Gold Dome (AZ)

January 4, 2022

530m

Lake Havasu, AZ

“Gold Dome” is a gem in the desert but probably because of the unofficial name this peak is largely unknown. This peak locates in an area called “The Needles” about halfway between Lake Havasu City, AZ and Needles, CA. The area is riddled with small but pointy summits. “Gold Dome” is one of the taller peaks that also boasts an iconic profile. The easiest route goes at “class 4” and the scrambling has some very aesthetic positions. In fact, this turns out to be one of Adam’s favourate desert peaks and that says something considering the quantity he’s covered in this area.

Sean Casserly had come all the way from California to join us for this group of peaks. Earlier in the morning we just did a warm-up objective namely “Shangri La Butte“. We then drove north and then west down I-40 in two vehicles. We left Adam’s Subaru at the start of the dirt roads and piled into Sean’s Jeep. With Sean’s Jeep we managed to drive to the farthest possible spot (a gate), shaving off a few kilometers’ walking. Sections of this road felt sketchy even in Sean’s Jeep with hydraulic lift and aggressive tires so any other vehicle would have to park earlier. The end of these roads weren’t even marked on my Gaia map and I forgot to track the drive-in. We almost got lost on the return drive and that tells how confusing and difficult this drive was. We basically just drove up and down some washes.

Ascents of Gold Dome, South Dome, Havasuper Peak. GPX DL

This was one group of peaks that I had done absolutely no research whatsoever and I fully relied on Adam and Sean’s lead as they had read Stav Basis and some others’ trip reports. Unfortunately none of those trip reports came with a GPX file. In the end we likely have put up a new technical route on “South Dome” as well as an infrequently ascended, if not new route on “Gold Dome”. Our route-finding errors eventually turned out to be “good things” that made this trip extremely memorable and satisfying but that usually would not be the case. The approach to the pass between “Gold Dome” and “Havasuper Peak” was long, arduous and confusing at times. Again, I just followed Adam and Sean’s lead plodding into and out of one wash after another. The micro-terrain’s up-and-downs had accumulated to at least 100 m and we weren’t even getting any closer. We switched from one wash to another and even scrambled through some canyons, but eventually we found the old roads that led to the Gold Dome mine at Gold Dome/Havasuper pass. Looking at our own GPX track from home I’m not confident that we had taken the most efficient path, but any route would involve micro-terrain and I’m certain about that.

The west face route that Sean and I climbed on Gold Dome.
Sean and Adam with the pointy peak behind being Gold Dome
These two unnamed nipples much closer to us looked nearly impossible
Sean and Adam on the typical undulating terrain on this approach
We linked up several washes
Gold Dome is much closer now
Adam negotiating a narrow spot on the approach
The valley opened up considerably under the east face of Havasuper Peak
Sean picking up the set of old mining roads

Sean and I made a spontaneous decision to explore a route up the west face of Gold Dome partly because we were tired of traversing and the up-and-downs. Adam didn’t want to take a chance on the success so he kept traversing to the south gully, the “standard route” on this peak. I normally would stick to the easiest route but I had no idea what to expect on the south side since I did zero research. The west face started off mostly class 3 but we soon encountered a series of class 4 steps that would be difficult to down-climb, if needed. The scrambling was mostly enjoyable such that we didn’t pay attention to a deep chasm on the left side. Sean and I eventually topped out on a pinnacle on the south ridge with a vertical, if not overhanging drop to join Adam’s route. Adam had already made to that same spot, but on the correct side of this pinnacle waving at us. One rappel would resolve the problem, but the rope was in Adam’s pack. The only option for Sean and I now was to descend the face until finding a reasonable spot to down-climb into that chasm, which turned out to be about halfway down the face. We started to re-climb immediately right next to the shear wall and faced another tricky section. Sean soloed a pitch of 4th class conglomerate that I did not feel comfortable with. I ended up backtracking at least 50 meters before finding an easier alternative. I eventually joined the rest of the team on the correct spot on the south ridge. The route ahead appeared steep and difficult so I donned harness and rock shoes.

Sean starting our west face ascent route
Looking back at the east face of Havasuper Peak
Me tackling a 4th class zone on the lower west face
Sean tackling the typical terrain on the west face
We were already on the wrong side of the central west face chasm by this point
Sean plodding up the upper west face
Looking back down towards Colorado River which is also Lake Havasu
Me topping out onto the south ridge but only to find an impossible drop

Sean again, led the upper south ridge which was mostly class 3/4 with some severe exposure. However, that on-route crux felt like nothing compared to what I did lower down on the west face, especially now with rock shoes on. Above the crux step we still had numerous 3rd class sections with exposure. Sean and I also traversed across an optional knife-edge while Adam descended and walked around. The position of this upper route was extremely aesthetic and the summit stoke was very high. I don’t know if this west face route had been climbed before but Sean and I definitely pulled off a semi-technical route without any “beta”, and that was very satisfying.

Adam and Sean taking a break under the on-route crux step
Sean starting the on-route crux section
Adam climbing up the hardest move
Adam higher up on the south ridge
Adam just after that knife edge section
Summit Panorama from Gold Dome. Click to view large size.
Another photo of looking down at Lake Havasu/Colorado River
That two nipples now looking tiny from the summit of Gold Dome
Tumarion Peak behind looks just as attractive
Me on the summit of Gold Dome with “South Dome” behind

We had to be extra cautious to descend the upper south ridge due to the exposure and the not-so-great rock quality. To down-climb that crux step I offered Adam a belay for some added safety. I had no problem down-climbing that step with rock shoes. We then followed Adam’s lead descending the south gully towards Gold Dome/South Dome col. This gully was mostly class 2 with one harder step. We encountered a lot of boulders and talus lower down in between Gold Dome and South Dome. The ascent of South Dome turned out to be the hardest I’ve done in this entire trip, and the traverse of Havasuper Peak afterwards around sunset had some of the finest views in this trip.

Sean balancing back across that knife edge. It was very narrow…
Me balancing back across that mini knife edge
Adam down-climbing the typical class 3 terrain on the south ridge
Already finished the crux down-climb
Sean descending into the on-route south gully
That narrow spot in the south gully behind us
Adam much further down on the south side of Gold Dome
Looking back at Sean and some vertical, if not overhanging cliffs on Gold Dome