By: Bob Michael
Cerbat Mountains, Arizona
Just as Mount Tipton anchors the north end of the Cerbat* Mountains, Cherum Peak -- only slightly lower - is the exclamation point at the south end of the range, rising above the old mining town of Chloride. It was this year's goal for the traditional Winter Solstice desert peak for myself and Vegas George Quinn. (We've more or less bagged out the immediate Las Vegas area and the I-15 corridor for unlisted peaks, so we have to go ever further afield for fresh quarry.)
We can thank the good ole BLM, Kingman District, for (to quote that seasonal favorite, the Messiah) "making straight in the desert a highway" to this peak. Well, not very straight, but a darn good dirt road to this peak, easily cruisable in a somewhat geriatric Chevy Lumina sedan. The entire mountain range is their domain, and I guess they chose it for a showcase project in "this land is your land" back-country access. Thanks, BLM! Your efforts were very much appreciated.
Twenty miles north of the center of Kingman, the signed "Big Wash" road takes off east from US 93 and heads up the bajada into the heart of the range. A sign just off the highway says "Cherum Peak Trailhead, 12 miles". The road quickly climbs over 2000 feet to the range crest in some tight -- but well-graded and Chevy-able -switchbacks. The route then snakes south along the pinyon-clad range crest with great views into the depths to east and west. There are two developed picnic/ campgrounds -- Windy Point and Packsaddle -- along the crest.
The good dirt road ends at the signed Cherum Peak Trailhead. (A rough 4WD route drops steeply to the west towards Chloride at this point.) The trail is about 6 miles RT and gains 1000 or 50 feet. A sign at the trailhead gives a little natural history of the area and the human history of the trail; it was a cooperative project between the BLM and private citizens, and has only been in existence a few years. It starts off discouragingly downhill. Just when you're ready to yell at the trail,
"STOP DROPPING, DAMMIT!", it crosses a draw, rounds a bluff, and finally heads south towards the peak, cutting across a broad northeast flank to once again top out on the range crest. We were very grateful for the folks who had hacked through the chaparral enroute so we didn't have to. There is lots of man-eating chaparral on this peak comparable to the HPS list at its worst. I did Tipton a long time ago, but I remember it as brushy; Cherum is worse. (There seems to be a chaparral belt that runs from central Arizona northwest along the ranges that border the Colorado Plateau. We got into a ghastly manzanita thicket while trying an [unsuccessfull new route on Virgin, and we had a brush struggle near the top of Mt. Bangs northeast of Virgin.) George and I agreed that we would have turned back rather than confront the living barbed wire of intergrown oak brush, manzanita, etc. on this peak.
The peak is still a mile or so south when you attain the range crest. Presently an ATV track comes in from the southeast and becomes the trail, but, fortunately, the ATV's drop away before the final peak and the last quarter mile and several hundred feet of gain is up a steep, rocky and somewhat sketchy foot trail to the summit crag. We placed a register while enjoying views over a huge chunk of DPS playground from Charleston to Virgin south to Chemehuevi and west to Granite and Providence. Tipton is a broad dark green pyramid to the north. Most remarkable was the sight of the San Francisco Peaks over 100 miles to the east and the most striking evidence I've seen on land of the curvature of the Earth. Consider that the horizon to the east is the nearly flat Colorado Plateau. Little specks of white could be made out far, far to the east just above the horizon; they were not clouds and did not move. We were seeing just the very tips of Humphreys and Agassiz; the rest of the peaks had sunk below the curvature of the globe! (Take that, Flat Earth Society!)
Sunset was nipping at our heels as we double-timed it back down the trail. The Cerbats are the last fault-block Basin Range before the Grand Wash Cliffs, the western bastion of the Colorado Plateau; we looked east across a deepening pool of misty gray-blue dusk in the Hualapai Valley to fiery points of intense alpenglow that clung to the rim of the Grand Wash Cliffs as if reluctant to end the show.
*Odd name! Apparently the moniker of the French prospector who discovered the mines at Chloride.
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