Mitchell Point, Edgar Peak
By: Greg Roach
This was a classic desert peak climb in a rugged beautiful area, which turned into an epic. My plan was to climb Mitchell Point first by the “D” route in the guide from the Bonanza King Mine. Then we would descend Mitchell and hike south on the ridge over to Edgar Peak as shown in sideline 1 of the guide. Once on top of Edgar Peak we would descend route “A” back to our shuttle cars at the Mitchell Caverns parking area. Our group was determined to climb both peaks and what we lacked in speed we made up for endurance and experience.
A group of 12 desert peak baggers meet Saturday morning at the intersection of Essex Road and Black Canyon Road 5 miles southwest of Mitchell Caverns. We shuttled 2 cars up to Mitchell Caverns where the “A” route for Edgar Peak starts. Then we drove over to the Bonanza King Mine where the “D” route for Mitchell Point starts. As we were getting ready to drive down the dirt road signed “Blair Bros. 71L Ranch” we met Ellen and Ron Grau. We told them of our plans and they said they would wait for us at Mitchell Caverns parking area because they wanted to camp with us Saturday night and enjoy our potluck dinner. We said good bye to them and drove done the Blair Bros. dirt road. Once past the sign for the Bonanza King Mine 5 miles from the paved road high clearance for the first part and 4-wheel drive for the last part are very helpful.
It was a beautiful day not a cloud in the sky. We started hiking at 7:30 a.m. following route “D” for Mitchell Peak from the guide. The terrain on this ridge is steep and rough. The is no trail and much sharp weather limestone. Once on top of the ridge the going gets easier and signs of a use trail are present. Our group was spread out because of different hiking speeds. The ones in the front of the group were fortunate enough to see a big horned sheep on the ridge above us. He was a beauty with majestic horns. He watched us coming up the ridge for a short while before turning his back and showing us the distinctive white patch on his rump. Then he was gone. He looked just like the list finish pin. We stayed to the east of the ridge higher up and then climbed up on top a short distance before the summit. We arrived at the summit at about 11:30 a.m. and where rewarded with a grand view.
Many desert peaks were visible and the Kelso dunes could be seen in the southwest. But the most striking peak was our goal for that afternoon Edgar Peak. It rose up above us on the southern ridge and looked so near yet so far away. I was hopeful the route over to Edgar across the ridge between the two peaks wouldn’t be as rugged as the route we had just came up. After having a bite to eat and signing the register we headed out for Edgar. It was 11:45 a.m.
The route turned out to be rugged in spots because there were short bands of limestone cliffs we had to cross and some up and downs. There were great views from the ridge of jagged limestone cliffs on the surrounding mountains. The map showed only about 2.5 miles to Edgar but it took us 4 hours to reach the summit from Mitchell. I had under estimated the group speed. Many stops had to be made along the way waiting for the slower people. The first part of the group was on Mitchell at 3:30 p.m. but the last part of the group didn’t reach the top till 20 minutes later. We could see our destination clearly from the summit. Mitchell Caverns was only 2.5 miles away but the terrain was rugged and we were running out of daylight. We saw Ron and Ellen’s signatures in the register they were on the summit at noon.
It was about 4:00 p.m. when we left the summit. The afternoon shadows were growing long. I knew we would have to hurry to get down into the canyon before dark. We followed the many ducks across the ridge staying high until we could drop down to the saddle the guide shows is the route back to Mitchell Caverns. I took a good look as to the lay of the land while we were up on the ridge knowing we would be in the dark soon. We got off the ridge and down into the canyon to about 1800 meters when it got dark. We still had some 1600-ft elevation loss go before the cars. The terrain was rough. Rock, cactus, and fatigue slowed our progress in the dark. But, everyone had brought flashlights and our spirits were good. We were determined to make it back. No bivuacing for this group. Anyway it was only 5:30 p. m. when darkness overtook us.
As we continued to descend into the canyon we got into heavy brush so we traversed to the right until we could find a good spot to descend. That was our mode of operation. Descend when we could then go right until it was clear for I knew that the canyon would eventually lead us back to our cars. With Ken Barr leading the way Mirna and I stayed in the back with the slower people helping them to find their way in the dark. Finally at 8:30 we arrived back at the cars. Ron and Ellen were a little worried about us but we all made it out some with more cactus than others.
We didn’t get back to our campsite until 10:30 p.m. that night after retrieving the shuttle cars from the Bonanza King Mine. We camped off the Black Canyon Road a couple miles north of the turn off to Mitchell Caverns. We had a good campfire and potluck. This was one of those rare desert trips when you look at your watch thinking it is late and it really is. Not like many when you think it is late and it is only 7:30 p. m. and you wonder what you are going to do the rest of the night.
Thanks to everyone for bring all the goodies for the Potluck and for bringing your spirit of adventure for the peaks. Special thanks to Ken Barr and Dave Perkins for helping lead the group. This is a trip I will remember for a long time. Our group consisted of Pete Yamagata, Linda McDermott, Ann and Dave Perkins, Ken Barr, Jan St. Amand, George Wysup, Richard Whitcomb, Mary Motheral, Judy Hummeric, and joining us at the end of the hike Ellen and Ron Grau.
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