Elevation Gain: 761ft
100 Peaks Challenge 2021 Peak #10
Elevation Gain: 327ft
100 Peaks Challenge 2021 Peak #11
Elevation Gain: 475ft
100 Peaks Challenge 2021 Peak #12
Afoot & Afield #275
Elevation Gain: 631ft
100 Peaks Challenge 2021 Peak #13
Today’s original hike plan was to tackle two challenging desert peaks: The Sombreros (Sombrero Peak and False Sombrero Peak). We had routes all mapped out and were ready to go. But at the last minute, due to a San Diego “winter storm,” we decided to change our plans. The trail head for these hikes is above 2000 ft, and the peaks themselves are around 4000. With rain in the forecast, and snow predicted above 4000 feet, we decided it would be prudent to refocus on the “low desert.”
In the Ocotillo/Jacumba area there are a set of four peaks on the 100 Peaks list that are less ambitious, and avoid the higher elevations. We figured they’d be a good option to possibly avoid the cold and wet weather. It’s a 1.5hr drive to get out there, and given how close these peaks are to each other, we decided to amp the ambition level back up to 11 and try to hit all four of them in one day. Could we do it??? Yes we could!!
We met up at the Mortero Wash turnout, off the S2, at 7:30am, and hit Piedras Grande first. This is where Tara & I first met, at the Land Nav (navigation) weekend back in 2016 when we both took the Sierra Club Wilderness Basics Class. We decided to take a slightly longer route on the way up, to check out some Native American petrogylphs. This was the longest hike of the day, which is why we did it first. The pitch to the summit was steep and scrambly, with a few fun boulders at the top. One down!
Back at the road, we took Tara’s Jeep a bit north alongside the railroad tracks, until we got to the wash leading to our next peak, Indian Hill. This is a spot I’ll need to return to; there are more petroglyphs and some caves here, along with some ruins from the railroad building days. We did not see any of this, as we were on a schedule! We climbed up the face of the peak to get to the top, and a slightly less steep – but more boulder-y – route back down. Number two in the bag.
Next we drove back to the S2 and through the border checkpoint, taking a hairpin turn onto Dolomite Mine Road to the abandoned mine that the road and the peak were named after. Tara’s Jeep skills gave us a great head start up the trail. Beyond the deteriorated Jeep track, there were a few options for getting to the top of Mine Peak, and we opted for the middle route. The going was not too hard; steep in a few bits but with good footing. The summit view was different from the others, as this peak is on the east side of the ranges, and the view out to the Salton Sea was expansive. Three peaks done, one to go!
Our final peak was Red Hill, a volcanic mountain right across the S2 from the Mine Peak access road. This was a tough one to save for last, as it was the second longest; but we wanted to get Mine Peak over with as the access road would get tricky if the rain really started coming down (which it did not…). The route up Red Hill involved hiking overland to a ridge that wound its way around toward the summit. It was a bit indirect which was frustrating so late in the day, but we finally arrived at the top, an expansive flat area. We wandered about for a bit until we found the right pile of rocks with the trail register, and then headed back down, feeling incredibly accomplished. We did it! Four desert peaks in one day!
Throughout the day, dramatic clouds filled the sky. In all directions we could see rain pouring down in some areas, dark storm clouds in others. But wherever we hiked, the sun shone. It was windy but never cold, and the most rain we had were just a few sprinkles. At the very end of the last hike there was even a faint rainbow off in the distance. Everywhere else in the county it was either pouring rain, or snowing – driving home over the Laguna summit the snow was blanketing the hills on both sides of the freeway. I think we found the only dry spot in the county! We were charmed today, for sure.