Collins Peak


By: Ron Jones, Igor Mamedalin


San Diego DPSer Paul Freiman told me that there was no better trip anywhere than to Sheep and Salvador Canyon in Anza Borrego & especially a climb of Collins Pk. Igor & I thought that Collins Pk might be worth investigating so we scheduled it together with the neighboring bumps of Knob and Palms. We used the 7 minute topos of Collins Valley, Bucksnort Mtn, Hot Springs Mtn and Borrego Palm Canyon.

Thirteen of us met Saturday at Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs' and caravaned out to Coyote Canyon north of town. There were four stalwarts from the San Diego Peaks Club, 5 DPSers and four Sierra Club guests including two recent WTC grads.

We proceeded up Collins Valley in northern Anza Borrego State Park. Several miles in on the good dirt road (but can be loose sand in dry weather) we encountered a 10 foot deep-sand embankment down to where the road first crosses Coyote Wash. We left several vehicles and consolidated into four 4WD trucks and one low clearance 4WD Subaru Justy.

The road into the deeper recesses of Collins Valley was reportedly in poor-to-bad condition. Further on in, past three stream crossings, there were several steep sections of threatening 4WD road, complete with rocks, ruts and tight turns. The 4WD trucks drove the road without incident. However, the Justy had tough going, and though it made it over the 4WD hills, the road claimed the vehicle's clutch, as evidenced by "a burning odor" and a failure to move. So, we consolidated riders once again and proceeded to the trailhead at the Sheep Canyon Campground to commence the dayhike of Collins Pk.

We followed the marked use trail north to Salvador Canyon and followed it about one mile to the first grove of Palms at about 2100 feet. There was evidence of use by Indians at this waterhole. We turned south here and left Salvador Canyon following the nearby trailless ridge line easily and directly to the summit of Collins at 4593 feet. I found the peak to be a nice climb, perhaps similar to Indianhead but without the people and nature trail on the early part of that hike. There were excellent views from the summit. Square Top at the head of Sheep Canyon is a striking peak but our goals for Sunday, Palms and Elder "towered" below us a thousand feet. The register has been signed by many climbers including Wes Shelberg and Paul. Many DPSers would vote against considering this peak for their "list".

We started down, not to the easy route in Salvador Canyon, but south toward another benchmark Paul has climbed (Knob), and Sheep Canyon. The SDPC hikers made a short detour over Knob.

Sheep Canyon is mostly trailless, has several lovely waterfalls and slides one must detour around, and is filled with wicked cats claw mesquite. Mostly one can stay a bit high on the north side of the Canyon, picking up traces of an old Indian trail now and then, until we returned to the pickups at Sheep Canyon campground. The round trip took us 8 hours and I would rate the peak as superior to Indianhead and many others by using this loop trip.

It was an arduous return to camp in the dark over the rough road, but Ed Lozano, Leora and desert dog Comet were waiting at camp with hers d'oeuvres and refreshments. We left the still-disabled Justy at the side of the road until Sunday.

Sunday morning found most of the group not interested in driving such a difficult road again for a couple of minor bumps and everyone opted to abandon the planned itinerary for easier activities. Paul & Mark helped their San Diego friends with the stranded Justy rescue and drove the owner and his passenger back up Collins Valley, stopping .5 mile from the disabled vehicle at the beginning of the steep 4WD section. We were disappointed that the Justy still failed to move even under high engine RPMs and concluded the clutch was definitely blown. Fortunately, there was a lot of traffic through the area, and a Good Samaritan off-roader (and his trusty Toyota 4WD) towed the Justy up and over a small hill and down through the worst of the 4WD road, breaking (and re-tying) his tow rope several times before reaching the truck. We thanked the off-roader and gave him $20 for his efforts and broken tow rope. From there, it was Mark's turn to tow, which went without incident for about four miles back to the deep-sand embankment. Clearly, at this point, his Toyota didn't have the power to tow anything up through the thick sand. He needed all the power he could get to make it alone. Again, another Good Samaritan off-roader-type, came to the rescue with his BIG V8-powered Jeep. After the first two tries and some minor road repairs, he successfully pulled the Justy up the embankment, where Mark once again took over the tow. From there, it was about 5 miles on good dirt and then 5 miles on pavement into Borrego Springs where Mark had located a garage (Rich's) via his HAM radio. Leaving the Justy there, we consolidated gear and people into his truck and proceeded back to San Diego. Later that week, to no one's amazement, the Justy's owner incurred a $350 clutch replacement.

In retrospect, we would not have been able to retrieve the Justy (a VERY lightweight car) if it hadn't of been for the combined efforts of the off-readers we met that day. Their unsolicited aid and willingness to help us was unexpected and appreciated. This scenario also reveals our vulnerability to catastrophic vehicle breakdown and rescue in remote areas. On most any other DPS hike, there wouldn't have been ANY off-roader traffic. The lesson to be learned is do not take low clearance inadequately powered vehicles (even a Subaru 4WD Justy) on a serious drive in. This is a case where the leader should have screened out the Subaru.

I'd recommend carrying at least one, and preferably two, strong tow ropes, along with several hooks/devices to attach tow ropes to your vehicle's frame. Survey your vehicle's under-side for a strong "hookup" point in the event you are towed, or are a tower. A come-along might also be a good ideas as a winch work-alike.

Thanks to Igor for another great assist and thanks to the following climbers for a good trip: Carolyn Gannett, Tom Moumblow, Marilyn Krist, Paul Freiman, Susan Leverton, J Holshuh, Ed Lozano, John Strauch, Steve Cowen, Suzanne Mamedalin, Leora Jones and desert dog Comet.

Sunday we scattered to various private hikes. Some went on the Ranger Guided hike to the most active earthquake fault zone in California. This is the Coyote Canyon fault near Clark Dry Lake just where we start our hike of Rosa Pt. and Villager.

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