By: Dale van Dalsem
From Sheep Creek Spring
Passage of the Cranston/Levine Desert Protection Act, HR 780/S-11, will create the Avawatz Wilderness, whose eastern boundaries are now drawn at the 1000' contour line. This appears to stop vehicles 2.2 miles from SR-l27, 2.3 miles short of Old Mormon Spring. This will make the eastern approach to Avawatz 5200' and 16 miles r.t., versus the present 2500', 6 miles, 5 hr round trip if one drives the 4WD Avawatz Mine Road, or 4000', 11 mi, 8 hrs from Mormon Spring, w/o 4WD.
The DPS used to hike it from Sheep Creek Spring in the north; and demented souls such as Alterio Banks still do this. I tried it the day after Christmas. San Berdoo County Auto Club map mileage's are about right for the drive-in: "Drive 29.7 miles north of Baker on paved SR-127. Turn left on excellent, unsigned dirt road 1.8 miles & turn left on fair dirt road. Stay left at fork at 3.7 mi.(5.5 from pavement). About .7 further, stay left at second fork a few yards to hut & sign "California Desert Studies Consortium". Cars should park here. High clearance vehicles can proceed at least .7 mi further." I drove the .7 mi further and parked at the 600meter contour on the Sheep Creek Spring 7.5 topo. It appears that the Avawatz Wilderness boundary will be here. It appears possible to drive about 2.5 miles further up this broad, flat wash, to the site of an old mine hut complex, replete with abandoned washing machine, at about the Fort Irwin boundary.
"Hike south up the broad wash, passing abandoned mine site and following mile-long pipeline remnants past a spring (water year-round) with sheep guzzler and a couple of class-2 moves in the canyon narrows. At the head of the canyon, follow the ducked route with one short class 3 move, topping out on the east-west ridge just east of the closed 1650 meter contour at UTM 597303. Contour east on a bearing of 95 degrees toward the saddle just north of the peak. Go S.E. up any ridge to the peak. Caution: There is a pole on top of the false peak to the north!" This route is 4500', 17 miles from Sheep Creek Spring, 4200', 15.5 miles from the canyon fork .7 miles up the wash. My time was 3:48 up, 22 min on top, 3:15 down, 7:25 r.t. total. DPS groups should take about 9 hrs from 4WD parking, 10 hrs from Sheep Creek Spring.
The only problem with this route, besides its' length & gain, is that over half the route passes through Ft Irwin, whereas the Avawatz Mine Road route has perhaps .7 mi each way through a corner of Ft Irwin. However; we saw no indications that we were in the fort except an old jeep track from the west where we topped out at the head of the canyon. This would put Avawatz in the same boat as Maturango & Argus, but apparently safer than Chuckwalla & Black Butte from the Bradshaw Trail!
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