Black Mountain, Red Mountain, Klinker Mountain, Dome Mountain, Scodie Mountain, Pinyon Peak, Onyx Peak #2, Nicolls Peak


By: Bill Banks



The first peak we will consider is Black Mountain in the El Paso Mountains behind Garlock ghost town. It is reached by taking the Last Chance Canyon Road north and the east. A sloping red spur leads the way to a fenced spring. On the uneventful climb a small crater is crossed and on top the lava is piled up in a manner similar to that at Cerro Pinacate. The marker on the summit says El Paso Peak. The area is pleasantly different with chloride cliff white, sand beige, and yellows alternating with black and red. It is an easy two hour roundtrip. Red Mountain, 5270', is a delightful surprise. It is just north and east of the Nojave Desert mining towns of Randsburg, Johannesburg, and Red Mountain. For maximum enjoyment it should be climbed from east at Squaw Spring Well at about 3500'. This is an isolated and pleasant, though waterless, area. The climb is interesting and the route traverses colorful country. The summit has a Sam Fink DPS register on it along with an Air Force beacon which is reachable only by helicopter.

Next we head north into the Lava Mountains where Klinker Mountain (4570') and Dome Mountain (4985') are the objectives. The traverse of eight miles roundtrip is reminiscent of the white Mountain flats. The elevation gain is deceptive as there are a number of losses on the traverse.

Scodie Mountain, Pinyon Peak, Onyx Peak #2, and Nichols Peak are all HPS peaks and both Scodie and Nichols are worthy of DPS status. They are all in the area south of Walker Pass and west of Highway 174. Scodie is reached by following the aqueduct road south for four miles and then heading west for six more miles up Cow Heaven Canyon. The peak, unmarked on the topo, lies due north of the end of the road. Pinyon is a pleasant ten mile roundtrip through country much like that found in the Los Padres National Forest but there is not as expansive a view. However the pinyon nuts are tasty and the semi-desert vegetation interesting. The roadhead is reached from Highway 178 just east of Canebrake. Onyx is a nice Nelson type peak with a surprisingly precipitous west face. Nichols has some interesting rock scrambling to reach the register at the western high point. This peak is just outside of the national forest and offers a fine view of the Sierra and Lake Isabella to the north.

The grand-daddy of them all is the higher point to the south of Nichols. It is at least a two hour traverse from Nichols along a broken and precipitous ridge. The intersection with the main summit ridge looks almost impossible from afar but can be negotiated with a little low third class if you thread the right course. The drop-off's are impressive and the brush unyielding. There was not a summit register or even an apparent high point but I built a cairn and left a register. This is a worthy challenge and confirms what I've always believed, that is that there is no reason to go 500 miles when there is plenty of uncharted challenges within 200 miles of LA. (Editor's note: The above opinions are entirely those of the author and in no way to be taken as the opinions of the editors. We take no blame for Bill' s phobia against a little driving.)

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