Forum Index > Trip Reports > Stranded in the Desert - Anza Borrego - Nov 25-28, 2018
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Gimpilator
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Location: Edmonds, WA
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PostTue Dec 04, 2018 7:52 pm 
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November 25
Hot Springs Mountain - 6533’

After dropping Petter off, I decided to do some hiking along the way back to Vegas.  Hot Springs west of Anza Borrego is located on the Los Coyotes reservation.  Last time I called them, the whole upper part of the mountain was closed for a private event.


This time I just showed up and they allowed day entry for $10.  They provided a map and I explained the area I wanted to go to.  The guard was very friendly and told me where I should park near a locked gate.  My route choice, coming in from the east, would be slightly less gain than the standard route which most people go from the campground.


I hiked the road past the gate around a bend and then followed a lesser road south up a wash to a saddle, rejoining the standard route there.  The west peak has a busted up lookout tower and the main peak has a tall boulder pile with exposure and slings.  The summit rocks can be scrambled, hard class 3, if you make use of the chimney, located left of the final slabs where old slings are dangling from rusty bolts.


11-26
Fish Benchmark – 2334’

Southwest of the Salton Sea is a seldom visited duo of craggy peaks.  A Fish/Eagle combo seemed a positive way to spend the day, since the majority of hikers visit only the higher of the two.  I had mild trepidation about the approach road, since it is mentioned as sandy and you never know how bad it is until you get there.  It runs next to a narrow gauge railroad, which is still in use by a gypsum mining company.


As it turned out, the road had a half mile sandy stretch in the middle.  Loose enough that you don’t want to slow down, but not deep enough to be a problem for a Subaru.  Part of my planned loop would involve road walking and which I did first to get it out of the way.  I ascended the main canyon north of Fish.  Plenty of large granite boulders in the mouth.  It was rugged and steep, but never exceeded class 3.


At 2000 feet I came to an upper plateau and had a nice view of the summit ahead.  I finished on the north ridge and then descended to the west.

Fish
Fish
Eagle from Fish
Eagle from Fish
Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Eagle Benchmark - 2371’

Conveniently, another canyon drains directly west towards Eagle Benchmark.  I descended 700 feet and then went up the drainage southeast of the peak, ending on the east ridge.

Eagle
Eagle
Fish from Eagle
Fish from Eagle

Eagle is tucked away in the center of this group of peaks.  I passed over a northwest false summit and then descended a north ridge,  the steepest terrain of the day.

Fish and Eagle
Fish and Eagle
Eagle
Eagle

I reached an upper valley at 1500 feet and was pleasantly surprised to find a well worn but old trail.  This is likely and old miners trail, for it passes some prospect pits.  The trail wound around some foothills and through minor washes before descending a north ridge to the main valley floor.  There are a lot of shells down in the valley.


As I was driving back along the railway access road, I heard a loud clumping sound.  What could that be?  I stopped to inspect.  As soon as I opened my door, I heard the sound of rushing air.  My tire had a railroad spike in it.  Ok, no problem, I can handle this.


I pulled the spike out and began contingency #1.  I filled the tire with sealant and used a compressor to re-inflate.  That didn’t work.  The hole is too big.  Time for contingency #2.  I plugged the hole with several repair strings and then rotated it so the hole was facing down and the sealant inside could work it’s magic.


The compressor didn’t seem to be working.  Contingency #3.  I unplugged it and used the backup compressor.  But it still wasn’t holding air.    I let it run for a long time and then pushed on the tire.  It didn’t seem to be holding any air and there was no sign of the sealant coming through the hole.  I moved some rocks around and then moved the tire so that the sealant would surely pool at the exact spot of the hole and then tried both compressors again.  Nothing.

It was now late evening.  My Crosstrek has no spare tire.  It’s a hybrid vehicle and the batteries take up so much space.  They designed it to not include a spare.  There’s really nowhere to fit one.  I had no choice left but Contingency #4.  I called AAA and explained the situation.  The woman told me no problem.  I mentioned the bit of sand and “please make sure the tow company brings an appropriate vehicle” and she said no problem.  Great!  My last request was this, could they wait until morning seeing as all the tire shops would surely be closed by now.  Sure, no problem.  My tow would arrive at 7am.

11-27
Salvation Mountain - 30’

The next morning the tow company called me on schedule and I asked them about the sand issue.  No way, not possible, can’t do it.  I called AAA back and this time it was explained that AAA has a “no dirt roads” policy.  Really?  That was news to me.  But they said if I could just move my vehicle 5 miles to pavement, they would take care of the rest.  Did I mention that I had a railroad spike in my tire?  What to do?  Driving slowly would have been possible, except for the sandy stretch, where it would surely bog down.

Contingency #5.  I called a towing company with the phone number given me by Dean Gaudet.  Very quickly a local named Rusty showed up with all sorts of tire repair methods as well as a beefy Jeep which could tow me through the sand, if it came to that.  What we discovered was that the tire sealant had clogged the valve core.  He had a valve stem tool, but no valve cores.  I had plenty of valve cores, but no valve stem tool.  Between our kits, we were able to get the tire inflated albeit leaking.  30 minutes after he showed up, I had moved the car 5 miles to pavement stopping only once to re-inflate.  He left and came back shortly with a flatbed.  We transported the injured Crosstrek to Desert Center, paid for by AAA (except the initial 5 miles which were pricey).

:shakehead:
shakehead.gif

My tires are insured and the ruined one was replaced for free, but I bought another one in the same diameter to protect the Subaru AWD mechanism.  Finally I was back on the road and ready for another peak, but with only a few hours to spare.  I decided Salvation Mountain would be fitting for the day.  This little man-made work of art makes an appearance in the film Into The Wild.

summit view
summit view

That night I camped inside Rainbow Canyon.  One of my favorite places in California.


11-28
Mecca Hill – 1642’

Keeping with the religious theme, I decided to give Mecca Hill another go.  Several years back, during a 70 peak 30 day road-trip, I had only one failed attempt.  For such an inconsequential peak, it was baffling to me at the time.  The northeast side of the mountain is riddled with complicated badlands, long snaking washes, narrow canyons of vertical mud, and dryfalls.  I vowed to try it from the other side, next time.

I parked at a locked gate on the northeast side of the Coachella Canal, near the aggregate quarry.  A powerline access road runs parallel to the canal.


After a mile and a half I turned east into a large canyon.  This scenic canyon grants easy access to the upper basin southwest of the peak.  Judging by the map, the southwest part of the mountain might offer more solid rock and less badlands.

Mecca
Mecca

I crossed the basin and started up a canyon, hoping to discover access to a south ridge.  The canyon narrowed quickly and I was blocked by large potholes separated by dryfalls.

potholes and dryfalls
potholes and dryfalls

I tried scrambling up a ridge.  Imagine sandstone that didn’t bond properly.  Everything was rotten and would crumble at the slightest provocation.  Rocks of all sizes were moving around.  All holds I pulled on came off.  Every single one.


I found a slot crack going down, which would allow me to circumvent the dryfalls and proceed further up the canyon, but it looked sketchy.  It was narrow and steep with highly unstable walls.  If it collapsed with me inside it, nobody would ever find me.  Nobody knew where I was.  Stupid.  I decided not to take the risk.  This was turning into a bit more than I had expected, so I sent my exact location to Fletcher and Jake.  I told them to expect to hear back from me again by 6pm.


From my elevated view, the upper canyon appeared to be a dead end, hemmed in by all sort of rotten cliffs and crags.  Not going to work.  I backtracked and traversed into another canyon.  I was surprised to find a survey marker on a pole which dated 1912.  Someone had been here before, 106 years ago.


Now I was aiming to gain the main southwest ridge.  If I could only get far enough up the canyon to find a scramble line to that upper ridge crest, then it would probably be easy the rest of the way.


I came to a chockstone and climbed over it.  Then a class 4 chimney and finally I was blocked by a much larger chockstone.

above narrow chimney
above narrow chimney

Climbing this one was just too committing.  There was a narrow downsloping ledge high above the first chockstone.  I tested the “rock” if you can call it that.  Completely rotten sand.

2nd chockstone
2nd chockstone

By now I was feeling the 2nd failed attempt vibe, but I allowed the frustration to manifest into mild anger.  I didn’t want to be bested twice by this little peak.  It was time to get stubborn or go home.  I backtracked down the canyon slowly looking for anything I could find.  Any way to climb out of the canyon.  I tried several lines of scrambling on the rotten sand rock, but was blocked by cliff steps again and again.

I found a sort of chimney which was all loose on the left side but more solid and textured on the right side.


I scrambled up that to reach less steep but horribly rotten slopes above.  I was very happy to finally get onto the upper southwest ridge.


The summit is broad and covered with ocotillo.  There is a good view of the Salton Sea.  This is an amazing area.  The register has more USGS and geologist entries than I have ever seen in one place.


Conclusion

1) Always tell people where you are going.  This might take some practice.

2) Small peaks should not be underestimated.  Often the big ones in the desert are easy and the small ones are hard.

3) Railroad spikes make a very big hole.

4) Check your tire repair kit.  Like a first aid kit, it should have everything you might need.

5) Valve cores are useless without a valve stem tool.

6) Everyone was right.  It really is better to have a spare tire, even if you have several tire repair methods and experience using them.

7) Hybrid car designs without room for a spare tire are dumb.  Goodbye Crosstrek.  Hello Forester.



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http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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Mid Fork Rocks
PostTue Dec 04, 2018 10:10 pm 
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Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for stopping to take photos during those dead ends -- usually I forget about the camera in those situations.

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Mid Fork Rocksflickr
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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



Joined: 03 Feb 2007
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Happy Curmudgeon
PostTue Dec 04, 2018 10:21 pm 
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Gimpilator wrote:
The next morning the tow company called me on schedule and I asked them about the sand issue.  No way, not possible, can’t do it.  I called AAA back and this time it was explained that AAA has a “no dirt roads” policy.  Really?  That was news to me. 

That's weird, as I asked specifically about this when I signed up for AAA this summer, and was assured that if it's a road that I'm on, they'll come out. Now I'll have to call back and re-confirm. Thanks for mentioning that.

Otherwise, it looks like you had a fine time.  up.gif

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"Out, OUT you demons of Stupidity"! - St Dogbert, patron Saint of Technology
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RichP
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PostWed Dec 05, 2018 5:09 am 
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Enjoy your Forester. It's a bonifide peak bagging vehicle. You've shown the disadvantage of having a car without a spare.

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Without obsession, life is nothing. John Waters
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Fletcher
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PostWed Dec 05, 2018 9:34 am 
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Looks like a good time Adam. Thank god for Rusty!
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Sculpin
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PostThu Dec 06, 2018 8:34 am 
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If it was that difficult to find a route up Mecca, I'm guessing you retraced your steps exactly to get down?

I learned the hard way in the El Pasos that unless you are sure that the loop you want to do will get you back down, assume that it won't and retrace!

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Stranded in the Desert - Anza Borrego - Nov 25-28, 2018
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