Black Hill, Black Lava Butte, Flat Top, Goat Mountain, Ruby Mountain, Black Hills, Gravel Hills, Black Mountain #1 (LO), Opal Mountain
By: Andy Smatko
DESERT PEAK JAUNTS
On a weekend in the latter part of October, this year, I climbed 5 more Desert Peaks while based at Yucca Valley - in an apartment for luxurious camping. Black Hill was climbed from Pioneertown via the South slopes. The "summit" is an undulating plateau of fairly large extent. Black Lava Butte was climbed via the west face and it too has an extensive sloping plateau for its summit. Flat Top took the cake for a summit estimated over 1 sq. mile of gentle tableland. All these three mountains are volcanic in origin and are easy to climb - Class I..loose..depending upon where the ascent is made from. On Sunday Goat Mountain was climbed via the trail on its South slopes, a rocky trail all the way to near the summit. Ruby Mountain is a short ascent via its South slopes. None of these five mountains is worthy of consideration for Desert Peak status.
Over the weekend of November 9-10, Frank Yates and I made several ascents of peaks in the area between Randsburg and Barstow. On Saturday morning we made the first recorded ascent of the high point of the range lying SE of the Lava Mountains, elevation 4,565 ft. There was no cairn, so we built a fine one on the summit. Approach was via the east ridge. Next we climbed to the high point of the Black Hills several miles to the east, (4,547 ft.). We found several undetonated broken rockets, and a 6-lb. unexploded shell near the summit. Both these ranges were volcanic, as are nearly all the peaks and ranges in this area. That afternoon we climbed the high point of a NW-SE trending range lying east of the Cuddeback Gunnery Range. This was a prominent, colorful peak, rosy pink in its upper half and dark grey in its lower ridges. It was quite steep and on its slopes was found a broken drone target plane. Remnants of an old cairn were seen on this summit. About 6 miles further south lay the Gravel Hills and our last climb of the day was made to the high point (3,858 ft.) where a cairn was again found, or more exactly, a 3-cairn miner's type of claim. Camp was made Saturday night in a wide saddle NW of Opal Mountain.
Sunday we hiked up the road to the saddle west of Opal Mountain and thence up the west ridge to the summit (3,950 ft.). We were amazed at the number of pickup trucks in the area and campers who had camped overnight.
The 6-mile round trip to the summit of Black Mountain (3,939ft.) southwest of Opal Mountain was a pleasant stroll. Our final climb this day was the high point (3,930 ft.) of the Paradise Range lying NW of Coyote Dry Lake. The summit block of this most rugged range proved to be Class III. It was the most spectacular of the seven climbs we had made and the range in its northern third was granitic, while the southern two thirds is volcanic, a strange circumstance indeed. There was no cairn on the summit, so we left one. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring summit registers this weekend and we left our names only on the first peak climbed, scribbled with burnt matches on a gasoline receipt and placed in a plastic bag.
Generally the roads are good, although sandy in a few places. Except for the northern part of the Paradise Range, all the peaks and ranges appear to be of volcanic origin.
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