By: Steve Smith
Having finished a most magnificent DPS climb of South Guardian Angel a day early, my Dad, Bill Banks, and I decided to spend Monday and climb Stepladder Mountain on our way back to southern California. Provided with a detailed description of the driving and climbing route by Paul Lipsohn, we first headed in on the Turtle Mountain Road. After 91/2-miles, we headed north on a faint road and were soon in about 3 miles to where a 15-foot high dry water tank was passed.
Shortly afterwards, the road deteriorates further and we were forced to drive on old tracks which remain from past military maneuvers. Following the old tracks, it was possible to gain 3 miles past the water tank and reach the mouth of the major wash at the southern end of the range. This left us with 31/2-miles of walking up the wash which bypasses Conical VABM on the east side. Heading towards the prominent northern peak which has 3 buttes and several pinnacles forming its crest, we didn't leave the wash until due east of the northern most butte.
Climbing up a chute towards the northern most butte, Bill caught the attention of a 3-foot Speckled rattlesnake which let us know of its presence. The chute lead to a pinnacle south of the high point so it was necessary to drop 200-feet and traverse around northward to the next chute. Going up the chute was enjoyable class 3 climbing which lead us to the summit and my completion of the DPS peak list. Finishing with Dad and Bill seemed appropriate since I had climbed a total of 61 of the 85 list peaks on trips when one or the-other was also on the climb.
The views from the summit of such a remote and undisturbed desert expanse were inspirational and we spent an hour enjoying the sight of many familiar desert ranges. Retracing our route down the chute and back out the wide desert wash, we only got stuck once driving back to the Turtle Mountain Road while I provided a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate another rewarding desert peak climbing weekend.
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