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Pinto Mountain
Mojave Desert, California
October 13, 2013

As we drove down Highway I15 toward the Mojave Desert, I told my hiking partners that I wanted to climb Fountain Peak. By "partners" I mean Dinah Kruze and Sonny Bou. Weeks ago, after Dinah and I told Sonny we were spending a week in Las Vegas, he surprised us by booking the same flight, and now the three of us were motoring toward the Nevada-California border. Anyway, it turns out that both Dinah and Sonny were better informed than I: the access road to Fountain Peak has been closed for years. Fortunately I had a backup plan, Pinto Mountain. Although not as strenuous as Fountain Peak – Pinto is rather tame – it had a few things to offer, such as not driving back without reaching a summit.

As described in Andy Zdon's Desert Summits, the route begins in a wash west of Pinto Mountain and then ascends the ridge that leads to the summit.

Not wishing to park on the road, we found a suitable spot on the shoulder, one free of rocks and bushes. Unwittingly though, this placed us too far west and in the wrong wash. But after going over a low ridge, we dropped down into the correct wash. We soon noticed a side wash heading to the ridge we wanted to gain and hiked up it.

After reaching the crest the landscape ahead appeared mesa-like. After crossing a broad, gentle slope we came to bluffs overlooking Round Valley. We had a fine view of the valley, but we were unable to see Pinto Mountain because of a couple of intervening high points. We bypassed the first high point on the right and hiked over the second before seeing the bland, round summit of Pinto. Actually the summit appeared more flat than round. Upon reaching it we couldn't possibly pinpoint the highest point. Undaunted, we climbed as high as we could, up a dead tree, and set the camera timer to take a summit pose.

Instead of returning back along the undulating ridge we found a weakness in the cliff band below Pinto and climbed down (the entire trip was no more than class 2.) We headed across the flats to our car.

When we set out that morning, we knew that the national parks were closed but didn't know if that included the area we were hiking in. However, a note found on our car made it clear: we aren't allowed to stop or park while driving through Mojave National Preserve. A government shut down arising from political disagreement had closed all national recreation areas in the States. It's ironic that hiking, an activity clearly beneficial to one's health and well-being, should fall victim to a debate over healthcare insurance.

Sonny's Trip Report
KML and GPX Tracks

The approach wash

Heading up the wash

Jimson-weed bears 4-inch flowers and is highly poisonous

As we hiked up the wash we passed flowering bushes. Before reaching them, they exploded in a cloud of these butterflies, taking flight as we disturbed them and disappearing in seconds.

Starting up a side wash which will take us to the ridge

Easy ascent to the ridge

After reaching the ridge we dropped down to a broad slope and skirted the high point ahead on the right

Making our way down the ridge

Following a cliff band

Skirting the first high point as we make our way to the second one

Ascending the second high point

Looking back

Pinto Mountain on the left (click for a larger image)

Summit search

The highest point we could reach!

New York Peak

Descending a weakness in the cliff band. Table Mountain on the right.

Dinah makes her way down

Heading to the flats

We were attracted to this peculiar white sandstone cliff band

Sonny climbs into a small opening while Dinah looks on

I tried out some natural foot and handholds

An errant boulder catches our eye and we head for it (mouse over to zoom in)

Sonny tries to topple the boulder with me on it

Notice found on our windshield

Mid Hills and Pinto Valley 1:24,000 Topos (4.7 mi, 6010 ft, 1220 ft)

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