Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hiking Cave Mountain

Once again, I hiked Cave Mountain. This pyramid-shaped peak sits beside I-15 about 20 miles south of Baker, CA and is seen by anyone driving between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The image below is from wikipedia and shows the peak from I-15 as you drive south from Baker.

Here's a topo map with my route shown in green. A few years ago I hiked the blue route with Luke. The green route is MUCH easier. Some day I'll post a map showing all the different routes I've hiked. Many years ago, I hiked the upper section of the green route in 105F heat and turned back before reaching the summit when I ran out of water.

The 4wd trail is in great condition. In all the years I've been hiking around there, that trail has always been filled with deep sand - too deep for me. The wet winter weather must have helped compact it some (I'm guessing here). The weather was nice, with warm temps (80-80F) and calm winds at the bottom, and about 75F with mild winds on the summit. Wildlife viewing was limited to horned lizards and a pair of turkey vultures.

The photo above is taken from where I parked. You can actually see the edge of the flat summit from there. It took me 1 hour 40 minutes to reach the summit and 1 hour 10 min to descend. The photo below is taken from the 4WD trail beyond where it's safe to turn around (without risking rolling the truck due to the soft sand and the incline there). This is looking back down hill toward where I started.

The next shot is also taken looking down hill, but after leaving the 4WD trail and across the open sand. There's constant risk of each step dropping 1 to 8 inches into the sand because the desert animals make burrows in the soft sand and it gives way under your weight. If you're not careful, you can twist an ankle and ruin your day.

The next shot looks uphill after I reached the ridge line.

Here's looking down hill from about half way up the ridge line.

At the top of the ridge line there's a somewhat flat section. Here's the view looking down hill, then looking up hill.

I marked my route in the photo above. The goal is simply to traverse and reach the distant ridge that heads to the summit. Once I got to that ridge, I could look over and see I-15. Those two big cube shaped boulders are enormous. They're about 20 feet on a side.

And here's a shot looking back along the traverse I just made.

Looking southwest, the next shot shows the ridge line that I've hiked several times. It's the blue route in the topo map above.

Now comes the fun part. The pile of boulders below the summit looks daunting from far away, but when you get there, it's easy to see many staircase-like routes up.

Here are a couple shots from the summit.

In that first shot, sections of the desert floor are yellow from the flowers. I stopped to take a photo of them on my drive out.

I enjoyed this hike. It was a good day: not too long, not too hard, not too painful, no cramps, and no rattlesnakes.


Joe said...

How was the weather during the hike?

michael said...

It was a nice day, despite the clouds. 80-85F at the base, and maybe 75F+ at the top. kinda windy at the top also. was testing the "wind filter" in my new camera's video mode - and that seemed to have zero effect.

David Martinez said...

Not sure if you get these comments still but i'm going to attempt my first climb up Cave Mtn. this weekend.
I just wanted to see if there was any other advice you'd give to a novice hiker? It doesn't seem too difficult of a hike. But thank you for the info you have here.

Michael said...

Yes, I get the comments. Glad to hear you'll be hiking Cave Mtn. I like that hill and still hike it several times a year. There are several routes. This post shows the easiest one. Next time I hike it, I plan to see just how far up the 4wd trail I can drive my Land Rover without tipping over. (In reality, I'll probably chicken out just past where I've parked 2 times before).
I'll be hiking way to the SE of there tomorrow, on a hill named Silver Peak in the Granite Mountains just north of I-40.
If you enjoy Cave Mountain and want a bigger challenge, then I recommend Old Dad Mountain. You can search my blog for posts about that one. Enjoy

Michael said...

As for advice for a "novice hiker", here's a few tips. Do NOT take the blue route on my map. That is quite hard. Also, avoid the southeast quadrant of the mountain, where it is dangerously steep. Stick to the green route and you'll be fine. Depending on the path you choose going up the boulders near the top, you might find short sections of loose dirt. Don't worry, there's not much of it. Just use a trekking pole for extra hold.
If you search for the words cave mountain in the blogger search field at the top of my blog, you'll find other posts from other hikes I've done on that hill. Including a map of several other routes. Avoid those.
Hope that helps.

Albert M. Lutton said...

Michael, what is the origin of the Cave
Mtn. name? Is there a natural/man-made feature.

Michael said...


I actually don't know the source of the "Cave" name. Even the very knowledgeable Andy Zdon didn't mention a name source in his book "Desert Summits". That man knows more about the Mojave desert hills than maybe anybody around. He's been helping the government map springs as a hydrologist.

I haven't seen any caves on the north face, or the west slope, or the southwest slopes. I suspect that if there are any caves, then they're likely on the steeper southeast face.