Ascent of Eagle Benchmark on 2014-03-31

Climber: Dan Baxter

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, March 31, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Eagle Benchmark
    Elevation:2371 ft / 722 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bob Burd's report is excellent and I used it for this climb.

From Highway 86 at SW corner of the Salton Sea go west about 16.3 miles of highway 78 to the small town of Ocotillo Wells. This town has one of the more colorful saloons I've seen, but with minimal food offerings. Another small restaurant is being built, with a sign stating it opens in 2015. This area is frequented by off road vehicle affectionados at the Ocotillo Wells State vehicle Rec Area. Turn left south on Split Mtn Rd and go about 6.2 miles. You will pass through a corner of Anza Borrego State Park but there is no entrance fee. There is a trailhead there for the Elephant Trees. I was going to stop there on my way out but a sandstorm from hell prevented this. At 6.2 miles you will see the small gauge railroad and immediately before this turn left east on unsigned "Trestle Road" (according to Benchmark Maps). This road follows the tracks quite closely and is definitely 4 WD. In fact, just before the trailhead you drive through a dry lake bed which has VERY soft dirt on the road. I was frankly a little stressed in my Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Trail Edition. Nearly got stuck. The dirt was so thick I was swaying left and right and the dirt was THICK on my windshield. I drove blind for about 30 seconds, the dirt being more than an inch thick on my windshield and with the wipers at full speed. Not having a front right fender on my Jeep probably contributed to this. I highly suggest you do like I did on my return, and drive a hundred yards or more further east in this area, which is very open territory and already has many tracks. If you get stuck here it may be a long time before you get out. I parked where Bob Burd did. Basically at sea level at about UTM 33.006N 115.991W

I arrived late (1 pm) and tried to summit that day but quit after only 200 feet elevation gain. It was 87 degrees and I knew the next day's high was to be 10 degrees less. I figured I'd get an early am start the next day (not to happen, started at 8:02 am. (Lazy ass!) I spent the rest of that day in my Jeep covering my travel pillow with salt crystals.
The climb:
You want to ascend that dark rock face just to your SW. It is just right of a large wash which you want to head for first. The left side of the face has gentler slopes. You will see 3 faint wash/gullies on the right side of the large wash. The trail that Bob Burd describes heads up the middle of those three. You will probably but not necessarily see occasional remnants of that miner's trail, as well perhaps of a few ducks as you head to the middle gully. Take heart, you will see the trail itself above you traversing right (NW) from the gully. The trail is obvious. As Bob Burd pointed out, the miner spent more time than one would think of its construction.Go up the gully and at 180' elevation the trail heads right or NW. The trail is fairly easy to follow and will definitely save you time from otherwise more boulder hopping.

At one hour I was at 1020", and at 1310' was at the top of that first ridge or slope. Soon you will see hints of your goal ahead thru a saddle. The next half mile or so you will cross many small ridges. Follow the trail it will save you time, even when it switchbacks in the seemingly wrong direction. Then you will come to the first and smaller of the two flat plain like areas. Here on the way in I missed the trail turning right and going over a small saddle. Bob Burd must have seen it though, as it goes by the mine prospect that he photographed. Rather, I continued south on a smaller path which passes right of knoll 1380'+ then left (E) of tiny knoll 1300'+. Here you enter a sharp sided ravine where I traversed left east to avoid losing elevation, then over a small ridge, then down somewhat, then entered the bigger of the two plains. This route, btw, is trailess but is more direct and not a bad option.
Now you really see the goal. Cross the plain and go up that north ridge which passes over a false summit. The ridge is easy class 2 and does not involve a lot of decision making.
The summit register is a glass jar in a rusting can containing a decaying notebook. A good semaritan might consider replacing the notebook and can. The views are great. Salton Sea, Mexico, etc.
(Interesting aside:)
Turkey vultures are reported to have perhaps the keenest sense of smell of any animal. They can smell nano-microns or some such of decaying flesh from like forever. So on my ascent I kept seeing vultures circling me. WHY, WHY I ask??!!! I know its hot as hell. I know that there is NOBODY else stupid enough to be here in this admittedly "pushing the desert peakbagging limits" in nearly April. I did, in fact, bring 4 liters of water and wished I brought more. I know that I am utterly ALONE here. Is this it? Then on the summit I notice that I have the uneaten remnants of my lunch from Spectre Pk 2 days before, which includes rotting pieces of the BBQ chicken I bought in Fresno before my trip departure. I threw them out on the summit, an noted that the vultures circled there on my descent, and bothered me no more!
The descent was uneventful. You will see on your descent (and ascent) that a very high quality trail goes to the NW corner of the second larger flat plain. My curiosity led me there, and I found an excellent trail built by the miner which will pass west of the tiny knoll 1300'+ and then sweep past the mining prospect described by Bod Burd, and then go over the small saddle and rejoin the trail I had come in on.
Look for jewels etc in this area. As it is illegal to harvest same from wilderness areas I will not describe what is there. Others noted in the summit register similar events.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2567 ft / 781 m
    Elevation Loss:2567 ft / 781 m
    Distance:6.1 mi / 9.8 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
too hot
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2467 ft / 751 m
    Extra Loss:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:Bob Burd's route from NNE
    Trailhead:Along railroad tracks  4 ft / 1 m
    Time Up:3 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2467 ft / 751 m
    Extra Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:Bob Burd's route from NNE
    Trailhead:Along railroad tracks  4 ft / 1 m
    Time Down:3 Hours 16 Minutes

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