Spectre Peak DPS and Mt Lowe HPS With Not A Lot Of Sleep In-Between

  • Updated: April 15, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst


     Spectre Peak (4,482')
     Mount Lowe (5,603')
When: April 13th & 14th, 2013
Where: Joshua Tree & Altadena, CA
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jen Blackie, & a bunch of others on Sunday
Pictures: [Spectre] [Lowe]
GPS Track: [Spectre]

By all outward appearances this should have been a much easier weekend than the average long haul desert climb. Instead of driving all the way out to some remote spot in California or Nevada we just had to make it out to the mountains north above Altadena for a day hike followed by a quick drive out to Joshua Tree to camp then grab one of the relatively near desert DPS peaks called Spectre. Easy stuff.

Unless you say misread the email about your friends provisional, wake up at 3 something am Saturday morning, and drive all the way out to Altadena only to realize said friends provisional is actually on Sunday. Oops.

So after a moderate amount of self abuse Jen and I hopped back into the Jeep and headed for Joshua Tree determined to make both of our peaks for the weekend.

10:30 am found us still yawning but at the Spectre trailhead ready to hike.  The DPS guide lists a 4WD trailhead only a short distance from the 2WD one at the road and this is accurate as those few hundred feet are spent swimming through sand.  Being in a jeep I did the logical thing and set about trying to trigger the traction alert a few times before parking beside the wilderness boundary and setting off.

The DPS guide follows a rather obvious old road until you reach the base of the mountains.  Blame lack of sleep ect but we managed to wander off to the left in what was technically a shortcut but in reality somewhat of a boulder hopping mess.  On the plus side there were the usual amounts of desert flora and decorations.

We corrected our course and headed back for the easy route only to just about tripped over a desert tortoise   Despite Jen's squeals of glee he seemed to think the best course of action was just to hang out and try and hide.

After taking a few pictures we continued on rejoining the road and swinging towards the peak.

There were two routes listed in the DPS guide and I intended to go up one and down the other.  Sadly at this point we realized two things.  First off a water leak in Jen's pack had just wiped out the copy of the DPS guide we were carrying.  Second it was a warm day and maybe we should have brought a bit more liquid (and avoided spilling said liquid on any map products we might be carrying.)

Still, those were just minor setbacks and we set off up the friendly looking chute along what I was fairly certain must be the southern approach to the peak.

While the bloom hadn't reached the levels I'd been led to expect by some recent news stories we did have some decent flowers here and there.

When we crested the ridge within sight of the peak we were hit with a hot dry wind.  Soon after we made the top and signed in to the register alongside Jen's previous hike up there a few years back.

Heading down we took the gully to the north east along what we were fairly certain was the other DPS route.  We found ducks along the way which kept us from following the urge to climb over the rocks to our left instead continuing down and loosing a distressing amount of gain to drop into a large drainage.

The sun set as we were doing this giving us one of those spectacular sunsets the  desert seems to produce so often.

We had a good 2+ hours coming back in the dark after finishing the last of our water and I made the best of things by loudly singing as many songs as I could come up with where I could change the words to mention ice tea or margaritas while Jen followed quietly behind with her hands over her ears.

This was also my first chance to try out my new Petzl Nao headlamp which has quickly become my favorite one yet.  Not only does it have a high mode capable of delivering a sun tan at 100 ft and making anyone else with a normal headlamp just turns theirs off in despair but it has a neat reactive mode where it adjusts the beam according to how much light it detects bouncing back.  And it's programmable!  Geek toy!

We made the car and availed ourselves of copious amount of liquid before looking at the time.  Damn, 9:30 pm meant there was no way we were going to make it back to town to avail ourselves of the paradise of margaritas, iced tea, and salty chips and salsa a Mexican restaurant would deliver.  So we did the best we could manage.

If you're wondering the best one can manage at 10:30 pm in 29 Palms is a Denny's.  And this Denny's is apparently the good on outranking the location in Yucca Valley by a good star on Yelp.  That's a somewhat scary thought.

(I did have a chat with the guy at the front register and asked about the crowd that frequented a Denny's in 29 Palms at say 3 am.  His answer was "It's...uhh...interesting..." with a haunted look in his eyes.)

Somewhat properly fed though bitter that the iced tea hadn't lived up to the expectations set by my earlier melodious performance we set off to find someplace to sleep.  We ended up heading north along 247 until we were away from all the houses and found a dirt road to drive out on.

Unfortunately this seems to be where all the find upstanding locals go to dump their trash and our search for sleep was delayed a bit until I could find a flat spot to park the jeep that wasn't covered in refuse.

Finally we bedded down around 12:30 am and enjoyed a luxurious 3 hours of sleep before I leapt out of of my sleeping bag screaming it was time to get moving again.  A slightly less than enthusiastic Jen followed me to the jeep and we were off once again.

It turns out the Yucca Valley gas station attendant at 4 am is only marginally less interesting than the staff and customers at the Denny's though he seemed to think I was the odd one as I staggered in with wild hair wearing bright green mumbling about sleeping out in the desert and being desperately in need of coffee.

The drive from Yucca tot he Mt Lowe trailhead was a long couple of hours and Jen ended up passing out in the passenger seat for most of them.  Finally though we arrived.

Not only was this the provisional of an old hiking friend Christine Soskins but there were a number of people along who I hadn't seen in far too long.  And it was raining.  Good day for me!

Everyone got acquainted and we set off up the trail in what can only be described as a brisk pace particularly if you were say running on very little sleep and had spent 10 hours yesterday slogging through the desert with little water.  On the plus side the fog and light rain had enough moisture to soak through my clothing completely making up for the previous days lack thereof.

We eventually got above the clouds drying us out and giving spectacular views without having to see the bloated polluted cityscape of LA.

We also had a nice view of Mt Lukins popping out above the clouds.

Arriving up top Bill had brought champagne to celebrate both in alcoholic and unleaded variety.  Cups were dispersed  filled, emptied, and then we were informed it was time to march back down the mountain.

(On a personal note I never run my trips this hard.  How can you expect to have headlamp fun if your making everyone run up and down so quickly...)

We headed back down soon reentering the fog and then passing through it getting a brief glimpse of the houses below.

Back at the trailhead most of us decided to head for post provisional Mexican food and we soon reconvened at the surprisingly good El Patron Mexican restaurant with the only downside being they didn't have room for a group our side and we had to spend some time cooling our somewhat hungry jets out in front before we were seated.

I was just about falling asleep at this point having had maybe 7 hours total over the last two nights and the 2 hour drive home felt rather long.  Fortunately we were able to get back fairly early so I had a good 12 hours to pass out before needing to wake up, jump on a plane, and fly back to Boise-land.

Not the quietest weekend but all told not too far out of the norm.

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