Stepladder Mountains, Whipple Mountains
By: Ed Lubin, Darrell Lee
Our group of eight consisted of the leaders and Jeff Deifik, David Hammond, Ellen Lady, Eric Schumacher, David Welbourn and Bob Wyka. Bob drove all the way from Los Angeles, just for Stepladder, David Hammond all the way from Tucson, just for Whipple. The weekend weather was spring-like and pleasant.
Our meeting place Saturday, was on Turtle Mountain Road: on the east side of the wash. 5.3 miles in from US-95. Some of us camped there the night before. The third edition of the DPS Guide was used on the trip.
The directions led us to the saddle immediately northeast of the peak. A chute, cliffs, cleft, zigzag ledges and notch between the two summit masses, were then given as part of the route. Instead, we took the ledges on the east side of the peak. and not those obvious from the saddle. (It was later found that the topo in the first edition of the Guide, shows a direct, almost due west, approach to the ledges we used, and summit, which bypasses the saddle.)
We signed the register located on the south of the two Summit masses; a relatively, tiny outcropping that does not appear to be as high as the one to the north which is only about twenty feet away. Some "Desert Sage" reports have referred to there being both a "north" and a "south" summit. This may not be as accurate as designating one or other mass, "the summit" or "high point".
Bob Wyka used his new Trimbale Scout GPS satellite receiver, to track our position within a few yards, as we traveled. (He can also use it in his 4WD.)
(Route A) Our camp Sat night, was roughly 6 miles in on the dirt road that begins 13.8 miles east of Vidal Junction (Hwy marker 140). The 4.2 miles of dirt road to the crossroads were excellent; then became fair. We did not see an aqueduct. David Hammond arrived in his sports car just after us.
Darrell, with assistance from Ellen Lady, prepared a delicious chicken curry and rice potluck dinner, his and Jeff Deifik's treat. Darrell is a very good chef; probably as good as any of the legendary ones in the Section. A pleasant evening was spent around a campfire. About 8:00am·on Sunday, we departed for the drive to the trailhead on a road that soon deteriorated.
In order to avoid obstacles in the wash. it was sometimes necessary to cross from channel to channel. The desert pinstripping on our vehicles could have been avoided had we brought a saw and plant clippers. It may be possible to drive a high clearance 2WD passenger car, but it is unlikely to be any fun We followed "Climb Route A" only as far as UTM 394986 (el 2680+). where we got off route. The main canyon divides here: one branch to the east and one to the west. We should have taken the ridge on the south side of the canyon to the crest. Instead. we went into the canyon to the east, and then almost immediately gained the N.S. ridge on the west side (See map). It is initially steeper. A few minutes up canyon at the next bend. the slope is more gradual. A good alternate route to the top of Whipple may have accidentally been found. On top, there is a fine view of Lake Havasu and sprawling Havasu City.
For our return leg, we contoured into the canyon south of the peak, the fore mentioned wet branch of main canyon: passing two dry waterfails. Progress up the canyon is not barred by a very large vertical waterfall, as indicated in the third edition. The fall in the Guide is instead located on the north wall of the canvon. a few minutes up from the mouth; and fairly unique.
Near mouth of the canyon, where it makes an abrupt turn east, there is a berm partly across. through which erosion has cut a gap in solid red rock around five feet wide by twenty-five feet deep. The fall was a shear drop of about 100 ft. There was a trickle of water at the top, which Eric Scllumacher sampled (he also found a deer antler on the hike. amazing for such desolate terrain).
From the berm. some of us crossed the west canyon instead of going to its mouth: making a beeline south into the main canyon where we regrouped.
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