Ascent of Peak 864 on 2014-04-02

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Aidan Barlow
Blue the dog
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Peak 864
    Elevation:2835 ft / 864 m

Ascent Trip Report

Our initial plans to head to Utah and Nevada for peaks, slot canyons, and skiing were cancelled because we were both sick, so we settled for a trip out to Joshua Tree and a mix of rock climbing and hiking. Aidan was also not too excited about the long drives that are part of a southern Utah trip, so we settled for some local, low-key fun. We stayed at my buddy Rick's place in Indian Cove which backs up to the park boundary. I was able to wake up every morning to a panorama or rock from Rattelsnake Canyon to Mt Mel right outside my window - not bad. Anyway, we headed east on Hwy 62 from 29 Palms, armed only with my Zdon book, which I had brought for any Plan B activities that kept us in California. This would prove useful. I followed the driving directions for Iron Mtn exactly, but decided to head just a little north of the borrow pit for a better parking spot, thinking the wash we eventually ascended was the wash in the directions. This would prove to send us completely off track, even though I thought we were headed up the right peak.

The hike pace was pretty slow, owing to my state of sickness, and Blue's inability to get up any rocks greater than 12 inches tall without assistance. Aidan set out on a strong lead and stayed in front for the entire ascent. Eventually the heat and boulder hopping became too much for Blue (and me lifting Blue up over every rock), so I found a shaded boulder, gave him plenty of water (weight off my back!), and tied him up so he would not try to follow us and end up way off route in need of my rescue. He did not object to this at all and collapsed in the shade after gulping down nearly half a liter of water.
Once we were free of the dog, we made better time up the wash. We made the conscious decision to take the right wash up even though the Zdon guide calls for the left branch of the main wash down low. In the end, it didn't really matter since we were in the wrong main wash, and therefore both the left and right washes did not lead to Iron Mtn. I was also concerned that the next bump to the north was higher and we would be better off not going over an extra bump on the way there and back. We reached the saddle between Pk 864 and Pk 831 in time for a nice lunch. Aidan asked if we could eat lunch at the saddle when we were less than 5 minutes below it, and it seemed like as fine a spot as the summit to enjoy the view while we ate.

I pulled out the GPS to confirm that the higher peaks in the range stood well to our west and we had indeed ascended the wrong mountain. Without a map, I felt like we were on course the whole time and even doubted what my GPS was giving me for elevations across the way, feeling that we had followed the Zdon description somewhat accurately. I figured, we may as well ascend this peak and at least enjoy the view. We topped out and made the startling discovery of a register placed in the usual rock pile on the summit. I figured that we would not find anything out here on what I labeled "Wrong Iron" on my GPS. I was pleasantly mistaken. We opened the jar and found that we were the first party to climb this peak since Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley, and Richard Agnos in 1984! I was a bit more excited at the prospect of being the first party to sign into this piece of history than Aidan was. I had him date and sign first. I have come across a number of MacLeod/Lilley registers on very obscure peaks all over California. I snapped a number of pictures to email to Gordon.

We descended the obvious gully from the summit, re-joining our ascent route shortly below the summit, and eventually meeting up with Blue, who was sitting in the shade still. We untied him and continued down the wash. He was in better spirits now and was able to keep up on the downhill, which was nice for me since lifting an 85 lb pit bull over rocks really sucks. During the whole hike, I worked with Aidan on his navigation skills, getting him out front to make the micro route-finding decisions that make an efficient hiker. We also reviewed gear choices at the beginning of the hike, so he would understand what to pack (10 essentials). He continues to learn how to be a great mountaineer, even if his old man sent him leading the way up the wrong peak!

In hindsight, I could have searched the GPS maps a bit better to find the correct peak and head for it, even if it was not in my GPS as a waypoint. However, I am not much of a GPS enthusiast, and navigate by maps 80% of the time, and with written descriptions another 15% of the time, using the GPS only when I have pre-loaded waypoints in difficult navigation scenarios. This peak is far from difficult navigation: follow the wash to the summit ridge.

Of note for the GPX track and map: Either there is a mapping error in this area (similar to the mapping error on nearby Spectre/Aqua), or my GPS had my position off by a few dozen meters. I even turned the GPS off on the summit and then back on again to confirm our position. I placed the summit marker on the GPS right on the summit. My photos can prove that we topped out on this incredibly obscure peak if there is any doubt when comparing the GPS track to the map!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1675 ft / 510 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1687 ft / 514 m
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1675 ft / 510 m
    Route:East Wash
    Start Trailhead:1160 ft / 353 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1687 ft / 514 m
    Route:East Wash
    End Trailhead:1148 ft / 349 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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