnoff signed for Lake Havasu. We arrive at our camping area by dark - an abandoned mine, the War Eagle. A slight wind in the air.
The DPS guidebook cites a 6 hour round-trip. We find that hard to stomach - it took us 7 hours 59 minutes with some routefinding issues. However even had I traveled alone I cannot imagine taking less than 7 hours with all breaks (Bob at age 71 is understandably slower).
The wind is a serious issue. We are in the shade most of the time - first inside a gulley that leads to a 3,000 foot saddle; and then on the north side of the summit ridge with the full force of the wind bearing upon us from the north. It is uncomfortably cold; and I don my regular gloves (in addition to habitually worn liner gloves) and windbreaker atop two inner layers. Heat drains from my head as I have difficulty keeping the hood from blowing off. Fortunately our summit break is downslope on the south side - and we can have some peace and quiet before submitting again to the wind's fury.
Routefinding is an issue in two places. The first is at a fork traveling south up a broad wash. Here one should take the right fork, passing immediately east of point 1,806 feet. We took the left (east) branch, and eventually had to sidehill 2,000 feet west to drop into the correct gulley as it trends, first south and then more southeast, to a 3,000 foot saddle just south of point 3,292 feet.
After heading east from this saddle we enter a gulley that leads south to the summit ridge. We veered too far left (east) within this gulley; and found ourselves topping-out on a side ridge that fortunately is navigable to the true summit ridge at a saddle. Turning left (northeast) then leads us to the highest point. A nearby rocky mass blocks view of the true summit from the saddle, leaving only subpeaks to the southwest as visible.
On return we reach the ridgeline saddle and then re-enter the gulley. We encounter high winds all-the-while; and find ourselves "cliffed-out" several times. Fortunately each instance was followed by discovering a route that is doable without jumping off one of these 20 foot vertical rock walls.
We return to the 3,000 foot saddle pleased that the intense navigation (and wind) is over.
Yet again we reach the paved road grid near sundown, and find ourselves driving the dirt approach in darkness. The hot chocolate in Needles was wonderful after my chilling experience.
We camp at Christmas Tree Pass under far from ideal conditions of freezing overnight temperatures and high wind gusts every half minute or so. It is not the best time, in fact FAR from it, to climb the next morning. I recommend that we drive to the nearby trailhead after daybreak, at 7 a.m., to mitigate the wind chill issue.
By morning the situation has not improved. Further, Bob's camper has run out of propane so there is no hot breakfast. With my desire to "get out of the house" satisfied, and with a big trip to Mexico forthcoming in only several days, we cancel our Spirit plans and caravan west to US Route 95.
At the junction leading to Laughlin, Nevada I transfer much food and tequila to Bob's camper so I don't have to carry it in my airline luggage on New Year's Eve bound for Laredo, Texas and points south. Bob drives east to Flagstaff and I south, and then west, to San Diego. The tequila is a gift for a local Monterrey man who has helped us arrange for a guide on two of our planned six climbs.
The drive home along Interstates 40 and 15 is uneventful. I arrive in San Diego by early afternoon, the truck odometer totaling 799.3 miles.