Having been turned back on the spot by Mr. Dougherty (the owner of Section 23) despite previous contacts and efforts to obtain his cooperation, and having heard of people being pursued by men on horses from Fobes Ranch, we (How Bailey and Vic Miller) decided to get on the Desert Divide Trail from the Morris Ranch Road, which is, so far as we know, the only legal access at this time. Having once decided to make it a two day trip, a reasonable plan developed quite easily.
On Saturday morning we obtained a special fire permit from the Forest Service in Idyllwild. (This took some doing, since I had forgotten to bring along the letter I had received from the supervisor in answer to an earlier inquiry.) With this and one gallon of water apiece, we started off. Past Palm View Peak the trail is a little hard to follow, but there was no trouble going down the ridge to Fobes saddle and then on up the trail to the Spitler-Apache ridge (see Topo). We dropped our packs and climbed Spitler, and then camped at a small sheltered clearing on the ridge near the base of Apache. We had exceptionally clear weather, comfortable temperatures, and gorgeous display of fall colors - the best time of year for hiking.
Sunday we were on our way by 7:30 up Apache. We picked the wrong summit first; left is correct. From here on there is no trail, but very little brush that cannot be avoided or threaded satisfactorily. The best route is just to the right of the ridge half way down, then on the left along the base of rock outcroppings, then back to the right side through the double saddle before Antsell.
We had no knowledge of the route, but, seeing nothing very attractive on the visible South side, we just started up. The brush forced us generally to the right, but we got back on the ridge and, after a lot of low third-class scrambling, found ourselves at the point of a "ship's prow" looking right at the summit block, but with a 50 - 75 foot sheer drop to a small notch in front of us and up to 200 feet down on both sides. It took half an hour to get off of there, back-tracking slightly and working down the right (North) side. We then almost regained the small notch and started working around the broken north side of the main peak. This involved a good deal of low and some high third-class work, some of the best of which was wasted on a route we later abandoned. (I should point out that neither of us is really a rock climber by anybody's standards.) We finally found a steep broken gully that leads right to the summit (we think!). This is immediately to the East of the ridge coming from Southwell. However, we reached the following situation: standing on a friction slab, we could look at an overhanging projection at eye level, the rough upper side of which sloped from 450° up to about 600° for about 7 feet, with one finger-sized crack running up it. A shoulder stand could have gained this projection, but neither of us was skilled (or foolhardy) enough to go beyond that. On the right was an exposed sloping slab with slight bumps on it that would lead to a likely route, but there was no secure place for a belayer (we did have a short "emergency" rope with us). We turned around! We believe we were within 20 feet of the summit. We left at noon, with eleven miles to go and over 2000 feet to gain on the way out. Had lunch back at our packs, and got to the car just at dusk.
Our approach route is quite feasible, though obviously requiring two days. The route from Red Tahquitz over Southwell looked far worse. Much of that ridge is impassable at third class, which means fighting through brush, as recently reported by John Ripley. There may be a way in up the SW ridge, or from the valley due West of the peak; but I don't like the brush in that area, and I still don't know the best route to the summit itself.
Is the HPS planning to lead a trip to Antsell in the near future? I'm willing to accept some help on this one.