Cave Mountain

Date ?

By: Bob Michael


There is, however, one mountain that must be seen from a moving car if it is to be seen to any advantage at all, and that is Cave Mountain, as you see it going south along Interstate 15 beyond Baker.. the best view of Cave Mountain can only be seen by drivers in the southbound lanes of the Interstate, and be in motion you must, because halting on this stretch with its rather inadequate roadside shoulders can be rather dangerous... in the case of this view of Cave Mountain one can discern, - at the right hour of the afternoon, no fewer than seven superimposed outlines beneath the main profile of the peak, revealed as successively paler planes of bluish grey.
-Reyner Banham, Scenes in America Deserta

Continuing an occasional series of "Peaks We've Driven By a Zillion Times and Meant to Climb one Day".

By far the most impressive peak close to 1-15 between Cajon Pass and Baker, the isolated pyramid of Cave Mountain has a commanding presence that far exceeds its modest altitude. It is visible from great distances to the east or west along the Interstate. Its very steep north face looms right over the highway; any route here looks decidedly nasty, with menacing almost-vertical gullies stacked with big boulders seemingly at the angle of repose. Moreover, as mentioned in the above quote, there is no safe or sane place to pull off the busy highway, which is, in effect, a narrow ribbon of frenetic mechanized civilization almost hermetically sealed off from a rugged wilderness just beyond the right-of-way. Studying the topo maps, I saw the most reasonable route coming in from the Afton Canyon road on the west. Vegas George Quinn and I checked this route out one crystalline midwinter day.

The topo shows a road taking off from the Afton Canyon road near a powerline crossing. This latter road has fallen into disuse as shown by the unmarked road-grader berm at its beginning. This whole area is also full of blow sand; therefore, we decided to play it safe and park our 2WD vehicles at the junction. The hike crosses open desert for about 3.5 miles on an increasingly sandy road, leading into a shallow canyon which is so sandy only a dune buggy could try it. But, the road keeps going, up into a hanging valley at 24001 on the peak's south side. Here, we veered to the NE to get on an easy ridge with great views off either side. The ridge ascends in a couple steps and flat landings to the crux of the route, about 200 very steep feet of really loose, shattered, treacherous grunge leading into big boulders which make for somewhat better going as one nears the summit ridge. The beautiful summit area is an open platform of maybe a half acre, with several boulder stacks; the highest one is a short scramble to the delightful top, smooth form-fitting granite just perfect for reclining against and basking in the mellow winter sun. You're smack dab in the middle of the Mojave, and the view - better than that from Old Dad - stacks up against almost any peak on the List. To the south, tiny trains roll through Afton Canyon, their horns echoing up from the depths. A constant thrum comes up from I-15 on the north, so near and yet so utterly separated from your perch. Listed peaks stud the horizon in all directions, from San Jacinto to Baldy to Telescope to Charleston to Providence. Everything big and small, from the Kelso Dunes to individual boulders to clumps of dry grass, was radiant with beauty in the textured yellow slanting light near the Winter Solstice; it was like being in a huge coffee-table book of desert photography. Although just a "3-er", it feels much bigger; it's one of the best peaks I've done all year. I've climbed many peaks a mile or more higher that were nowhere near as interesting or satisfying, or gave such a fine view. We both think this peak merits List consideration.


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