Avawatz Mountains, Kingston Peak


By: Doug Mantle


This trip was a bit quirky. For one thing, as I had six months earlier, learned of a snowstorm for that Sunday, we scheduled it for Friday-Saturday. Actually, that was because LA traffic gives me hives, and Sunday nights, the LA traffic is coming home from Las Vegas.

Then there was the food and wine theme. I was proposing "French" in honor of our dear ally, in grief, post election. My co-leader rejected that. Rejected ~y. Tina doesn't imbibe and hates all interesting food. Rather than risk facing a "fasting" theme, I elected to skip it.

So, 13 met Friday morning, all having negotiated the first 10 feet of road off the highway; we assumed that would be our most severe road test, so left the group on its own for it. It is barely negotiable for a 2-WD, it's located a few yards north from where the road seems to intersect the highway.

Eight miles can go slowly on desert drives, more so where life and limb repeatedly seem at risk. This Avawatz road ain't what she used to be (my positraction Cadillac made it in '91); everybody kept on past the 2W, HVC spot to the end, or close to it, but the big switchback offers a couple of horror-inducing spots.

The hike was anticlimactic, we were dumbstruck to get the summit so fast, around 3 hours.

We looked for ways to squander the remaining daylight. Some braved an all-canyon cut off (route "A" is all ridge). We luncheoned, not even a French fry, at Mormon Spring, off the main road by perhaps 4 (not even a gotita at the spring, either). We eschewed the fast road onward, through Baker, opting for an occasionally washed out and confusing "short cut" through Tecopa.

Nevertheless, we encamped at the big flat, just north off the road at the highway highpoint across from the Kingston roadhead before dark. Our Seattle/Tucson contingent enlightened us with all manner of discussion re "Prominences" and related Lists; our Lancaster (Eng.) Rep divulged numerous peak routes of Wales, Scotland, and Merry 01' England, while risking the food ban, the generous bestowed homegrown tomatoes, TJ-endorsed shrimps, and a selection of brownies (nuts or not, as opposed to the Scottish fiends).

6:00 a.m. Saturday, on the dot, a simple majority (by my count) headed straight for disaster. Why check writeups, much less compasses; both leaders KNEW which saddle to head for.

Hey, what are a couple of hours of ridgewacking among DPSers? We'd gone southwest up a lovely wash instead of straight south and paid amply for it.

Kingston is a rough and long trek anyway, but with our diversion we summitted at 12:40, leaving 22 minutes for lunch, triumph, and a check of our headlamps.

Darned if the Guidebook route isn't faster than Tina's and mine! We hit the 4-WD road at dusk and made the cars (back at the camp) without a light - - a mere 11 hour day.

Most goodbyes seemed oddly muted as we scurried off to meet that evening's weather which closed the Cajon Pass by the next morning.

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