The bright sunny Sunday morning that we were hoping for didn’t materialize exactly as planned, but the clouds had cleared enough for us to get a peek at our objective for the day, Kingston Peak, and we didn’t like what we saw. Behind the ridges the higher rocky peaks were coated in a fair amount of snow. The last part of the route up Kingston is scrambling around rock, and none of us were eager to do that in icy or potentially deep snow conditions. Luckily we had come prepared with a nearby alternate: the high point of the Mesquite Mountain range.

Oh dear, I didn't bring snowshoes. Or crampons. Or an ice axe. It's the desert, for Pete's sake!
Oh dear, I didn’t bring snowshoes. Or crampons. Or an ice axe. It’s the desert, for Pete’s sake!

This was a tricky hike to figure out ahead of time. The Mesquite range covers a wide area between Kingston and Clark, and the high point is not labeled with a name on topo maps. It took a while of poking around maps to figure out which of the many bumps within the range was the high point. I was fairly confident that my beta was correct, so on Sunday morning we packed up camp and headed out for the long but straightforward hike to ‘Mesquite Mountain’.

Unlike many desert summits, there aren’t old 4×4 roads that can get you close to the high point, so we parked on the side of a wide, graded and well-traveled dirt road and began the long hike across the flats. The hike was about four miles across the gently sloping desert floor to the base of the ridges leading to the high point.

See the mountains way out there? That's our target.
See the mountains way out there? That’s our target.

Along the way we stumbled across an old claim post. A tobacco tin at its base had a ratty and singed piece of paper that had clearly survived some rough times. We could read a first name and the first half of a date. It was too difficult to make out the last two digits but it looked like 1920s or 1930s. Cool!

Old claim marker: Frank, in the 1930s?
Old claim marker: Frank, in the 1930s?

Eventually we picked up a wash that was easy hiking to the base of the range. I hadn’t been paying too much close attention to my GPS waypoint for the ‘summit’ so we were initially just heading to what looked like the high point. There were several ridges leading to the summit ridge so we picked a line up the best looking slope to the left. As we started to climb it I realized my waypoint was actually still to the left of that slope, and as we got higher the summit became more obvious.

Mesquite Mountains high point
Mesquite Mountains high point
Cactus obstacle course on the ridge to the summit
Cactus obstacle course on the ridge to the summit

From a distance it looked like this would be a simple brushy summit but up close we could see some neat looking rocky bands that made up the high point. Even closer, we found a nice little catwalk and small class 3 move to get to the high point. It ended up being a more interesting peak than we expected! I was super happy to find a register on the summit marking it as the Mesquite Mountains high point. Yay, I wasn’t wrong! Like Squaw the day before, there were very few signatures on this infrequently climbed peak’s summit register.

David on the final approach to the summit
David on the final approach to the summit
Calipidder on the summit
Calipidder on the summit

The clouds were still blowing out but by the time we left the summit we were able to get in some good views. From the summit we got a good look at the maze of washes below us and were able to pick out the easiest return route. Hoofing it back across the desert went fairly quickly.

Looking back down on the way we came in - and picking a wash for the return hike
Looking back down on the way we came in – and picking a wash for the return hike

From our parking spot, our intended campsite for the night at the Shadow Mountain Mine ruins was only a few miles away as the crow flies. But once we turned off of the main road the going was a bit slow. The first couple of miles was through deep sand, and then we turned off onto a washed out two-track that was so washed out in spots the road disappeared. Picking our way carefully across the old desert track, we finally made it to the mine.

Camp, and finally a clearing sky
Camp, and finally a clearing sky

The Shadow Mountain mine appeared to once have been a large operation, but the equipment and facilities had long been disassembled and moved to another site. Some ruins still existed, and nice concrete platforms where buildings once stood made for a nice flat campsite. David took his time exploring the old mining junk while I wandered to the top of a nearby hill to check out the snow on the distant peaks and enjoy sunset.

Desert sunset
Desert sunset

The next morning: Shadow Mountain!

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