Chuckwalla Mountains, Black Butte


By: Joe McCosker


It rained in L.A. Thursday so I called Joshua Tree National Monument for a weather forecast. The Ranger didn't know and referred me to the Coachella Valley Weather Report (714-398-7211). I got a recorded message (that proved to be an accurate forecast) and it was on with the trip.

We met at 0800 Saturday at the intersection of Chuckwalla Road and Graham Pass Road. Take the Corn Springs exit from 1-10 9.3 miles east of Desert Center, go south just a bit and turn east onto Chuckwalla Road (paved). Continue southeast and east for 134 miles to the intersection with Graham Pass Road. This is a good campsite.

We took the Graham Pass road 15.3 miles to the point where it turns southwest (in northwest corner of section 2 of Chuckwalla Spring Quadrangle). Here a jeep road heads northwest towards the broad canyon below the peak. We drove up this road about a mile and then climbed the ridge west of the peak. We left the cars at 0915, reached the peak at 1030, headed down at 1115, and all were back at the cars by 1215. All 12 climbers made the peak, including Karen Brumer, who celebrated her first Desert Peak. The rain had cleared the air so visibility was picture perfect with billowing white clouds adding to the beauty of the vistas.

Instead of returning to I-10, we continued west on the Graham Pass Road, taking the northwest fork at 3.9 miles and crossing the Augustine Road at about 8.4 miles (cumulative) (now on Iris Pass topo). At 14.1 miles we came to the jeep trail leading to Gulliday Well (in quadrangle 1 of Chuckwalla Mountains topo). Identify the turnoff by the road going south (section 12 of Iris Pass topo). Drive up a slight rise and the jeep road, faint in spots, becomes visible.

We drove up about a quarter mile where there is a broad camping area. Evening festivities got off to a pleasant start with margaritas and choice hors d'oeuvres, thanks to Betty McRuer, and an aerial bombing display, thanks to the U.S. Air Force. Later, while we gathered round the tire fire, we endured the usual DPS (Dismal Peak Stories) jokes, Duane told us how to land the space shuttle, and Joe and George Toby gave a scientific discourse on the chuckwalla (ask George how the chuckwalla got its name).

All climbed into Elliot Snyder's 4WD van at 0715 Sunday and drove to the area of Gulliday Well. We walked up the wash and climbed the major canyon south and a little west of the peak, turning onto the ridge below the peak at about 3800' The peak was in clouds when we reached it at 0915. We descended by the major canyon south and a little west of the peak; all were at the cars by 1000.

Returning, we went west on the Bradshaw Road 6.8 miles to the Gas Line road, north about 8 miles to Red, Cloud Road, and west on Red Cloud Road to I-10. Donn Cook, Delores Holladay, and John Catel headed for Orocopia and the rest of us headed for home.

Thanks to George Smith for the road description. Most roads were class 1 (passable for all cars) with a few short stretches of easy class 2 (sandy). With an earlier start and more prompt action at the road heads we could have climbed both peaks in a day. But then we would have missed the party Saturday night.

Many thanks to Duane for a fine job of assisting.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section