Mohave Mountains, Spirit Mountain
By: John Vitz
Sometimes, prior to a trip, I get feelings which say that the trip is going to he a disaster, a ball, an idiocy or any combination thereof. The signs were strong this time. My map shipment arrived from the USGS in plenty of time. However, it showed that the range we were to explore was actually the Mohave Mtns and not the Chemehuevis as it appeared on the 1:250000 map. Secondly, the high point was supposed to be on the Buck Mtns 15' quad on the south half, which cleverly turned out to be blank - unsurveyed territory.
Then it occurred to me that the weekend was a holiday weekend - Washington's birthday - a fact that had been overlooked. This meant we would probably have a large crowd in spite of the fact that one peak was - Heaven forbid - an out of state exploratory. And lastly, on Thursday night at 11, I got home and there was a card from John Linden, the DPS's own Typhoid Mary, who said that he wanted to get in on the "spirit" of the climb. He also wanted some help arranging transportation - on Thursday night. Yeah, sure.
It was with some trepidation that we started for Needless (Sic) on Friday evening. I had been very obscure in defining the meeting place, and hoped that most people would not be able to tell If I meant the junction of US 66 and US 95 or Arizona 95N or Arizona 05S - all of which are south and east of Needles(s) as described in the schedule. We failed. There were 10 cars waiting for us. I now realize that had we not stopped we would have been able to lose them. And we could claim they were at the wrong place.
Typhoid John had already struck as John Minor's (remember that name) VW had lost its generator. We caravanned east and south to Lake Havasu City, at 35 miles an hour so as not to lose Paul Lipsohn, and wandered through town (all quad maps of the area are useless) to a dirt road where some vehicles where left. Everyone piled into Larry Fink's Toyota Land Cruiser; Fred Bode's, Jack Bradford's, Paul Lipsohn's, and Darryl Kuhn's VW busses, and a VW squareback. John went with Darryl much tohis everlasting disgust. We wandered around a budding subdivision until spotting a road heading towards the mountain. Shortly we discovered we were on the wrong road, the right one being across a wash. A little overland driving (we ask God not to punish us for being ORVers) brought us to the road and we headed into the mountains.
The road deteriorated quickly and finally reached an impassable pitch. After stopping and looking around we only had three of five vehicles. Three guesses as to one of the missing ones. We sent Larry back down the road to rescue them. Darryl had hit a rock and wiped out his steering. Jack had gotten hung up on a rock and decided to flick It in. Darryl, on the other hand, decided that since the mountain had gotten him, he would get it. Showing admirable courage, if not sense.
After walking the road a number of miles we headed up a ridge and soon reached the summit ridge. And - lo and behold - off to the west, not 500 feet below us, was the end of a road, one which we had turned off. Scratch another range from list possibilities, much to the relief of Andy Smatko and Bill Schuler, amongst others. We made an easy descent to the cars, including a slight detour led by Paul, as the leaders were leading from behind.
In order to make sure Paul could find his way back to the pavement, we sent Bob Herlihy (In Fred's VW) back out first. However, he took a wrong route in one place and Paul passed him. So when we got back to the other cars - no Paul. Larry and I went back up the road to check the possible mistake points. Nothing. We did have a nice sunset though. An hour later we returned and found that Paul had gotten lost in the subdivision, not the backcountry. Is that good or bad?
We had agreed to meet at Christmas Tree Pass to camp that night. When we arrived about 10, we expected to find a campfire going and at least Bob with a cold aluminum can in his hand. It was dead quiet. True to our reputation we went quietly to bed. Believe it - I wouldn't put you on. At a reasonable starting time - in contrast to most leaders' starting times - we were off to the top of Spirit. Shortly we settled into the normal Vitz-Haven loose-herding technique of climbing, which finds the leaders following. It was another beautiful - if too warm - day and the views were superb. Everyone made the summit with no trouble where lunch was consumed amidst a barrage of Linden Puns too horrible to recount. Besides, I forgot them.
We were to descend by the third class ridge route, but at the one difficult pitch most of the party elected to go down the other way. The two groups returned to the cars without incident where John congratulated us on our Minor accomplishment. The trip was officially over, but we were staying over to do New York on Monday, while others were heading up to Potosi. Mercifully, John was heading home, leaving us with the following words of wisdom, "Be sure to keep your Vitz about you."
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