Blair Traverse

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December 20, 2015
The Sawtooth Range (different from the neighboring Sawtooth Mountains) comprises of a series of ridges extending northeast from the Laguna Mountains in San Diego County. Two of these ridges formed a prominent "U" shape around McCain Valley, and of course that jumped out at me, screaming the word: "traverse!"

Getting to the trailhead: From the junction of CA-78 and S2, head 12.5 miles south on S2. Approximately 0.7 miles after passing Butterfield Ranch Resort, there is a dirt pullout on the south side of the road with a telephone pole. There is a dirt road heading south from this pullout, with a sign reading something along the lines of "Authorized vehicles only. State Park property ahead."

Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 32.978471, -116.423770

The table below includes every peak (traversing counterclockwise) on the Blair Traverse. For unnamed peaks, I have dubbed names for them which are derived from the names of nearby ranches and terrain features. These dubbed names are in quotes. Peaks without quotes are either officially named by the USGS or were found named by previous parties who had written them in summit registers.

OrderPeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
1"Campbell Peak"2,403 ft303 ft32.942276, -116.452347
2"Cottontooth Peak"4,648 ft263 ft32.942276, -116.452332
3Garnet Peak5,900 ft480 ft32.925727, -116.458859
4"Filaree Hill"5,700 ft280 ft32.910055, -116.456001
5Hays Peak6,180 ft120 ft32.894966, -116.42626
6Monument Peak6,271 ft331 ft32.892378, -116.420653
7Storm Canyon Mountain3,902 ft1,002 ft32.92374, -116.405751
8"Square Rock Peak"3,247 ft387 ft32.925743, -116.390941
9"Sundown Peak"3,064 ft484 ft32.932263, -116.395383
10Troutman Mountain2,086 ft346 ft32.960999, -116.406537

Total Stats
20 miles    9,810 ft gain/loss

Map (Since Blogger does not let me upload this file at full size, email me at for a full sized version of this map)

Trip Report
The wind was steadily blowing at 40mph as I stepped outside at 4:40am into pitch dark. The eastern half of the sky was filled with stars, and the western half was filled with fast moving cumulus clouds which were dissipating quickly after moving past the mountains and over the desert. From the trailhead (2,000 ft), I walked up a dirt road to the south for a short distance to a saddle (dubbed Campbell Pass), then headed southwest up the main ridge. This ridge would eventually take me all the way up to Garnet Peak (5,900 ft).

Just southwest of Campbell Pass, I went up and over Campbell Peak, finding nothing of much interest on the pitch black and windy summit. I continued on as winds continued to increase, growing to a steady 50mph. After a few more ups and downs, the ridge finally began ascending continuously. The longer and steeper parts of this broad ridge were actually a sort of relief, as they blocked off the consistent wind from the southwest. Faint rays of dawn began appearing as I reached a small bump northeast of Cottontooth Peak. As I reached the summit of Cottontooth, the sun finally bobbed over the horizon, providing little warmth amid the howling winds. Even through the cold, these vivid desert sunrises never failed to disappoint.

register on Cottontooth Peak

looking southwest from Cottontooth Peak

The next section of ridge between Cottontooth Peak and Garnet Peak became even more tedious as winds grew in excess of 80mph, occasionally nearly knocking me down. For the last 1,000 ft of gain below Garnet, the brush gradually increased, but it was thin and low lying manzanita which only mildly hindered progress.

The wind was so strong atop Garnet Peak (>100mph) that I could not even stand on the actual summit, but had to crawl over and touch it. This was by far the strongest wind I had ever experienced in San Diego County. I quickly ducked down west of the summit to take a quick snack break. Surprisingly, the wind here was no more than 20mph, even though it was less than 100 ft from the summit.

summit views from Garnet Peak

Garnet Peak marked my entrance onto the Laguna Mountains, which comprised of a main prominent plateau running north to south. To the south, I could see Monument Peak, which marked the location which I was to drop east back off the plateau and into the desert. For the next 6.4 miles between Garnet and Monument, I would utilize a series of trails, mostly the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and ascend two small peaks in between.

The wind subsided even more as I headed south to meet up with the PCT. Much of the morning clouds were now clearing, and it was shaping up to be a glorious morning.

Before ascending Filaree Hill, one of two peaks between Garnet and Monument, I took a short detour east off the trail to check out Point 5663, which was said to contain good views. The views were spectacular, but I was already spoiled by the views I had come across earlier and that desert sunrise, so this one was just another glance down to the desert.

views from Point 5663

After Point 5663, I headed south back onto the PCT, then cross countryed a short distance further south to Filaree Hill, taking no more than 10 minutes in between. Filaree's highpoint was marked by a cairn and register.

After Filaree, I continued south on the PCT for a few miles before reaching Hays Peak, which was really just a small bump on the northwest shoulder of Monument Peak. The northwest and southern sides of Hays Peak were both class 1.

views from Hays Peak

A short distance southeast of Hays was Monument Peak. I left the PCT and followed a paved road which wrapped around the southern side of the mountain to its highpoint. A rusty register can was nestled under some rocks at the highest point. There were a series of towers right at the summit area, with was rather an eyesore among otherwise scenic desertscape.

view southeast from Monument Peak



My next task was to drop over 3,400 ft of elevation down a prominent NNE ridge from Monument Peak, to a saddle southwest of Storm Canyon Mountain. Down I went. The first 1,000 ft of descent consisted of dry, scratchy manzanita, which gradually vanished as I dropped below 5,000 ft. Below that, it was easy going as the ground turned to nice soft dirt. The temperature steadily crept up the lower I got, from around 35 to 50 degrees.

view from halfway down

After reaching the saddle, I ascended 1,000 ft up Storm Canyon Mountain's southwest ridge. The terrain here was typical Anza Borrego stuff: soft sand mixed with chunks of granite. Upon reaching the summit, I sat down for a snack break, enjoying this nice secluded part of Anza Borrego. To the northeast were Square Rock Peak and Sundown Peak, both of which had over 300 ft of prominence. It was odd that a P1K, a P300, and a P400 would be so close to eachother. The topography of these three peaks had interested me for quite some time.

view of the Sawtooth Mountains

southwest of Storm Canyon Mountain

view southeast from Storm Canyon Mountain




After my little break, I descended off the east side of Storm Canyon Mountain, then proceeded up Square Rock Peak's west ridge. This turned out to be one of the more interesting parts of the traverse, involving climbing over several large granite boulders, several of them larger than cars. It felt more like Joshua Tree National Park rather than Anza Borrego. The rocks vanished as I reached the summit plateau, walking over to the highpoint.

looking west from Square Rock Peak

The next peak, Sundown Peak, went without a hitch. This was the least exciting peak of this cluster of three, though it still afforded great views in all directions.

looking south from Sundown Peak


The last peak on this traverse, Troutman Mountain, lay just over 2 linear miles to the NNW. It looked rather insignificant amid all the towering monsters around it, but did stand out like a lone sentinel in an otherwise plain valley. I made a beeline for it, arriving at its summit just after sunset.

looking northwest from Troutman Mountain

It was getting dark fast, and I hurriedly descended the northwestern side of Troutman and continued northwest to Campbell Pass, pulling out a few cholla balls along the way which stuck to my legs. The car lay shortly on the other side of that pass. Up and over the pass I went, reaching the car at roughly 5pm.

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