By: Wes Shelberg
Whale Peak is popular and climbed by easy routes. However, a climb up the south side is neither common nor "easy". The southern route shown on the accompanying topo reproduction is strenuous, reminiscent of a Rosa Point escapade, and very rewarding. The topo maps are Whale Peak and Agua Caliente Springs, both CA and 7.5 Min. Elevation gain is 4157-ft, one-way distance is 4.7-miles, there is no Class 3 or 4, and most certainly there are no "ducks". The solo trip was sunrise-sunset for me in March 85. The route provides the greatest reward of remoteness and loneliness.
The first part of the route up the bajada goes through an extensive area of cacti of all types and all seemed to be blooming. A bighorn sheep skull with horns was found on a ridge about half-way up.
Needless to say, Whale Peak (and all San Diego County) is prime rattlesnake country. Back in 1969, I rode my trusty Yamaha 250 trail bike (Yes - a motorcycle, contrary to DPS purism/elitism) to Mapaha Flat, stashed it behind some agave, and "pioneered a new route" up Whale Peak from the north (TRANSLATION: I got lost but still made the peak). About 0.5-mile east of the summit and about 200-ft lower, I was buzzed by a monstrous, fat, long, nasty, reddish, western diamondback. A couple of tossed pebbles made her assume the classic vertical laid back striking posture. Incidentally, a fabulous way to observe a rattlesnake is to back-off perhaps 20-30-feet and use 7/50 binoculars. She then appears in marvelous detail and seems to be only a few inches away. It's scary to see her triangular face only a few inches away even though you know you're safe. For an eerie thrill, reach your hand out for her while you are looking through the binoculars.
Hey Ron Jones, how about honchoing a rattlesnake fry-shish kebab sometime instead of a burro roast! After all, the proposed former event compares to the latter the way a large desert rat compares to a small desert mouse. Have heard that the Mojave Green Rattler is tender and juicy. She abounds in the high Mojave desert as you know. A weekend trip could hunt snakes on Saturday and "cook-em" Saturday night. Canned rattler purchased from a gourmet source could be used by those squeamish "chicken" types, or in the event that the hunt is unsuccessful. Sycophants (sic) could eat a can of albacore, white-meat tuna and make believe it's rattler, but that would be cheating
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