Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Four

This year, on January 1, during my regular hike to the Palm Canyon Oasis, I did some more exploratory work about hiking Indianhead. It has to be done between now and early March, when it quickly gets too hot to do it.

Here are previous posts with maps and discussions. None of these excursions got me even close to the peak.

First Post

Second Post

Third Post

This time, I drove out to Borrego Springs and took a picture from the front of the mountain.

Indian Head 2014 A
Indianhead from Borrego Springs [click to enlarge]
I am not even sure if the peak visible from Borrego is the actual peak, or if it is a false peak. If it’s a false peak, the actual peak should be an easy ridge hike behind it. The picture below has my annotations on an approach that sounds feasible.

Indian Head 2014 B

The starting point is just a five-minute hike from the parking lot to the beginning of the prominent ridge visible from the Palm Canyon trailhead.

The first half hour up the ridge should not be too bad. The grade is about 30 to 40 degrees. There is no trail, so it’s careful walking through the brush, avoiding snakes, cactus, ocotillo, sharp stones and uneven footing. You can’t afford to twist an ankle here.

One of the crux areas is where the green arrow points. This is much steeper, perhaps approaching 45 degrees at that section, and covered with pretty rough, jagged, large slabs of rock. 45 degrees is as steep as the cables on Half Dome, so I expect it could get pretty sketchy there. But there is no way to know short of just going and checking it out.

After making it up that section, which could take some time given the pucker-factor, making it up to the ridge should be a little easier. The grade goes back a bit, but the slabs of rock there are huge, and it could be that there will be spots where there will be some scary traverses. The other side is almost vertical, so there is no way to go on that side.

Then it’s easy picking along the ridge, always careful not to get too far to the cliffs toward the back. It’s straight down from there on that side. The views must be spectacular, though.

Then comes the crux at the blue arrow. This looks again 45 degrees from all angles I have seen it, and there is no good way around. There could be a lot of scree there, too, with loose rocks and dirt.

I am not sure if the peak along the ridge at the red arrow is the true peak, or if Indianhead is not behind it. However, even that false peak would be a great achievement for me.

Equipment needed:

  • Good hiking boots. Sneakers don’t cut it here.
  • Hiking poles and a way to stash them on the pack during bouldering sections, when hands need to be free.
  • At least a gallon of water per person.
  • Snacks for an all day adventure.
  • Head lamps with good batteries, in case something goes wrong and we run out of daylight.
  • GPS so we can ascertain terrain and trace our steps back. There is no trail, and coming down such a mountain four hours after going up, when the light will be completely different, can be dangerous. It’s easy to pick the wrong ridge and get hopelessly lost.
  • Hardcopy topo map.
  • Sunscreen, hat, long-sleeved outfits, windbreaker, sunglasses.
  • Camera.
  • Cell phone. Reception should be good all the way on this route, due to the clear line of sight to Borrego Springs all the way up.
  • First aid kit.

Starting at the parking lot at 7:00am should leave enough time for a daylight hike all the way through. I can’t even guess how long it will take, but since it’s a 3,000 foot elevation change, it’s a tough workout and I will need plenty of rest stops.

Sure looks like I am ready. Now all I need is a partner. Two people are ok, three would be better. I am taking names.

Leave a Reply