Red Buttes, Gray Mountain, Bell Mountain, Fairville Mountain, Catholic Hill


By: Andy Smatko


This weekend was a most unusual one indeed. With 8-10 inches of snow in Barstow and over a foot on Baker grade (closed Fri nite) and with more snow Forecast of Saturday. I doubt if anyone intending to climb Little Devil and Devil Peaks in southern Nevada could have reached Jean, Nevada.

I arrived in Victorville where I was to meet Bill Schuler, and with 4-5 inches on the ground there already, with the radio reporting Cajon Pass closing, I decided the impossibility of back road driving was imminent, even if Jean were reached, and made other plans, which I presume all takers has already done. Instead Biill, Ellen Siegal, and I tried for climbs near paved highways.

Everthing was covered with snow Sat AM and exquisite to behold. We drove over to Boron and tried to drive toward Saddleback Mtn, but snow squelched that idea. Instead we turned back down 395 and did what we though was the highpoint of the Kramer Hills, only to find another higher SE hill, which we did with ease. The snow was beginning to retreat so we drove down the road toward Red Buttes, lying SSW of the Kramer Hills. We climbed the highest 3426' and then proceeded to, and did Gray Mtn, 3100', just north of the town of El Mirage. North of Gray Mtn is Nash Hill, which we found to be a rocky mountain, beautifully frosted with snow on the big rocks. Our last climb of the day was a little 400' hill just west of Gray Mtn.

All of these climbs were, of course, in San Bernardino County, and thus furthered my ambition of ascending every highpoint of the separate and distinct ranges of massifs in the county.

On Sunday we went and did Bell Mtn northeast of Victorville, up the eastern slope. A fine panoramic view is the reward for this summit, and with all the frosted land about it was like a fairyland. Next spotted was Fairview Mtn to the east. This proved to be our finest mountain of the weekend, reminiscent of peaks in Joshua Tree NM. This one is made up of large rounded and sculptured roacks, making for indescribable beauty. The summit mass loomed as a Himilayan giant! Great care was taken going over these slick rocks. This peak should be added to our DPS list!!

Black Mtn, to the NNE came next, about 5 miles distant. A locked gate hampered things 2-1/2 miles from the top, but we made good time on foot. About half a mile from the summit we saw a large feline bounding up towards the upper ridge line, evidently a cougar, though very dark in color, almost black. Later we wondered if it might be an escaped panther, as cougars are tawny in color. We are still wondering!

Our last day's duty was Catholic Hill, NW of Apple Valley township. Again snow was present.

If one could have reached the environs of the Devils, and enchanting climb would have resulted. At some future date I'll reschedule them and hope for a better break with the weather.

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