Muah Mountain, Cartago Peak
10-Jun-00 (Private Trip)
By: Reiner Stenzel
These two peaks are typically done from Horseshoe Meadows on a 31 mi, 5,500' round trip which makes it a rather strenuous weekend. Cartago alone can also be done as a dayhike out of Owen's Valley which is really an arduous hike (9 mi rt, 6,700'). The present write-up shows how to do both peaks in 1.5 days without involving a deat march. It is a one-way hike from Horseshoe Mdws via both peaks with a descent to the town of Cartago and a short car shuttle back to Horseshoe Mdws (18 mi rt, +3,600', -9,700').
On Fri eve, Susan Livingston and I met in Olancha, parked one car at the Cartago Pk "trailhead" (UTM 4020124N, 11 407129E, NAD27, elevation 3,800 , ), and continued in the other car via the Cottonwood Rd to the Horseshoe Mdws trailhead (UTM 4034059N, 11 395165E elev 9,900'). Sat morning, by 6 am, we started to hike via Trail Pass, Mulkey Pass, along the PCT to Diaz Creek (UTM 4030500N, 11 39800E) where we ascended XC the NW slopes of Mt Muah. This shortest ascent requires bypassing several false peaks along the ridge before reaching the true summit (UTM 4028767N, 11 399182E , elev 11,016'). By 10:15 am we entered the first signatures in 2000 in the peak register. We spent an hour on the summit reading the 35 year old register, taking pictures, and enjoying the views on a sunny day. Then we descended into Ash Mdws, where we picked up the PCT near Sharknose Ridge, and followed it South to UTM 4022400N, 11 398900E. From there we descended XC into Death Canyon to find a nice campsite at UTM 4021818N, 11 399701E, elev 9,500', where the creek splits. We made camp by 4:30 pm near the running stream Cleaned up, relaxed in the afternoon, made a campfire in the evening to keep the bugs away, prepared for the bears which left many fresh tracks nearby. Earlier in the day we ran across two of them. We also enjoyed meeting several through hikers on the PCT on their 5 month journey from Mexico to Canada.
On Sun, at 6:15 am, we ascended the right fork of the intermittent creek to UTM 4022000N, 11 400600E, elev 9,800', then turned South to climb the Cartago plateau (10,200'). It's a maze of steep towers in a sandy terrain with gnarly foxtail pines. We headed to the "right" peak at UTM 4020320N, 11 401153E, climbed the cl.3 summit block (10,480'), and signed in at 7:45 am as second party in 2000. Great views of Olancha, Mineral King, Langley, Owen's Lke and the Great Basin. By 8:30 am, we left and headed East to peak 9,921', passed it on the North side, and descended along a ridge starting near UTM 4021 OOON, I I 403250E, staying North of the creek in sections 33-35 on the 7.5' Olancha topo. Others have chosen the ridge South of the creek, found it painful, and suggested to stay North. Well, it was no pleasure either. After 3 hours of descending 6,700' XC on steep slopes, through forest and chapparal, traversing dry creekbeds on loose shale, and plunge stepping through desert sand, we were down at the car (3,800') by 11:45 am. In 90deg weather we were ready to jump into the LA Aqueduct, were it not for that barbed wire fence. The trip odometer read 18.3 mi total, no death march, but no leisure trip either. Can highly recommend a GPS and 2 quarts of water. By 1 pm we had shuttled back to Horseshoe Mdws and began our drive home to LA.
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