Overview“Cowhole is a precipitous craggy mtn which we approached from the north. Almost until the summit was reached were we sure that the route would "go", so steep and cliffy was this route. However as it turned out most of the climb was class 2 although we deliberately went up a couple of class 3 pitches. There are several summits to this peak, actually a small range in itself, it is really an impressive piece of rock and is worthy for addition to the DPS list.” --Andy Smatko, DPS report for 13-Jan-1968
The elevation at the summit of Cowhole, approximately 2245’, is 800’ less than at my house in Las Vegas. But don’t let that lowly elevation fool you; the north face route provides a very quick gain of over 1100’, and the last 600’ of ascent averages 45 degrees. Initially, I assumed this would be a “throwaway hike”, a last-ditch replacement for the higher Mojave peaks, which were covered in snow. I was spurred on by Dr F, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The name “Cowhole” conjures up all sorts of jokes, most in poor taste. This area had several cattle watering tanks and troughs nearby, and some depressions where cows would congregate; perhaps the etymology follows that association.
The views from the top are typical of Mojave peaks, but the central location gives some sweeping panoramas.
Getting ThereFrom i-15, take the Baker Exit at Kelbaker Road. Zero your odometer where the exit ramps intersect the Kelbaker road on the east side of i-15 (the exit ramps have signs like “North to Las Vegas” or “South to Los Angeles / Barstow”). Take the Kelbaker Road 12.2 miles, and exit west (right) on a faint dirt road, partly hidden by the bushes; the coordinates of this turn (decimal degrees, relative to WGS84) are 35.22248, -115.87889. Set the odometer to zero at the turn. Travel west on the dirt road for 0.8 miles, then curve left slightly (you really have no choice; the straight path is blocked by several wooden posts at 35.22175, -115.89328). Continue roughly WSW, always following the most used road. At ~7.8 miles from the Kelbaker Road, park on the S (left) side of the road (35.16555, -115.99390), at an elevation of ~1080’. The N face of Cowhole will be to the south.
The 7.8 miles of dirt road can be navigated in a 2WD vehicle with decent clearance. However, some parts of the road have deep soft sand, and you should have a shovel and sturdy board in case the vehicle founders.
Note this is NOT the set of roads described by Andy Zdon in Desert Summits. Formally, the roads described here give a longer drive than Zdon’s path. However, the path described above is simple, and the longest portion is on a very good paved highway (the Kelbaker Road).
Red TapeNone that I know of.
CampingThis is largely BLM or Preserve land, and you can camp most anywhere, subject to BLM and Preserve restrictions. This is a dry area; bring all the water you will need, and avoid open fires. The sandy soil makes a bivvy comfortable, since you can dig hip and shoulder pits when you are lying in the bag. If you bring a tent, take a variety of stakes, including large items that will hold in the sand. Alternatively, drive the stakes deeply and bury them with rocks and sand.
External LinksNPS Mojave Preserve
NPS Mojave maps
Desert Summits (book)
I like Andy Zdon's book; it has information you won't likely get on summitpost, and gives one the "big picture" for CA and NV desert peaks. I've decided I won't submit peaks and routes to summitpost unless I can truly add to what Andy says.
Hungry after climbing those Mojave peaks? Consider stopping at the
Mad Greek Cafe in Baker