Chemehuevi Peak, Stepladder Mountains

11-Jan-97

By: George Toby, Ron Young


Due to passage of the Wilderness Bill by Congress, both Stepladder and Chemehuevi are now in their respective Wilderness areas. The latest Auto Club San Bernardino County map shows these and many more Wilderness areas, no changes on the approach to Chemehuevi but the dirt road to Stepladder is RED STAKED. You cannot drive into the wilderness. This increases the hiking distance from 7 to 13 miles. Participants were Mary McMannes, George Pfeiffer, Judy Ware, Burt Falk, Mary Motheral, Pete Yamagata, Tom Neely, Roy Magnuson, and the Leaders.

We met 7:00 am Sat 12 miles South of Needles at the junction of the normally good power line road and US 95. This junction is also 35.9 miles North of Vidal Junction on US 95. There is a red stop sign on the Powerline road. To our surprise our three 2 wheelers could only go about 200 feet; stopped by deep sand. So we piled into our four 4 wheelers and drove West for 7.8 miles to an intersection with another power line road, drove past it .55 miles to turn left (South) on a faint dirt road that Immediately turns right behind a man made berm, goes about 150 feet (also very sandy)and turns left (due South). It becomes a very narrow but good dirt road. We drove 4.7 miles to where the road is RED STAKED. We parked and began the hike. Walked South on the road for 2 miles (42 minutes) turn West and go about a mile over the desert to cross a dirt road. We were now at the former starting point as described in the Desert Peaks Guide 3.12 for Stepladder. See George's revised 3.12 guide. From here we followed the guide directions. Hike West about 3 miles across the desert and in a Pig wash to a saddle at 2300 feet .30 miles NE of the peak. Climb up a chute to your left to find a faint use trail that leads up to a series of zig zag ledges to a prominent notch. Go left up class 2 rock to the peak. Stepladder is loose but to our credit no one kicked any rocks loose. Seven made the summit in beautiful weather. The register box and book were in very poor condition. Pete Yamagata replaced both with a new book and double nesting cans. We returned to the cars well before dark for a short happy hour and drove out to our original meeting place to camp for the night with the other three cars. Then we had a real happy hour. We had so much food it became dinner as well All gathered around George's blue roll-up camp tablet in perfect desert weather.

Trip Statistics: 1430 foot gain, 13 miles, 7 '/2 hours

4WD was needed to cross the sand on the power line road for about 3/4 mile. No two wheeler could possibly make it. It is traction and wide tires that counts. However, there are other power line roads in the area that could be explored to avoid the sand alternate 2WD routes.

Sunday we drove over to the standard Chemehuevi road head on a good dirt power line road. Under cloudy skies we hiked NE across the desert to a prominent canyon heading North that appeared to be at the base of the mountain. To our surprise it petered out. So we climbed over a small ridge and dropped down into the main wash that fed into a steep rocky chute up to the peak. A nice climb but dark rain clouds were coming. We hurried off the peak and down to the big wash just in time to hike the last 2 1/2 miles out in the rain. No one complained. We were very happy to have made the peak. We looked back to see the peak was totally enclosed in rain clouds. All ten made the peak. Many thanks to Ron for leading the assaults on both summits and the hikes out. Six of us met at Denny's in Needles for dinner. A very happy and noisy bunch of climbers. This was a good sociable group. We had a lot of fun.


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