Big Maria Mountains, Little Chuckawalla Peak


By: Ernie Spiehler


With overcast skies and a chilly breeze from the north, an even dozen desert enthusiasts including three newcomers who were out for their first desert peak, met in Blythe at 8:30 Sat morning. Because of the demolished condition of the road on the east side of the range (a direct out-come of the Army's Operation Desert Strike), the ascent of Big Maria had to be changed to the more conventional western approach.

After caravaning 17.5 miles north of the main highway in Blythe, a right turn was made and a good dirt road followed for approx. three miles to the northeast until a barricade was reached. Because of a previously injured ankle, one of the group decided to remain at the cars, while the remainder a scrambled up a well-ducked route (thanks to Jess Logan who helped scout the route a month earlier) to the disputed summit in 2-1/2 hours. On the peak there was much discussion concerning the true high point of the range. Two members of the group, being Asst. Ldr. Gordon MacLeod and Bud Bingham, felt that half-mile farther south peak which they had previously climbed, was slightly higher. The rest of the group had mixed opinions. A note left in the register by an earlier group claimed that they determined our point to be the highest with a level sighting. Familiar names such as Bill & Marge Henderson, Harry & Siina Melts, and Niles & Louise Werner were among those included in the register. The 1951 Army Corps of Engineers topo sheet shows three points above the 3350 ft contour; one of which we were atop, another immediately to our west which was obviously lower, and the other was a point about a half mile south. We final1y concluded that only a measurement taken with an accurate surveying instrument would establish the true point and left it at that. It is certain, however, that the point 3139' to the northwest, which is the elevation shown in the DPS peak list for Big Maria, is not the high point. The eleven to sign in on the north peak were: Bill Hunt, Bud Bingham, Ralph Shankland, Dave McGone, Vic Miller, Pat Donnegen, Dick Aunger, Roger Peters, Bob Micael, Gordon MacLeod, and Ernie Splehler.

Sunday morning brought us clearing skies and warmer weather for the climb of Little Chuckawalla Peak. From a point where a bridge crosses a deep wash approx. 13 miles south of highway 60-70 on the Blythe-Niland road, nine hikers headed north up the main wash and soon attained the main north-south ridge. After a couple of minor ups and downs on the interesting granite ridge, the group reached the undisputed summit in l-1/2 hours. Ralph Shankland was congratulated on having made his last peak required for Emblem status. Forty-five leisurely minutes were spent on the summit, and the return to the cars was accomplished before noon. In conclusion, a very pleasant, non-beating, and dry weekend was enjoyed by all while Los Angeles spirits were dampened by a continuous drizzle.

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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