Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hiking Cowhole Mountain

Yesterday I hiked Cowhole Mountain with my friend Luke. This is a prominent ridge of rock piercing the desert playa south of Baker and is clearly visible to anyone driving along I-15 in that area. We didn't take the route described by Andy Zdon in his book Desert Summits. We also didn't take the route described on summitpost. Instead, we approached from the north east, along the Mojave Road and hiked up a small canyon on the eastern side. It took us about 2.5 hours going up and 1.5 hours down. The weather was great, with temps around 78F and a very slight breeze. My GPS receiver said the elevation gain was about 1200 feet. Here's a nice shot from the summit looking south and showing Kelso Dunes way off in the distance with the Granite Mountains looming behind them.

Here's a Google map centered on Cowhole Mountain. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I'd hoped to take some 4wd roads and park right at the foot of the mountain, but the BLM had blocked the way. The mile or so of open desert that we had to hike across was surprisingly smooth and level. I'm more accustomed to the severly rutted and weathered landscape that is common in other parts of the mojave desert. This photo is looking north toward Baker and shows Little Cowhole Mountain.

Here's a topo map showing our route in blue. Once we made it up the canyon to the saddle, the rest was relatively easy. The summit offered great panoramic views across the desert. Baker was off to the north, Soda Lake to the west, and the Kelso Dunes could be seen to the south.

I expected a jagged ridge of rock jutting out of the desert floor to have a small summit block, but was surprised to find a large flat summit area of almost a quarter acre. This photo shows the view west toward Soda Dry (sometimes) Lake.

While driving back to pavement, we were passed by a caravan of about 9 Jeeps and a Land Rover that appeared to be driving the Mojave Road. They warned us about a desert tortoise on the sandy road ahead. When we found the little guy, we stopped to take some photos.

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