The Hills Have Ayes!
Mystery, dark intrigue, wonderment, alluring appeal.....a scene out of "The Hills Have Eyes"!
You've found 'Great Basin Falls' if all these elements fall into place. Tucked roughly 7 miles to the northwest in between the desert mining town of Trona and China Lake Naval Weapons Center , "The Falls" create a hypnotic effect on the first time visitor and spell out, "...explore me!". The expectation for most is that the area probably yields, at best, sun baked choss and dirty mounds of ancient volcanic rock. Look again! Although some sections of rock on the outskirts seem somewhat variable in nature, most of Great Basin Falls provides good to excellent plutonic intrusions, columns and even domes! These granitic formations are mainly comprised of monzogranite and quartzite; comparable to rock found in Joshua Tree National Park
and The Alabama Hills (Lone Pine, CA)
. And to top it all off......it even has a desert oasis creek and waterfall. Beat that JTree!
Great Basin Fall first started seeing its earliest visitors from the Mojave and Paiute Indian tribes, using the area as a well source and trading spot in this harsh desert Mojave region. And when the settlers arrived and built the town of Trona, the falls become the towns' primary water source. The old pipe used to divert the water to the town can still be seen today. It wasn't until the 1980's did the area start seeing the attention of dedicated climbers such as Scott Loomis, Ron Carson, Luke Strong and Greg Vernon (once an engineer working over at the the naval weapons base), just to name a few. These dedicated few found promise in a place that probably sees a small number of folks compared to those bound for locations like The Needles or Owens River Gorge. Nonetheless, they saw it as a "diamond in the rough". Most of the climbing found are face climbs with fixed pro and a moderate amount of crack climbs remaining. Greg Vernon later included the Great Basin Falls area into a climbing guide he and Sally Moser published called 'Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: Domelands'
. The guidebook is becoming a rare resource these days but can still be found online for purchase through the likes of Amazon.com or eBay.
When travelling northbound on SR 14 (passing such towns like Palmdale, Lancaster and Mojave), exit SR 178 east toward Ridgecrest. Once in Ridgecrest follow China Lake Blvd. south until you spot the sign for 178 east toward the desert town of Trona. Follow the 178 through Trona (dont blink, you'll miss it), watching for the high school as a reference point. After passsing the high school, drive 4.7 miles then turn left onto a dirt road. Drive past a small white ranch to your south (left) and follow this dirt (and somewhat sandy) road for about 3.1 miles to Great falls Basin, which you'll spot to your left. The last mile of road is a bit sandy in places and unpacked. Use good judgement before proceding the remaining length to fall. Bear left and head up to the end of the road next to the falls.
Great Basin Falls is situated on BLM land and camping is permitted. However, be aware that others may desire to camp at roads end and they may be of the "gun toting" kind. Use your better judgement and be a good steward. Also, the falls themselves may not be running in late fall or throughout winter, depending on the area receiving preciptation. Anticipate bringing your own water. There are no facilities out at roads end so pack out what you brought in. Be aware that you are in a desert environment and the critters that reside there (ie rattlesnakes and the like). Lastly, the nature of the routes are traditional. Expect the same standards as places like Joshua Tree or Yosemite. Fixed pro can be somewhat "spaced out". Know your ability and stay safe.