Peal Peak, Iron Ridge, Fry Mountains, Red Hill, Daggett Ridge


By: Andy Smatko



On December 7-8, l969 Frank Yates and I climbed several desert peaks in the region east and northeast of Lucerne Valley. Friday night saw us encamped just northeast of Melville Dry Lake. About daybreak we forced our way out of warm bags into 10F. cold (temperature checked by thermometer). A warm breakfast and the risen sun encouraged us to first climb Peal' 3,875-ft , 2 0 miles southeast of Melville Lake. This jaunt settled our meal so next we ambled up Peak 3,547-ft., 2.75 miles northeast of Melville Lake. Both peaks were Class 1 to 2, and both had cairns, but no registers. A register was placed in both cairns. Frank's VW took these desert roads in stride and our next objective was Peak 4,164-ft., 4.0 miles southwest of Emerson Lake. On our ascent of this peak we were amazed to see a trail built and edged by a low wall of rocks for nearly a full mile. It is difficult to conceive the arduous labor involved in this piece of work. However, the trail led to an, abandoned mine and our summit was quite a bit further on. A 4-ft. high cairn was found on the peak. No register - so we left one. The view was all inclusive from this summit - a real panorama. It was still early in the afternoon so we decided to climb Peak 3,936-ft., 4.75 miles northwest of Emerson Lake. We climbed this one from the north after a long 3-mile walk to its base. This summit had a colossal 6-ft. cairn, (I'm not'joking). Again, no register, so we left one here also. Camp was made that evening west of Peak 3,9l8 ft., 4.5 miles WSW of Galway Lake. Venus shone gloriously for a good part of the night while Sirius later On tried to rival her in glittering flashes, of brilliance.

Sunday morning wasn't quite as cold, and after breakfast we, hiked eastwards toward Peak 3,918-ft., an abrupt rocky range composed of huge boulders similar to the wonderland of rocks in Joshua Tree National Monument, but on a much larger scale. We carried a rope, and for awhile, we thought we were going to be defeated, but a providential crack and a round-about route brought us to the summit where was a cairn, but no register. This is a benchmarked peak. Our route was Class 3. All other routes are at least Class, 4.

Following this climb we ascended the high point of the Iron Ridge, a good part of the climb possible via the VW. Again there was a cairn. Summit was 4,455-ft.

Our next objective was the high point of the Fry Mountains which we climbed from the east from a mine. A large 4-ft. cairn was found here on this elevation of 4,720+ ft. After lunch, we climbed Red Hill, elevation 4,391-ft., also in the Fry Mountains, from the north side, Class 2 for both peaks. The usual cairn was found, but I forgot to bring a register, so we scratched our names in a reddish rock, with a nail on the summit cairn. Our climbing fever was still not quenched, so we motored over to a pass northwest of the Daggett Ridge - about 1.75 miles from the summit. The climb along the ridge was most pleasant in the late afternoon. We arrived at a summit where there was a cairn and a fallen pole with attached guy wires. This summit looked higher than the one just southeast (1/3 mile)., While Frank remained, I went over to the other summit and found no cairn, so I built a small one. From here, the summit where Frank was, looked lower. Nevertheless, we left the register on the summit where the fallen pole was. According to the topo map (checked at home) the second summit where I built the cairn was higher and possibly I had a first ascent.

Anyway, we decided that we were in good shape. In the two days we climbed about 7,500-ft. and walked about 25 miles. All our ascents were made non-stop, the climbing being done in a physidogic "steady state" - the ideal way to climb!

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