Pinto Mountain, Pluto Mountains, Sacramento Range, Piute Mountain

Jan 1967

By: Andy Smatko


During the past few months, on selected weekends, a party of four of us visited several interesting and various Desert Ranges in the country's most spacious county. This is part of my long range project to climb the high points of all the named and unnamed mountains in San Bernardino Co.

On one of these weekends, such a summit lying west of Cadiz Valley was attempted and entered on my list of successful ascents.

To better locate this point for those interested, it stands W and SW of Cadiz Dry Lake and E of the Sheephole Mtns. It is possibly part of the Calumet Mtns to the NNW but topographically it does not appear so. Time wise this is a fairly long climb from the paved road-such roadhead being about 30 miles east of 29 Palms. There are no technical difficulties, Class 2 prevailing. Colorful canyons, large cliff bands, and typical desert flora made this one a fine climb.

The following day, ascents were made in two other ranges. The first- a little guy lying NW of the Coxcomb Mtns, but separate from the southernmost extension of the Sheepholes was climbed from the north up a rocky granitic canyon with delightfully short and dry waterfalls. From the top it is obvious that this is a separate range. No name appears on the current topo sheet.

That same afternoon, the high point of the Pinto Mtns, lying directly south of Dale Dry Lake was accomplished. These Pinto Mtns are not to be confused with the Pinto Peak that is on our Desert Peaks List. It too is a distinct range and is so designated even on the county map. Approach roads are good up to a certain point, while jeeps have the choice of going even further.

On another weekend, East Ord and West Ord of the Ord Mtn Range NNE of Lucerne Valley each had four signatures added to their registers. Southerly approach roads are fairly good. A surprising number of DPS names were found in both cans on top, and Pete Runt's handwriting particularly struck me, but not really since Pete was an avid climber in his youth. On Sunday, we did the Ord's high Point south of Apple Valley and ESE of Hesperia. This is a rolling brown range with nothing especially distinguishing, except that in winter weather provided an invigorating stroll. A panoramic view greets one from the summit. We found that a good camp spot preparatory to this climb is at Deep Creek Campground's road end.

On still a third weekend the high points of the Pluto Mtns to the east of Essex and the Sacramento Mtns west of Needles were done on Saturday. The former consist of strikingly rocky granite, akin to the familiar terrain existing in Joshua Tree National Monument. The rosy quartz and the broad sandy washes mixed with numerous craggy peaks deserve & future scheduled Section jaunt. The best approach is from the south from the road appearing on the San Bernardino Co. map. (Auto Club)

The same PM we spent off the main road leading to Needles just east of South Pass in the Sacramento Range. The climb itself followed a broad ridge and makes for good exercise. The cholla gardens, a near-view of Flattop Mtn and far views in all directions, offer a rewarding effort.

On Sunday, the high point of the Piutes lying east of Lanfair Valley saw us. This spot is to the southeast of the New York Mtns. We went in from the west and it took 2-1/2 miles of level desert-floor hiking to reach the base of a broad ridge leading to the summit. However the east side of the range breaks off in precipitous cliff bands 300-400' high, but is interspersed with gullies up which the climb could be negotiated, seemingly easier. There is a road, visible from the summit to the ESE, but this trail doesn't appear on either the county map or on topo. One could well use this road as an approach for an easterly climb. Just to better round out the day, we caught Goff's Butte, just to the south of that RR siding. This volcanic cone is quite steep on all sides however the southern portion is more pronounced.

As other ranges-seldom seen from the top by DPSers- are climbed by me and my companions, write-ups will follow in future issues of the Newsletter.

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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