Sheephole Mountains, Spectre Point
By: Jerry Haven
This is the story of what happened to the scheduled trip to the McCulloch and the El Dorado Mountains. First the El Dorados were found to be unworthy so we switched to Spirit as it is convenient to Searchlight, the announced meeting place. It was raining in LA when I left for Searchlight and snowing at Cajon Pass, but, driven by my sense of duty and my fear of losing face with Glorious Leader John Vitz, I refused to give up and went out through Twentynine Palms and Amboy to camp just outside of Searchlight. About 5 am the storm got out there and it started snowing. It was still snowing gently but steadily after breakfast as we waited to see if there were any others crazy enough to show up. Sure enough, Todd and Wendy Taylor arrived right on time, but fortunately no one was crazy enough to want to climb in the snow, so we drove back to Amboy in the hope of being able to climb Sheephole.
It was a little clearer near Amboy, with the tops of the peaks still clothed in clouds. We parked by the microwave station on the pass and headed up the large canyon to the east. Since we had no maps, we had to rely on the leader's five year old memories of the peak, which turned the trip into a Northern Sheephole Exploratory. Apparently the best route is found by staying right in the canyon. We turned left at the second branch and reached the northern most peak of the range just in time to glimpse the true summit through the mist a mile to the south. We made our way to the summit without much trouble, but, due to the fog, we missed the canyon on our way down and wound up contouring across the front of the ridge. In short, we showed that the peak can be climbed by any route, and, as John explained, we got to see more of the range this way.
Todd and Wendy returned to LA but the rest of us, after weathering occasional sprinkles during the night, set out the next day to climb Spectre, a magnificent rugged forbidding jumble of rock that John and I remembered very favorably from our first ascent five years earlier. From the road at the north end of the range, the traditional route goes east up the wide wash, over a low saddle, and then up the canyon that runs between the three main peaks at the north end of the Coxcombs. Of course John and I chose a different, more direct route. Just west of the low saddle we turned south up the canyon that heads directly towards Spectre. About one half mile up, a low ridge, thirty to forty feet high, crosses the canyon, with a crack less than two feet wide to let the occasional water through. It is easy to climb over the ridge, but also easy to miss it and wind up on the northern slopes of the range far from the peak. We had done that the first time, and so this time we were very cautious and reached the summit in a couple of hours. It was cloudy and cold on top so we didn't stay long, returning to the car by the traditional route and to LA in time for the traditional late dinner.
And so, although our plans were changed, we had a good time trip. The sight of the snow covered desert with more snow gently drifting down was beautiful indeed and worth the trip itself. The others must have agreed.- they are all coming back for more.
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