Mopah Point, Turtle Mountains
By: Dennis Richards
When I planned this trip months ago with Patty Rambert, I did not realize that the preceding Friday was a paid holiday at my place-of-business. I decided to add another DPS peak to the weekend and invited those that had signed up to do Whipple on Friday, as a private trip. Mike Daugherty and Jeff Ho accepted my offer. After driving out in rainy weather on Thursday night, we met at 7:00 AM Friday on Hi-Way 62, at the DPS turn-off for the drive into Turtle ( I wanted to scout this for a spot for our group campsite on Saturday night). We caravaned from there to the Whipple trailhead at the War Eagle Mine, arriving at 8:25 AM. We opted for Route B going up and gained the summit right at 12:00 Noon. There are two registers on Whipple; one DPS and the other a new Native-American tribal ( #14 ) PVC pipe buried inside the summit cairn. Both are relatively new and had few entries, dating back from about 2000. I was amazed at the growth and urban sprawl around the town of Lake Havasu, AZ., across the Colorado River, since my last visit here in November of 92. We came down Route C, a nice descent through a steeply walled (in places ) scenic canyon. We noticed clouds forming to the West on the hike out. We found the last bit of the hike to the cars, after being spit out of the mouth of the canyon, a bit tedious. It’s a lot of crossing washes and ridges to get to the War Eagle mine and the vehicles.
We drove the good dirt road back to the Lake Havasu Road and Hi-Way 95, where Jeff and Mike departed for Needles; Jeff to get gas and Mike to get ice. I drove down to the Mopah turn off to look for a place to camp for the night. I drove in about four miles, just short of the trailhead, to a large flat area next to a wash where I discovered Debbie Bulger who had driven down from Santa Cruz to join us. This location is suitable for several vehicles. Soon, Jeff and Mike re-joined us. We wanted to have an evening campfire but were driven inside our respective vehicles at dusk, by cold weather and light showers.
At 7:15 AM on Saturday , after sharing fresh brewed coffee with Debbie and Mike, I drove back to Hi-Way 95. I was glad to see Barry Holchin and his wife, Karen Jansen, and Ann and Dave Perkins there. Barry had agreed to take over as trip assistant on short notice when Patty Rambert had to fly to the East Coast to cover a family emergency.
We drove back to the others, had the obligatory sign-in, introductions, etc., and started hiking to Mopah. Along the way in, we encountered, hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies, dozens of caterpilers soon destined to be swallowtail butterflies, many different species of wildflowers and birds. After hiking about 1.8 miles in and rounding a ridge, we spotted a notch. It turned out to be the “second” notch, as described in the DPS Guide. We went through the notch and entered the “large chute.” I wasted about 20 minute here looking for the “second notch.” We soon realized my mistake and continued up the large chute to the “shallow cave.” We easily climbed the face above this obstacle, crossed the “easy slope,” climbed the narrow, steep chute, to the base of the “crux move.” At this crux, a belay was requested by some and quickly provided. We were soon lunching on the summit. We were scolded throughout this climb by a Prairie Falcon, frequently seen in power dives around the summit area during the day. After an all too short time, we descended the way that we came. Belays were provided to some for the down climb of the “crux move.” We all took the “ducked ledge” to get back into the lower end of the steep chute on the descent. There is some exposure on this ledge but is less strenuous that getting over the narrow spot at the top of the chute. Soon, we were back on flat ground for the hike back to our trailhead.
At the new trailhead, a race developed between those going cross-country down the wash and those following the road back to the vehicles. Jeff Ho won by taking the road but was observed to be “running” by those going cross-country. Both groups beat me back and I had driven my truck from the trailhead. Jeff signed out at this point to return home to spend Easter with his family. This was my first lead as an Angeles Chapter leader and it was a wonderful group of people to be doing it with.
We decided to meet at Vidal Junction, where we added gas to our depleted tanks ($2.89 a gallon ) and restocked the ice chests with ice. We caravaned from here to the Hi-Way 62 turn-off to Turtle. One has to be careful driving on this section of road as many “speeders” were seeking opportunities to “advance their positions.” I led the caravan in about two miles to a large spot suitable for many cars. This spot is at the road fork, as described in the Guide. It’s open country here, not suitable for cold high winds, but proved to be perfect for our needs and conditions. We set up a table, added the usual DPS hor’ s d’oeuvres, added adult beverages, more food and a fresh baked “Santa Cruz apple cake” provided by Debbie.
We had a great campfire into the night. We saw a great star show, a couple of satellites and had good conversation. If only we could get the world’s leaders involved in the DPS!! There would not be so many problems between peoples. Debbie, who is the editor of The Ventana, the_newsletter of the Sierra Club’s Ventana Chapter, gave each person a copy, along with a copy of An Ascent of Half Dome in 1884, by Alexander Phimister Proctor. She also regaled us with two of her original songs that she has written.
After an early breakfast on Easter Sunday morning, we set off for the long drive in to the Turtle trailhead. High clearance, but not 4 WD, is needed for this drive. We got to the trailhead, signed in and started our day. I was saddened to see recent tires marks on the road past the red stakes. This trailhead needs a better barrier to prevent people from driving around the stakes. We saw a turtle shell on the ascent and found another larger one on the way back, so this peak is aptly named. We had a warm clear day with a good breeze that made viewing conditions perfect. From the summit of Turtle we could see all the way down to Signal Mountain in Arizona and Picacho Peak in Imperial County. Turtle is in the very heart of DPS country. After the long hike back to the cars, we returned to our camping spot for the low clearance vehicle that we had left there. We parted company here and some were planning to stop at Edchata’ s Mexican Restaurant in Twenty-nine Palms for dinner, but, alas, it was closed for Easter Sunday.
I want to thank all for a wonderful experience and for participating on my first two Angeles Chapter outings. I would also like to commend Greg Vernon for his register cans and sign-in books on all three of these peaks. He seems to be the unofficial “keeper of the registers,” and he deserves a special thanks.
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