Forum Index > Trip Reports > Quadruple DPS List Finish, Maria Mountains, and more, March 2-7, 2018
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Gimpilator
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PostFri Mar 09, 2018 11:49 am 
I was invited to attend a very special finish of the DPS list.  4 guys would be completing the list at the same time on Palen Peak.  I had already done Palen the year before, but it was such a sweet peak, I didnít mind repeating it.  To sweeten the deal, I met my buddy John Stolk from WA to bag peaks in the days before and after.

3-2
Tosco Benchmark

John and I met in Blythe in the late morning.  Tosco was the nearest noteworthy peak.  Ever wondered what rhymes with Costco?  I studied the map and found a road which would get us within striking distance.  There were some outlying hills.  I could see two potential options to bypass the hills involving washes.  We settled for the slightly less direct one which looked more pleasant.

Tosco and access canyon
Tosco and access canyon

There was a tree near where we parked.  An owl flew out of it, and then another, and another, and another.  6 owls flew out of the tree.  How bizarre.  We hiked up the wash to the northeast and then followed it around the hill to the southeast.  We went over a small pass and dropped a few hundred feet to the base of the mountain.  A steep canyon on the north side offers relatively easy access, terminating 300 feet below and directly north of the summit.

final ridge
final ridge

Above the canyon we scrambled steep class 2 and 3, being wary of loose rock.  The final ridge to the summit was narrow and thrilling.  We were the 4th ascent in 11 years.

Tosco summit
Tosco summit
Mojave, Bobbin and Needles Eye in the distance
Mojave, Bobbin and Needles Eye in the distance
South Maria with Big Maria behind
South Maria with Big Maria behind
Palen tomorrow
Palen tomorrow

3-3
Palen Mountain

In the group of 19 that came to celebrate the end of this monumental effort, 3 of us had already done Palen prior.  I described the two route options and how I had done a loop last time.  The consensus was to ascend the steeper and more challenging direct route.  I led up the southeast gully which is famous for itís pink granite boulders.  I was careful to avoid the major dryfall near the bottom by working up around the left side.

gravy train
gravy train

We encountered a rattlesnake which crawled under a rock and stayed there rattling.  This route involves a lot of large boulders and a few class 3 dryfalls.  Catsclaw is plentiful.  We quickly settled into our paces.  The faster hikers would push ahead for about 10 minutes and then wait 20 for the rest of the group to catch up.


Of the 19 people, all were men except two.  I felt bad for the one lady.  This was her first off-trail hike and she was obviously struggling a bit.  Palen is not a beginner friendly peak.  Kudos to her for the effort.  At the half-way point she was really slowing down and then later I heard that the other woman had stopped with her.  After that the group sped up a lot.


We reached the saddle at the top of the gully and turned left onto the ridge-line.  There is some great scrambling on this north ridge and itís a really fun way to finish the peak.  Craig Barlow was right behind me and I knew he must be excited to finish this chapter of his peakbagging career.  I stopped just before the summit and let him go first.

Crag B almost done
Crag B almost done
the finishers; Craig Barlow, John Ray, Craig Jagow, and Mark McCormick
the finishers; Craig Barlow, John Ray, Craig Jagow, and Mark McCormick

A bottle of Fireball was passed around.  I didnít partake.  I was happy enough to be a part of the jovial group.  I took a photo of the 4 finishers; Craig Barlow, John Ray, Craig Jagow, and Mark McCormick.  We spent about a half hour up there and then went down to meet the women.


Back at our camping area a number of other people had showed up for a party in the desert.  I was happy to see Laura Newman.  With food, fire, and drink it was obviously going to extend into the morning hours, but I hit the sack around 11pm because there were more peaks to bag in the coming days.

3-4
Little Maria

The next morning most of the group were either sleeping it off or making the long drive home, but 5 of us went looking for a bit more fun.  I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  If thereís anything this day taught me, itís that peaks in the desert with the word ďlittleĒ in the name are often a serious undertaking.  For instance, Little Picacho earlier this year was the most exposed and intricate route of 2018 thus far.  If I had looked at the map before the trip and seen topo lines reminiscent of Mount Constance in WA I would have had a clue.  But the kicker is that the map is in meters, so itís even steeper than it looks.


Craig Jagow drove us up the sandy approach road to within 2 miles south of the peak.  On foot, we entered a wash with vertical mudstone walls.  A couple places in the wash exposed polished white marble.  We scrambled up left of a large dryfall and then traversed downsloping rock above cliffs covered in loose gravel.  A huge band of vertical white marble crosses the south face diagonally.  We skirted below this white wall and entered a small narrow gully running parallel the base of it.

large dryfall with left work around
large dryfall with left work around
small gully at the base of the white marble wall
small gully at the base of the white marble wall
ginger crossing
ginger crossing

After scrambling up a talus rib and gingerly crossing steep marble slabs, I led up the obvious ramp and was stopped by a sheer drop at the top.  This was the first of many obvious route choices that were dead ends throughout the day.  Back below the ramp Craig B traversed the ledge further south to what appeared like an area of horribly rotten and exposed rock.  He scrambled up it while the rest of us watched and then he told us it was ok.

rotten area
rotten area

We followed, but had to be extremely careful not to dislodge the large chunks.  More ledges took us to a small rib and above that some downsloping ground divided by cliffs.  The south ridge was now visible.  We made for the ridge and came to a gap.  Climbing the ridge out of the gap was not an option without rope and gear.  The exposed east side was accessible by way of ramps but would involve dropping considerably.  There were no other obvious options.

descending ramps to dead end dryfall
descending ramps to dead end dryfall

We descended the ramps into a gully that was hemmed in by more cliffs.  Craig B did not want to give up on this peak, but there was a vibe of retreat starting to emanate from our group.  Craig climbed the huge dryfall at the head of the gully while the rest of us watched in slight horror.  It looked terrible.  We could see overhanging rock above where he was.  We told him we werenít going that way and he carefully climbed back down to us.

We went back to the gap in the ridge and John spotted a weakness on the west side that he thought would go.  I scrambled 30 feet up near vertical class 3 and 4 on an arete to find much easier terrain above.  Craig B followed me and then I noticed what looked like an easier way for the rest of the guys to join us.  They worked up through narrow zigzag ledges and then we went up to the south ridge, now much higher than before.

The ridge crest was still not a good option.  So we went back onto the east side, but now we were somewhere above the dryfall that Craig B had climbed.  What lay ahead did not look inspiring.  Several times during the day, I thought the previous section was tricky, so now it must relent a bit, but that was not the case.  Craig led down another ramping ledge to a small gully and scrambled up onto a sub-ridge.  We followed.

scrambling up the gully to the sub-ridge after turning a corner
scrambling up the gully to the sub-ridge after turning a corner
ascending the sub-ridge to traverse to the top notch
ascending the sub-ridge to traverse to the top notch

From the new vantage point we could see a sort of amphitheater ahead with cliffs below.  At the top was a notch in the south ridge between grotesque towering rock formations.  Craig scrambled further up the sub-ridge and then traversed the upper amphitheater to inspect the notch, hoping for something nice on the far side.  Access denied.

a view of someone on the sub-ridge from lower in the amphitheater
a view of someone on the sub-ridge from lower in the amphitheater

There was only one option left now.  We descended ledges below cliffs on the far side of the amphitheater, turned a narrow corner above a dryfall and entered a large gully.  We climbed up past a huge chockstone, and near the top of the gully turned left, following more angled ledges covered in gravel, back to the south ridge.  Here I was tempted to climb the white rock and see what was above it, but Craig B said he thought we should continue around the west side.

in the gully above the chockstone
in the gully above the chockstone
scrambling up the white rock
scrambling up the white rock
final ridge
final ridge
summit ahead
summit ahead

We descended slightly on the west side and traversed below the white rock wall.  Craig B said he thought we should scramble up at this spot, so up we went 50 feet of steep but easy class 3.  Above that, the mountain finally relented.  We could see the summit now.  It was mostly a walk with a few rock steps and narrow sections.  I think we were all pretty proud to sign that register.

Craig, Craig, Hans and John on Little Maria summit
Craig, Craig, Hans and John on Little Maria summit
Palen
Palen

Descending the route was much faster than scouting it had been.  Several cairns that John built in the maze were very helpful.  We had to be extremely careful in the rotten exposed area above the white marble traverse.

big chostone in the gully
big chostone in the gully
we went up this way
we went up this way
ledges
ledges
tricky topography
tricky topography
route clearly visible up the south ridge on right (don't ask me where it is), with summit visible on left
route clearly visible up the south ridge on right (don't ask me where it is), with summit visible on left

3-5
West Maria

The California crew had to return to work, but John and I had a few more days together.  We were in the mood for something much easier now.  West Maria fit the bill.  I wasnít sure which of the westward canyons we should try, but settled on one and up we went.  There were a few easy dryfalls, but overall this was a very easy route compared to the intensity of the previous day.

westward canyon
westward canyon

At the top of the canyon we scrambled up through a narrow gap and then we were on the class 2 slopes of the west ridge.  We continued to the summit.  It was windy and cold.  Since we had both done Big Maria before, John and I have now done most of the major peaks in the Maria ranges.


3-6
South Maria

Having grown fond of this area, John and I decided to do one more before moving on.  This peak is not officially named and pretty obscure, even by desert standards.  We found a drivable road to the mouth of a southwest facing canyon.  Inside the mouth, the canyon opens up into numerous smaller canyons.

Middle Maria
Middle Maria

We turned left and started up the canyon which terminates just west of the summit.  It was steep and more loose than the one on the previous day.  On the map I could see that it was a good route choice, but that it would be very steep at the head.

very steep
very steep
John Stolk
John Stolk

There was some interesting rock along the way that looked like natural wood grain.  We took two different lines near the top to avoid rock fall danger and then regrouped on the northwest ridge.  The final ridge had some scrambling and was narrow for awhile.  The register revealed that we were the 5th ascent in 31 years.

Big Maria
Big Maria

Middle Camp Mountain

After south Maria, we still had some energy, so we drove to Arizona ad hiked up Middle Camp Mountain.  This is an active gold mining area and we saw some miners and heard dynamite detonations during the hike.  We ascended a curving east canyon with saguaro and ended on the east ridge which was thick with cholla.  The steep loose terrain below the ridge was unpleasant.  There are two summits of nearly equal height and both have registers.

cholla
cholla
the other summit
the other summit

3-7
Cunningham Mountain

It was time to bid John farewell.  I hope to join him for bigger peaks in Canada this summer.  I drove as close to Cunningham as I was willing in my Subaru and then hiked up the road to the summit.  It only took a couple of hours round-trip.  This was my 298th P2k.


Guadalupe Mountain

I had time for one more quick one before driving back to Vegas to meet Eric the next day.  I drove most of the way up Guadalupe and hiked the last couple hundred feet.  Nearby Twin Peaks is impressive.  Certainly not a lot of people have climbed those.

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostSat Mar 10, 2018 12:00 am 
Very impressive, like all of your reports. I'm surprised you find time to write it all up! It's good to see you connecting with the peakbaggers down there.

I had to look up DPS List up. It's interesting that the list changes quite a bit over the years. When a new peak is added do a lot of previous finishers rush out to tag it?

Quote:
The Desert Peaks Section Peaks List consists of peaks compiled by the Desert Peaks Section of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club in order to promote interest in the scenic desert ranges of the Southwest. The DPS is the oldest peak climbing section of the Sierra Club, formed by Chester Versteeg informally in 1941, and later officially in 1945. The original 1941 list contained seven peaks and remained unchanged until 1947. The list has since grown over the years until reaching its current state of 99 peaks, the latest addition being Muddy Peak in 2003. Of the 99 current peaks, two thirds are located in the deserts of California, with the rest located across Nevada, Arizona, southern Utah, and northwestern Mexico.

I've only got 97 to go  lol.gif

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Gimpilator
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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Location: Edmonds, WA
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PostMon Mar 12, 2018 4:42 pm 
Thanks Monty!  As all the Sierra Club lists that I'm aware of, the DPS is slowly growing over time.  Some peaks get temporarily suspended from the list when there are access issues, but for the most part nothing gets removed.  It would be nice to see the list reach 100 in my opinion.  I would vote to add either Travelers Peak or The Sentinel.  Thanks for including the link and quote to my list page on SP as well.

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Quadruple DPS List Finish, Maria Mountains, and more, March 2-7, 2018
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