Ascent of Argus Peak on 2011-10-11

Climber: Daryn Dodge

Date:Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Argus Peak
    Elevation:6562 ft / 2000 m

Ascent Trip Report

Used the Desert Peak Section (DPS) Guidebook (5th edition) to get to the trailhead from the east up Homewood Canyon road. This peak has been suspended from the DPS list because the peak sits just inside the China Lake Naval Weapons Base border. This was no problem before, but since 9/11, the Base has asked the Sierra Club not to go there.

The DPS Guidebook says 2WD vehicles can go to the designated trailhead 0.75 mi past Ruth Mine, but not anymore. I followed Road P17, which became dirt just passed the mine, to the base of the steep hill designated as the trailhead. The last 0.2 miles had some major washouts and I needed to engage my 4WD to get that last 0.2 mi. If you don't have a high clearance 4WD, just park at the mine and deal with the extra 0.75 mi of tedious dirt road walking.

Driving in late, I camped the night at the trailhead in typical desert terrain with a nice view down canyon. There's room for several vehicles to park here, although it is not completely flat. Three tired-looking wild burros slowly walked by during the evening heading for what looked like a nearby spring. They walked by again on their way back to where ever they came from 45 minutes later. A couple of howling sessions by a group of coyotes down the canyon also made for an entertaining evening.

In the morning, I walked the 1.25 mi of dirt road up and over a saddle to the roads end at a wash. Across the wash I could see a lonely sign at the base of Argus Peak with the big word "Danger" on it. It was a little unclear if the Weapons Base sign didn't want people walking up the peak or walking up the wash next to it. A use trail soon became evident and I followed it up the steepish slope to the ridgeline of the peak still over a mile away. The use trail is vague in places but takes the most efficient line along the ridge.

I followed ducks as it traversed around the right side of Sub-peak 6163. I got a refreshing break in the shade here and the path became much more heavily ducked among the maze of large boulders and ridges. It became a game of "spot the next duck" as I worked my way up below this false summit, and was actually quite fun. The DPS Guidebook calls this route on Argus class 1, but the climbing around Peak 6163 is definitely class 2.

The final summit mass now came into view and ducks again (though not as many)lead up the final 400 feet through a bouldery wash with many pinyon pines. The summit rocks had a sign on a stick indicating "Argus Peak" had been reached. However, I could see a large boulder to the southwest that looked higher. I decided to check it out since it was only 100 or so feet away. The pointy boulder went class 3 and there was barely enough room to sit on top. It did seem higher than the other group of rocks with the sign. And there was a benchmark on top. How the surveyor managed to plaster a benchmark on top of this small, pointy boulder must have been quite a trick.

I returned the same way I hiked in, although it was difficult to spot a low saddle on the ridge NE of Peak 6163. I ended walking a little too far to the right and nearly got cliffed out before seeing the saddle and traversing back over to it. Total time was 3 hrs and 45 min with 3000 feet of gain. Total distance was somewhere around 7 miles.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3000 ft / 914 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3000 ft / 914 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3000 ft / 914 m
    Route:NE ridge from Homewood Canyon
    Start Trailhead:4WD Road P17  3562 ft / 1085 m
    Time:2 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3000 ft / 914 m
    End Trailhead:4WD Road P17  3562 ft / 1085 m
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes

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