Black Butte, Chuckwalla Mountains, Orocopia Mountains


By: Charlie Knapke, Greg Roach, Mirna Roach


I had a larger than normal number of applications for these peaks. It could be because they were easy peaks or maybe we just didn't have much competition for this weekend. 25 people sent sase's, email or called me regarding this trip. Of these, three people canceled and we had four no-shows.

We met Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. at the Red Cloud Road exit on I-10 east of Indio. We waited until almost 7:30 before giving up on the five missing participants. As we drove the dirt roads into the trailhead, one participant who had misjudged the driving time caught up to us.

We were doing Black Butte first. We drove south to the Bradshaw Trail. We turned left and drove to a point south of Black Butte. We followed a faint dirt road (in the guide) to where the low clearance vehicles began to have problems. We got everyone into 4WD vehicles and continued to the end of the road.

Black Butte is a fairly direct route from this side. The guide says class one but there are some high class two spots near the summit.

We were on top by 11:30 and had lunch at the top. All eighteen participants made it with no problem. After returning to the cars, Greg led to way over to a good camping area on the road into Chuckwalla. This is a very large flat area a short distance from the Bradshaw Trail. We decided that it was not a good idea to have a fire on the delicate desert pavement so we had the typical DPS feast down on a sandy bench nearby. Mirna stole the show with home-made tomales. She had enough to feed all eighteen of us. She claimed they took 12 hours to make it! This explains why she only does this once a year.

The next morning we were ready to go at 7:00 a.m. This peak does not take long but several of us wanted time to do something else that day so we had decided to start early.

Chuckwalla is also straightforward but as with Black Butte it is really a class 2 peak rather than the class 1 rating it is given in the climbing guide. We lost two people so 16 made the peak about 9:30 a.m. Delores Holladay came on this trip because she needed Chuckwalla to set up her second list finish. When she was signing the register she discovered that she had already done the peak twice. We were back at the cars before noon.

Most people headed for home and the trip was officially over. Greg & Mirna headed off to explore some grottos near the Salton Sea. Three stalwart climbers decided to joint me for a climb of Orocopia. The guide says 4 hours round trip for this peak. We did it in 2 hours, 20 minutes. There seems to be a problem with the driving instructions. The last turn was where the instructions described but it put us about 0.3 mile closer to the peak and about 0.2 mile west of where the guide describes.

I would like to thank Greg for his excellent assistance and of course Mirna for the good cheer and excellent tomales.

The participants were. Delores Holladay, Chris Newcomer, Linda McDermott, Neal Scott, John Gibba, Dinesh Desai, Gary Craig, Eleanor Carter, Bill Lien, Betty Stirratt, Spencer Berman, Fred Smith, Phil Rehr, and several others whose names I cannot remember.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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