Now that I have completed the 100 Peak Challenge, it was time to begin working on the remaining peaks on the Sierra Club-San Diego list. Thankfully, these two lists share a lot of the same peaks, so I only have 28 more peaks to climb. Fellow 100 Peak Challenge finisher Susie Kara is also working toward the same goal. So, we are teaming up to tackle them. Unlike the 100 Peak Challenge, the SD100 does not have a time limit. However, all of our remaining peaks are in Anza-Borrego, so we are racing against the heat.
We decided to tackle Split Mountain East and West. Located south of Ocotillo Wells, these two peaks would be two separate hikes. I pulled into the empty parking lot for Iron Mountain and waited for Susie to arrive. Soon thereafter, a few cars pulled in and hikers began their journey up to greet the sunrise from the summit. Susie pulled up and we set out on the all too familiar route to the desert.
The predawn glow began to fill the desert as we got closer to the turn-off from the 78. The full moon still hung over the western sky. We pulled over to the side of the road and took some photos of the beauty around us. After a pit stop at the bathrooms at the Ocotillo Wells Ranger Station, we began trying to connect with Matt Bennet who wanted to join us on our adventure. After some back-and-forth texting, we found where he was waiting and picked him up. We set off down Split Mountain road for about 6 miles to the Fish Creek Wash turnoff.
Campers were scattered along the route, which was a good sign in case the Subaru ran into trouble. The trailhead to Split Mountain East is the same as to the famous Wind Caves. We parked next to the sign for them. The trail quickly began climbing, so make sure you stretch first before heading out. While the sign says the caves are 1.0 miles away, they are actually about 1/2 miles away. We stopped and explored them briefly, but our goal lay a bit further and higher away.
As the other trip reports indicated, the use trail would fade in and out. For the most part, it was a matter of following the ridge ever upward.
As we neared the point where we knew we had to descend and cross the wash, we continued up the wrong ridge for a bit. Cross-checking our bearings, we backtracked a bit and found the correct route again.
Once we had finished dropping down the wash, we found a pool of water tucked beneath a dry waterfall. After a short break and discussion on our final push to the summit, we set off. Matt and Susie followed a gully up, while I trailed behind and found the use trail along the west side. We rejoined at the saddle and began the final bit to the summit.
We sat atop the peak taking in the views of the eastern Anza-Borrego. While there is no benchmark, we did find and sign the register. After finishing our snack, we headed back down. Like it usually happens, the trail was easier to spot for the descent.
As we made our way down, we would point out various peaks to our west to Matt. He recently moved out here, so we were showcasing some of Anza-Borrego’s finest for his future enjoyment.
We debated exploring the wind caves more, but the second peak was calling… Once back at the car, we took a nice lunch break before driving to the trailhead for Split Mountain West. We covered 4.3 miles with some 1,590 feet of elevation gain over 3:13 hours of active hiking time.
I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.