New Years At Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs In Mexico

January 1st, 2017

The first time I visited Guadalupe Canyon Hot Spring in 2014 it was to climb the DPS peak Pico Risco. It was a rough trip and due to various factors we arrived at the camp around 2 am and managed to do just about everything wrong.

We didn't have a reservation and ended up stumbling around other people's camps until we found one that was unoccupied and and had a filled hot tub which we proceeded to soak in until almost 4 am, sleep a few hours, then did a brutal drive back to Orange County that same day.

Despite that it stood out as one of the most beautiful and memorable desert trips I've done and ever since I've wanted to come back when there was a little more time to enjoy the amenities.  Which finally came about this weekend for New Years 2017

We made the plans late and I expected they'd be filled up considering the holiday.  Sure enough the first query we made through got a reply they'd been filled up for 3 months.  However when we tried we were told there was plenty of room and we proceeded to reserve the El Coyote pool for $100 for two nights.

2016 Newport Harbor Christmas Light Parade Paddle

December 18th, 2016

The Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade is a Newport Beach tradition that runs for 5 days every December.  Boats decked out in lights and cruise the harbor while people watch from the shore or other boats.

I used to watch from the shore which has the advantage of letting you roam around and see all the houses many of which are decorated to excessive amounts as part of neighborhood competitions.  Then a few years ago we start paddling in Newport Harbor after work.  This became the monthly Pizza Paddle and when December rolled around we decided why not paddle out and watch the parade from the water.

The first year we tried to go Wednesday (the first night) and ended up delaying it until Thursday due to rain.  We had fun and didn't get run over by yachts.

Last year we planned Saturday (giving friends from others areas the chance to join us)  Rain was forecast and we went anyway.  Despite a rough launch and getting out there a bit too early we had fun.

This year we decided to try Sunday the final night of the parade.  And for once there was no rain forecast!

Palo Verde Peak In Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

December 12, 2016
Palo Verde Peak (1,375')
[Pics] [Map]

We already hit our main objective for the area yesterday when we did Thumb Peak and Paint Mountain / Wiley BM.  Looking around for other interesting peaks in the area Palo Verde Peak stood out as being more prominent than most of the bumps out there.  And as it turned out it's a pretty interesting peak.

Paint Mountain BM, Wiley BM, and Thumb Peak In Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

December 10th, 2016
Paint Mountain Benchmark (1,328')
Thumb Peak (1,375')
[PicsPaint] [MapPaint] 
[PicsThumb] [MapThumb]

The original plan for this weekend was to lead a trip to climb Little Picacho with a group of AMP staff and students.  A rash of work and illness related cancellations caused me to reschedule that trip and Kristen and I ended up doing some peaks south of Blythe.

That meant the drive was downright reasonable and we were laid out along the side of Wiley's Well Road a bit after midnight.

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - December 2016

December 6th, 2016
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month a group of us get together and paddle Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center and paddle over to Pizza Nova in the main harbor in a combination of kayaks and SUPs. There we dock our boats, partake in feast of pizza and beer, and then paddling back to the cars. We do this all year round and in pretty much all conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops. 

You can find writeups of other pizza paddles here.  For notifications on when we're doing the next one see our facebook group Pizza Paddle Associates.  (Send me a message so I know you're not a spam bot!)

It's dark after work now and december is always hectic for everyone even without the rash of illnesses that seem to be going around so it wasn't a huge shock when we ended up with a small group meeting for the last Pizza Paddle of 2016.

Glow In The Dark DPS List Finish #1 On Nelson Range HP (Try #2)

December 3rd, 2016
Nelson Range High Point (7,696')
[Pics] [MapwDrive] [MapCloseup]

This was the final peak I needed of the 99 that make up the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section List.  (Actually there's 96 now since 3 have been delisted since I started)

I hiked my first DPS peak in 2010 and as I got near the end everything I had left was either far away or trivial.  I settled on Nelson Range HP which is an easy peak near Saline Valley which is relatively close as desert peaks go.  And since *one or two* of my adventures have been known to involve headlamps what better way to make it interesting but to do it in the dark!  And why limit it to headlamps?  And thus was born Nelson Range HP (7,696') In The Dark / Matthew Hengst Glow In The Dark DPS List Finish #1 of 2015.  People signed up and it looked to be a huge gathering of friends and a fun weekend.

Which I promptly had to cancel on account of my unanticipated knee surgery.  One year of slow recovery later and it was *finally* time for the Nelson Range HP (7,696') In The Dark / Matthew Hengst Glow In The Dark DPS List Finish #1 (Try #2).

Ubehebe Peak & The Grandstand at the Death Valley Racetrack

November 20st, 2016
The Grandstand (3,760')
Ubehebe Peak (5,678')
[Pics] [Map]

We'd come across Hunter Mountain Road from Saline Valley the day before stopping at a few cabins and mines along the way but today was the main attraction with two easy peaks in a really spectacular area.

The Racetrack Playa in Death Valley is located a fair distance away from Furnace Creek and the main Death Valley attractions.  The road to get out there loops north of Tin Mountain and is rather notorious for how bad it is.  The park recommends a 4WD which is a little silly since it's really just the washboarding but it's pretty extreme levels of washboarding.  As long as you go slow and don't mind the occasional piece popping off your vehicle there's no reason to rent one of the expensive Jeep available.  We of course were in the Party Jeep and it was still painful since I was rather attached to all those little bits.

Lost Burro Mine In Death Valley Via Hunter Mountain Road (With A Side Trip To Boxcar and Hunter Mountain Cabin)

November 19th, 2016
[Pics] [Map]

This weekend was an odd mishmash of exploring in the general vicinity of Saline Valley and Death Valley.  I wanted to double check the road would be passable for people coming out for the glow in the dark list finish the following weekend and then we settled on getting into Death Valley a new way and hiking Ubehebe and doing The Racetrack.

So this was more of a travel day than climbing.  See this for the Racetrack day.

Cerro Pinacate Mexican DPS Peak, Campout, and Lava Caves

November 12th & 13th, 2016
Cerro del Pinacate (3,937')
Carnegie Peak (3,707')
[Pics] [Map]
4.09 miles 1900' in via the DPS route + Carnegie
6.74 miles, 1289' up and 3865' down out via the road

Cerro Pinacate is one of the 4 Sierra Club Desert Peak Section peaks down in Mexico and one of the final three I needed to complete the list.

Normally it makes sense to combine this peak with a few in southern Arizona.  Ajo, Kino, and Baboquivari kind of naturally combine since they're roughly in the same area.  Except as this point I've done all of those twice (minus Kino which I've only done once) leaving Pinacate a very long distance orphan.

Red arrow points to Pincate

I'd actually attempted this peak before only to be turned back at the park gate for a very vaguely worded "security concern"  Having seen friends be let it before and after that I always wondered what was going on and this time when Jen called to verify we could get in she mentioned we'd been turned back.  Apparently that was the only time they'd ever shut it down and that was because they found some illegal radio towers and had kept out everyone for a season until it was resolved.

So here I was several years later still needing the peak and under the gun to get it before my December list finish.  With Jack Kieffer completely out of vacation days that limited our options for trying to do more than one peak so we settled on making it a party.  Come join us for a 400 mile drive, a campfire and overnight in Mexico, and a 6 mile hike (according to the DPS guide) followed by another 400 -ish mile drive.  We made plans for a festive happy hour and soon had 7 us signed up.

Canyon Point DPS From Cottonwood Canyon

October 6th, 2016
Canyon Point (5,890')
[Pics] [Map] [MapWPanamint]
5 miles, 3100', 3-4 hours (according to the DPS guide)

After climbing Panamint Butte from the west the day before our expectations had been lowered a bit.  Canyon Point seemed a little more promising due to the fact we'd be approaching via a canyon instead of just going up a ridge.