The Coxcomb Mountains were some of the most rugged terrain Heather and I explored during our time in California. We attempted to climb the 3 highest peaks Spectre, Diadiac, and Tensor (aka Aqua), but ultimately we timed out on Diadic roughly 30 feet below the summit, which is technical. Despite getting only the first and third highest peaks, this trip was still one of our favorites. The rock is rugged and picturesque. Some cacti were in bloom as well as other desert plants.
lunar eclipse stages
sicker than a dog
We started from Highway 62 in the predawn hours and hiked south through the open desert for several miles. An old road remnant was visible part of the way. The lunar eclipse which had been fully visible when we woke up was almost done. I was suffering from a bad cold and my nose was dripping like a faucet, so I jammed it up with toilet paper. We turned to the southeast and followed a wash for several miles, going over a small pass. We dropped into the wash on the other side and then turned right (southwest) at the first major intersecting gully.
This gully quickly became more rugged until we were ceaselessly scrambling over large boulders. It was getting hot and I found myself stopping briefly in each small patch of shade. We scrambled up this gully/canyon for roughly a mile until we came to the upper plateau located centrally between the three peaks. The peaks are arranged in a triangle with Spectre to the southwest, Diadic to the southeast and Tensor to the north.
happy despite illness
Diadic looking intimidating
We ascended Tensor first since it is the easiest. The register was filled with bits of torn paper. The view of Spectre was impressive, however Diadic looked fairly intimidating and the route finding looked like a real trick. We descended back to the little plateau and then followed a gully over to Spectre. We scrambled up the east ridge of Spectre and ended on the east face. At one point we had to crawl under boulders. It was mostly class 3, but there might have been a class 4 move or two. Spectre was my 23rd DPS peak.
looking back at Tensor
Diadic seen from Spectre
Heather signing the Spectre book
Dennis Poulin entry
We descended back to the plateau and began our traverse to Diadic. The route was very confusing and we definitely got off for a moment, but scrambling over a ridge corrected that. Heather spotted her first chuckwalla, and then we came to the notch below the 20 foot chimney described by Bob Burd. I tried to fit with my pack on, but ended up taking it off and setting it down up above. When I was at the top, I reached down and pulled Heatherís pack up. Above the chimney I set up a belay station. Several route descriptions say the summit block is low fifth while others call it class 4. Not many people climb it, but most of those who do, donít use ropes.
route options on the traverse to Diadic
the chimney and exposed upper route
above the chimney
I climbed above the chimney, set another belay station and belayed Heather up to me. Then I led out along the final ridge. What was ahead did not look good. It was a knife-edge ridge, mostly unprotectable. Was I off route? I could see a good looking ledge down on the west side but there was no way to get to it without setting up a rappel. I asked Heather what time she thought it was. She said it was sometime between 3 and 4pm. We were out of time and I was almost out of water. Damn! If only we had another 30 minutes. But I knew that to proceed in the fashion we were going, it would take another hour to get to the summit and back from this point. The terrain between the open desert and the high plateau was not something I would want to cover in the dark.
I told Heather we had to turn around. She agreed. Oh well. It had been a hell of a fun day. We rappelled over the chimney and scrambled back down to the plateau. Then we scrambled down the gully/canyon. It was nearly dark when we turned left back towards the pass. When we were dropping down into the initial wash, it became fully dark.
evening alpenglow flowers
We got out our headlamps and I drank the last sip of my water. I was sick and badly dehydrated despite 4 liters. It had been a hot day, and my body was no longer sweating. As we crossed the open desert I became sort of delirious and started overheating. Heather had rationed her water better and doled out a few sips to me. She also made me take my shirt off to cool down. I was in bad shape when we got to the car. I drank about 3 more liters and didnít pee all night long.
After my dehydration experience, we agreed not to do any more desert peaks this season, since it was now too hot. But then I talked her into climbing Sheep Hole Mountains HP the very next day.
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