Mopah Point, Turtle Mountains


By: George Hubbard


In the midst of the gasoline crisis it was much to our surprise that 26 climbers appeared at the Mopah turnoff Saturday morning. Many were there for the second time (including the leaders) after being rained off the peak last November; from the appearance of the cloudy sky, we were wondering whether a third trip might be necessary before success would be achieved.

Undaunted, we drove in to a point where the road deteriorates and consolidated vehicles. Sheldon Moomaw hit the jackpot when no less than 14 hikers? piled into his VW camper. We managed to drive about a mile past the normal roadhead before donning heavy backpacks loaded with gourmet goodies for the short pack in. After about a mile of walking up a broad and sandy wash, we dropped the packs and headed up a side wash south toward Mopah and Umpah. In a half mile we left the wash and worked our way up easy slopes around to the south side of the peak. From here we proceeded north up the first broad chute until it ended at a wall. We then turned right up easy 3rd class ledges and up a narrow chute which leads to a small saddle. Here the route goes left up 10' of moderate 3rd class where many took a belay. Once past this, it's just a walkup to the summit, some 200' higher.

After enjoying the fine views and eating lunch just off the vary windy summit ridge, we descended in short order to the saddle between the two Mopah Peaks. Here three waited while the rest of the party set out for South Mopah or Umpah which is 3?' higher than the list Mopah. Although it was still quite windy, the climb was an enjoyable rock scramble with some moderate 3rd class moves near the summit. Even though we found no cairn or register, Bill Schuler assured us that Andy Smatko had indeed been up Umpah.

Most felt that the south peak was at least as nice a climb as the north and were at a loss to explain why the lower one was on the list.

We then battled the wind one more time during the descent only to find that the "impatient three" had wandered off and were heading out a wrong wash to the east. After much shouting, we got them back on course and were back to the packs by 5 PM, Because of the hour, we decided to camp at Mopah Spring some 2 miles to the west instead of in Vidal Valley as originally planned.

Although the spring turned out to be little more than an uninviting stagnant water poo1, there were palm trees and other greenery to at least make it seem like an oasis. With the wind now only a whisper and clear skies overhead, all enjoyed a spirited campfire before groaning at the 6 AM war whoop the following morning.

After packing up, all charged up to Mopah Pass in short order and after about 1.5 hours of brisk walking were on the west of Vidal Valley at the base of Turtle Mtn. The climb of Turtle is rather routine; follow a wash west until a saddle is reached. Traverse along the south slopes of the peak north of Turtle to another saddle and then south along an easy ridge to the summit. Good views of Castle Rock in Vidal Valley and Mopah Peaks were enjoyed, and several people were inducted into the "Turtle Club"?

The slog off the peak and back across the Vidal Valley was in sharp contrast to the climbing activities of the previous day, although this way of climbing Turtle avoids the long dirt road drive up Vidal Valley. We also observed petroglyphs just west of Mopah Pass and Indian mortars at our camp.

By the time we left camp the clouds were brewing again and it became a race to get back to the cars before the rain hit. We got back to the road-head, repeated the piling in process of the day before, and were back to the rest of the cars just before the rain cut loose for another thrilling end to an enjoyable weekend.

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