Man, This Drive is Boring - Hey, That Peak Looks Fun!
For those of us who have been driving up US 395 from Southern California on our way to the Sierras and other tantalizing points north (or driving south heading back) you often get bored as you speed down the road trying not to wander off. To be frank, once you enter the high desert region there just isn't much to look at. Fremont Peak is the exception to that rule and is a nice little diversion to break up the monotony and re-energize the spirits.
It's easy to spot to the east once you pass through Kramer Junction (going north) or Johannesburg / Red Mountain (going south) as it stands alone as a "mini-range" amongst the relatively flat landscape of desert sage and creosote that adorn its flanks. And here is the bonus - no cacti to get skewered by! So if you have about 1.5 to 2 hours to spare in your itinerary, I suggest you check it out. With its 360 degree sweeping vistas of the western Mojave region and interesting geology and mining history, you will find it well worth the short trip.
Getting ThereFrom Kramer Junction (a.k.a. Hwy 395 / Hwy 58 intersection):
Travel 13.2 miles north on US 395 to an unsigned dirt/sand road (BLM Road EF411) heading due east towards the mountain - this road can easily accommodate two passing vehicles.
At 3.7 miles: the main road forks to the left - stay right/straight. Here the road narrows to one vehicle width.
At 6.1 miles: another fork - stay right
At 6.7 miles: another fork - stay right
At 7.6 miles: a wide parking area for low clearance 2WD vehicles
Higher clearance vehicles can turn right onto ridge and continue a little further up with 4WD vehicles making it to road's end near a mine tailings pile.
From the parking area follow the road along the obvious NW ridge leading up towards the summit. The road ends at a mining spoils pile, but the cycle trails continue on traversing the western side of the peak. Leave the trail anywhere along this slope and scramble up the western face. Weave your way back and forth through the outcrops until you reach the obvious summit block. Traverse NE a short distance and then SE to a small flat area. Follow the obvious crack leading to the true summit. You should be able to keep this route to Class 2 with careful route selection, however I encountered one easy Class 3 problem along the way.
There is no summit register that I am aware of and the only trace of past human presence on the summit is small drill hole on a rock about 20 feet west of the true summit.
Total statistics from the parking area: 1.2 miles RT with 800 feet elevation gain.
Red Tape / Hazards
There is no red tape for this easy scramble, but there are a few hazards to mention.
2. Redneck Off-roaders shooting guns - the Fremont Peak area is riddled with cycle/ATV trails and many of the riders are gun-totin' Americans. The ones I ran into seem pretty responsible so I wouldn't worry too much.
3. Mine shafts & pits - there are at least a half dozen abandoned mining shafts in the area that you can easily walk into so explore with caution. There is one mine shaft that definitely bears mentioning and it is located at the parking area I described above. This old shaft goes over 250 feet straight down and is plenty wide enough to swallow your car or truck.
IT IS NOT FENCED OFF SO USE EXTREME CAUTION!!
When to Climb
Fremont Peak is located on the western fringe of the Mojave Desert so the best months to explore this peak would be November to April. However, you can climb any time of year just bring lots of water and sunscreen.
Fremont Peak is named after 'The Great Pathfinder' Lieutenant John C. Fremont who is most notably known for his Oregon Trail and Western Expeditions. From 1842 to 1846, Frémont and his guide Kit Carson led expedition parties on the Oregon Trail and into the Sierra Nevada. During his expeditions in the Sierra Nevada, it is generally acknowledged that Frémont became the first European American to view Lake Tahoe. He is also credited with determining that the Great Basin had no outlet to the sea. He also mapped volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens.
Fremont Peak is also home to the Monarch-Rand mine which produced gold along with trace amounts of copper and silver. As previously mentioned there are several abandoned entrances and shafts in the area. The most prominent one being the extremely deep chasm at the parking area. Please explore with caution should you be so inclined.