Chemehuevi Peak, Tumarion Peak


By: Bill Banks


About 8:30 Sat morn a motley group assembled at the outer gates of a cemetery at the crossroads of Hiways 66 and 95, a mile south of Needles. Surprisingly, a relatively large number of takers reported, since these are peaks not on anyone's list. Twenty-two hikers were present. The "original architect" of this "misadventure" could not be present. Gordon MacLeod and I had indiscriminately climbed numerous peaks in the Needles-Topock region in the spring of '63 and at least Gordon knew where he was then even if I didn't. Gordon's authority was delegated to Pat Donegan, but in spite of my weak protest I ended up as surrogate jefe for the trip.

About 21 mi. south of Needles on 95 we turned east onto a poor transmission line road(dirt). About 4 mi SE on this road we came to what might have been an erstwhile road. The sand was too treacherous so the leader ploughed new tracks, about one half a mile eastward. Here we regrouped on foot and followed a broad wash to the NE , for about 4 miles. reaching elev, 2321'. A south ridge appeared to be the logical approach but wisely we chose to take a steeper narrower black-banded route up the extreme NW face of Chemehuevi. As the day progressed the morning clouds dissipated, and the cool, wet morning became mild and pleasant. Interesting rock scrambling, and a verdant desert panorama made the ascent enjoyable. In a bit over two hours the 2,000' gain from the cars was accomplished. A hearty lunch stop was enjoyed on top, while a makeshift notebook became a resister. The croup descended a broad ridge to the NW of the ascent route. After losing two of the group, a retrace was made and contact was made with two "s1ow~going" climbers, one a victim who was just recovering from pneumonia.

After tugging the car caravan out of the sands, we went north at break neck speed in an attempt to find a camping spot before dark. This we found on the east side of the river, 2 miles east of Topock, where a roads side rest stop faced upon a gate sign reading "3 miles to Powell Mtn". We huddled to a talkative campfire 'til 10 PM.

Sun morn early we went out east on Hiway 66, 5-1/2 miles east of the river to a gated dirt leading southward. Gate opened, the transmission line was paralleled. The highest peak in the area is Powell(2353') and near here the road heads to the SW while the power line diverges to the SE. About 4-1/2 miles south of 66 we began our walk, the group going due west in search of Tumarion Pk(2093'). Several of the experienced members of the group advised my route was too far to the north. I demurred and two others followed me directly up a ridge traverse while the main group followed the disaffected experts along a wash below. In 40 minutes our group of three was atop of what we thought was Tumarion. As we looked over to the NW at Powell we were somewhat shocked to see two lonely silhouettes just reaching the summit of Powell. An hour later Frede Jensen joined us. He and Pat Donegan had climbed Powell together and Frede had traversed a ridge to Tumarion. After waiting for 1-1/2 hrs, the main group had not yet arrived, so we followed the ridge past a horizontal mine shaft to Powell. Here we waited an hour, and after not being able to take it any longer we descended cross-country fashion to the cars. One mile short of the cars we saw the main group coming back down the same wash they had gone up several hours previous.

Thus began a lively dispute on who had climbed the true Tumarion and both factions left, convinced of their righteous success. I could have cared less, since I climbed two peaks that day in a truly exploratory adventure. I had been no more lost than we (Gordon & I) had been the previous spring. What I am saying is that we were really lost then, but don't anyone tell Gordon I said so.

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