Stepladder Mountains, Chemehuevi Peak
By: David Perkins
A small but enthusiastic group of climbers: Bob Hoeven, Anne Rolls, Ed Hernnan, Ron Ecklemann, Ann Perkins (Asst. Leader and scribe), Dave Perkins (Leader), and Edna Erspamer (holding down the fort at the cars) gathered at the pipeline road turnoff from US 95 on Saturday, Feb. 4th for a climb of Stepladder Peak. This climb provided us with two pleasant surprises. First, the hike still remains at about 12 miles rt as described in the DPS write-up. The Nov/Dec 2005 issue of the Sage had included a note that the Wilderness Boundary had been moved and that the hike was now 18 miles rt, but fortunately that was not the case. The person who contributed this note may have been on a different road.
We followed Gary Craig’s route wherein one heads directly across the desert at a bearing of about 230 to the canyon that leads to the saddle wherein the “climb” sincerely begins. The second pleasant surprise was how easily and smoothly the route unfolded, inspiring several of us to say that this was the first desert peak where we reached the summit sooner that we had expected! The weather was good — warm with a few breezes and very interesting cloud patterns.
We were back to the cars in six hours and back to our campsite by 4:00, where inspired by our climbing success, we started happy hour before 5:00 and the potluck at 6:00. The usual DPS cooking overachievers provided a variety of foods, highlighted by Edna’s excellent beef stew.
The next morning we were joined by John Thau for the climb of Chemehuevi, but the few breezes of yesterday had become gusty winds. The route starts out through an impressive cholla garden with plenty of barrel cactus thrown in, and then merges into a wash which leads to a chute going up to the notch — well, if you take the right wash! We proceeded happily until we arrived at an insurmountable waterfall, and had to climb out of the wash east into the correct one. After a gain and then loss of 200’ or so we were back on track, and the members of the party were good sports about it. If only we had read the previous trip reports more carefully — after our climb we noticed in an earlier report that another eminent leader had described making the same mistake!
At the notch, the gusts increased until we were leaning into the wind as we struggled to the summit. Dave and Ed searched unsuccessfully for the register, and we fmally improvised one out of a notebook, a plastic bag, and a water bottle cut in half to serve as a register “can.” Desert Peakers are always resourceful! On the descent we had a jumping cholla adventure — Bob ended up with three cholla segments clinging to his hand and arm, and in trying to help him, John and Ann were also impaled. Fortunately, Ed had a handy instrument called a needle holder (left over from his medical practice) which removed most of the spines. We were back to the cars in 6 Y2 hours, and decided that contrary to our expectations, this climb was more difficult than Stepladder.
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