WHIPPLE MOUNTAIN (4,130'), TURTLE MOUNTAIN (4,298'), AND GRANITE MOUNTAIN #2 (4,331') 2X January 18-20, 1997

This was another beautiful desert holiday weekend. The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

This was to be the last big carpool together for Rich and me. We motored south to a quick campspot behind the billboard for the turnoff to Lake Havasu, along U.S. 95. Meeting the DPS group in the morning, we motored to the north side of the Whipple Mountains. This range, next to the Colorado River, is the only place where saguaro cactus grows naturally west of Arizona.

We used our 4WD or high clearance vehicles to get to the roadhead, for the start of one of many ways to do this peak. A long walk leads to the base of the peak. We came to pools of water fouled by wild burros. We never rely on natural surface water sources, preferring the certainty of bringing our own water. A cross-country climb reaches the main ridge, and then we went left to the top. I summited at 11:40 a.m.

The views of Lake Havasu, and the ranges to the west (photo left) were clear and awesome. We stayed for less than an hour, then took another route back down. This went through an impressive canyon, and I dropped my gloves somewhere here while doing some rock scrambling to get down. I offered a small reward for their retrieval, and another group found one of them. The other glove remains lost, even to this day.

Coming back to the trucks at 3:36 p.m., we drove west to the Turtle Mountains, losing a couple, but gaining another hiker.

The next day, we motored up to where stakes should have closed the road. We didn't see any, so continued to drive to the point closer to the peak, making for an easier hike. Spectacular rock formations prompted me to check my maps for the names.

Our route up was somewhat devious, with ups and downs, with traverses. Finally, we had a straight climb to the top, reaching it at 11:02 a.m. The views, along with sights of Castle Rock (photo right), and the twin peaks, Mopah and Umpah, made a great telephoto picture. Some interesting business cards were left in the register. Having a quick bite, we were back to the trucks at 1:20 p.m. We tended to some van trouble, and got the vehicle out to the road.

The remaining five of us motored west on Highway 162. I was in awe of the sight of the serrated ridge of the Coxcomb Mountains. Spectre Point resides in this range. We found a car camp site across from the road that would lead us to Granite Mountain #2 the next day.

I devoured cans of corn and tuna, enjoying the pleasant conditions. A nice sunset was followed the next morning by plans to meet another climber from San Jose.

On the holiday, with this no-show somewhat anticipated, we took the long drive into the roadhead. I would recommend this drive for non-hikers wishing to see rugged desert using 4WD vehicles.

We started hiking from our trucks by 9:15 a.m., and we explored a bit finding the route. I had photo notes from my last time, but suggested trying a new way. We lost two hikers, then decided to cross a ridge to get back to the main standard route up a steep gully to the top. I arrived on the summit at 1:25 p.m. to take many photos of the dramatic views, enhanced by the clouds.

The others wanted to get home, so we stayed only 14 minutes. These are some of the most precious view photos I have ever had from the desert.

Heading down the standard route, we came back to the trucks at 3:53 p.m. Our drive out was highlighted by a sunset photo op, with the lead truck backlit by the bright skies.

I took a last photo of the view back toward the peak. Who knows if one will ever be back?

We drove into Twentynine Palms and had a great Mexican dinner, then parted ways for our long drives home.