Big Maria Mountains, Palen Mountains

Dec 1970

By: Ed Stork


Although the climbs to the high points of the Big Maria and Palen Mtns cannot be called spectacular, perfect weather and a congenial group of climbers combined to make them most enjoyable.

A new power line road, that takes off north from the Midland Road about 13.6 miles from Blythe, was used to drive some 6 miles to the wash crossing just south of the pass. From there we hiked up the wash for almost a mile, then climbed the southwest ridge, following it to the south summit of the Big Maria Mtns. Fourteen people, including Barbara Jackson, David Hammond, and Terry Jennings, who had, just climbed their first qualifying peak, signed the register during a pleasantly warm lunch and viewing break. From our vantage point we had fine views of the neighboring mountains and of the meandering Colorado River to the east. We also looked down at the inactive U.S. Gypsum Plant at Midland. The largest gypsum processing operation in California between 1925 and 1947, it has been closed since 1966.

The Big Maria Mountains Quadrangle (1951), shows no named peak in the Big Maria Mtns and no elevations are given for the high points. The south summit, sometimes called the middle summit, is the same height as the one a mile to the north, according to the contour lines. No difference in elevation could be determined by viewing through a hand level. The traverse to the north summit involved a loss of 600 feet to a saddle, then a scramble along the broken ridge. Nine climbers, including Barbara Lilley and Art de Goede who were each making their second ascent of the north summit, made the traverse. Looking back at the south summit it also appeared that the high points were of equal height. Our descent was by way of the canyon west of the north summit to the new power line road which we met about a mile north of the cars. It was dusk by the time we had completed the loop and returned to the cars. The long caravan of approximately 26 miles to a campsite situated along a road that runs between Arlington Mine Road and Palen Pass was completed at about 7 pm. The high point of the Palen Mtns, lighted by a full moon, could be seen about 11.5 miles to the west. Only a small campfire was required, since it was quite warm. Some very pesky mosquitoes detracted slightly from a beautiful desert evening.

At 7 Sunday morning 12 hikers began the long, warm walk from the cars across the desert pavement and washes, not stopping to rest until in the cool confines at the mouth of the east canyon. From the canyon we climbed to the saddle west of elevation 2642', then continued generally southwest to the summit, accompanied by a cool breeze. Views of the Coxcombs, Granites, and Big Marias were dimmed slightly by the haze. After an hour on the summit, we reluctantly began the return to the cars.

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