Turtle Mountains High Point and Horn Peak 02/07/2021

My plan for Sunday was to hike Turtle Mountains High Point (4298 feet). I had driven in the night before but stopped about 2.5 miles short of the DPS trailhead at the point where the road enters a large wash. Both the DPS directions and Zdon’s book warn to be careful here, especially at night. The road up to this point isn’t too bad, but it is about 8 miles from the highway. I woke up pretty early Sunday morning and didn’t feel like waiting around for daylight. Plus, I really am a pretty nervous driver and I don’t like to take chances by myself. Starting from this point would add 5 miles to the hike, which would turn this into a pretty long day (>18 miles). I didn’t mind a little extra hiking though. I got started at 5:36am from 1473 feet above sea level.

I used my headlamp for the first 10 or 15 minutes. I actually had difficulty following the road through the wash on foot, so I ended up making a small shortcut to the east and then picking up the road on the other side. I figured if the road was this difficult to follow on foot, I definitely made the right call to not attempt to drive through it in the dark.

After getting through the wash I hiked north along the road.

At 2.5 miles I reached the DPS trailhead at the wilderness boundary. The road actually continues past here, but a line of rocks was placed across the road to prevent people from illegally driving into the wilderness. There was also space for a few cars to park.

Someone had gone to the trouble of placing large rocks in the road to really discourage people from driving further. This continued for a few tenths of a mile.

At 6:31am the sun began to rise to the east.

I stopped for a minute or two to really admire it.

The high point finally came into view a few miles later.

At 5.2 miles, I reached a fork and went left. At 5.8 miles, I finally reached the end of the road and dropped into a large wash.

The rocky walls reminded me of Joshua Tree National Park.

I reached a fork in the wash at 6.4 miles and went left. I went right at another fork at 6.9 miles.

At 7.2 miles I reached the top of the wash. The next part was rather tedious as I had to sidehill across the lower slopes of the mountain. There were numerous washes coming cutting perpendicular across the route that I had to climb in and out of.

In one of the washes I found a large dead bird.

Eventually I climbed out of one of the washes and ascended a ridge. I turned west and began the steepest part of the hike.

I felt like I was finally doing some real climbing after a very long and tedious approach. It was also getting very warm out, much more so than the day before. The footing was pretty solid on the ridge, but there were some large rock formations to navigate around.

Eventually I topped out, reaching the main ridge just south of the peak. Here I turned north and began the final ascent.

I had to descend a small dip before climbing up to the summit. I reached the top at 9:20am at 8.8 miles!

I signed the register which dated back to 2000. The previous ascent was on April 4th, 2020. I noted some of the earlier entries complaining about the wilderness boundary preventing people from driving closer to the peak. Most of these desert wilderness areas were created by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Before then, many desert peaks were shorter hikes. I personally think having wilderness areas is a great idea and necessary for a healthy ecosystem. And besides, if you don’t like hiking than what are you doing out here? I get that hiking on roads isn’t very exciting, but I still enjoy being outdoors no matter what kind of hiking I’m doing. Anyway, it was much less hazy than the previous day, so the views were outstanding. I had a great view of Mopah Point (left) and Umpah Peak (right) just a few miles east. These peaks are located within a subrange of the Turtle Mountains. In the distance, Crossman Peak and Hualapai Peak could be seen across the Colorado River in Arizona.

Far to the southeast, I could see Signal Peak in Arizona (background, left-center).

To the west I could see the Coxcomb Mountains within Joshua Tree National Park. Far beyond that I could see snow-capped San Jacinto (far right) and San Gorgonio (not pictured).

To the southwest I could see Palen (left) and Granite (right), which I climbed in November. I could even make out Black Butte in the distance between the other two.

After a long break, I made the decision to add another peak to my hike – 3865 foot Horn Peak. Horn Peak is a few miles south of the high point and is an impressive peak in its own right. It wouldn’t add much mileage to the hike, but it would add a lot of ups and downs. I started hiking south down the ridge. Horn is the pointy peak on the right. My car is somewhere on the desert floor to the left.

As expected, the route was pretty tough. I made a couple of minor ups and downs before descending into a large wash at 10.4 miles. The low point of the wash was 2992 feet, so I had already descended about 1300 feet.

I climbed out of the wash and continued south. Horn appeared much closer now.

I followed the ridge south and then bent to the southeast. I was really enjoying this part of the hike. The route between Turtle and Horn was much more interesting and scenic than the ascent to Turtle.

The final 500 feet was very steep!

I reached the top at 12:10pm at 12.2 miles! I signed the register which dated all the way back to 1969. There seemed to be some confusion among the earlier entries whether this was the high point of the Turtle Mountains or not. Someone wrote a very long entry about wandering around looking for the Sierra Club DPS summit. Someone else wrote a few years later “Why the fuck would anyone care if a peak is on some Sierra Club list or not?”  I located the “East” benchmark, as well 2 reference markers.

There was a very large cairn on the summit.

The views were the same as before. Turtle Mountains High Point was a few miles to the north.

I began descending after a nice break. The initial descent to the east was very steep.

The angle was so steep that I had to descend very slowly. If I did this hike again, I would definitely choose a different ridge to descend. I soon dropped into a steep wash on the left.

The wash was very steep at the beginning but eventually widened and flattened out.

I followed the wash all the way to the desert floor, which I reached at 15.3 miles. I reached the road at 15.9 miles and from there it was an easy walk to the car. I was finally done at 3:33pm. This hike totaled 18.91 miles, 4039 feet elevation gain, and 9:56:59 total time.

It was another great weekend of hiking in the desert!

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