Nevada spring trip


A Spring trip to the desert offers a respite from snow country.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Tom and I have done several Nevada wanders (with a little Utah and California tossed in). To see some of those, choose a trip:


I drove down to Tom's in Boise a day later than planned due to poor weather. But then we were off early Sunday morning.

It's Spring: be adaptable!

The little red stars show where our peaks were, more or less (click for a bigger version).



Peak 5893


On a previous trip, Tom and I had been chased off this peak by lightning. So we came looking for revenge. We could have driven closer, but we'd been driving all day so stretching the legs felt really good.


Soon enough, we were heading steeply uphill, trying to dodge the talus piles.


Summit #1. Sweet revenge.

Ray, this peak is a treat, especially for someone like you (wink, wink).

Great views. Trailhead

Then it was back to the car and still heading south. We passed through Alamo and just a bit farther were at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Click to see a better view of the pelican.

Free camping. There is a little highway noise, but very clean toilets (decidedly better than the opposite).



Peak 4885


We got going a little late, but it was nice to have the sun up and warming us as we approached our first peak.

"Approach" here requires some creativity. We had a state atlas, BLM maps, and two different GPS/electronic map systems. Nonetheless, the road we were looking for wasn't where we were looking. But about a quarter mile down the road, a gate allowed us to "get onto" the correct road. It's always a bit eerie to see yourself on the GPS wandering across empty space.

This was a short one, but again with sun and a lack of snow, it seemed like a treat. We simply followed a ridge to the summit. Trailhead
New views. Trailhead

From the top of this peak, Tom identified the next two peaks on today's list:

  • Peak 5020 on the left with the lumpy ridge, our next target.
  • Alamo Benchmark in the center, best approached from Peak 5020. This peak is the one with the big 'P' on it as seen from the town of Alamo.
But first, we have to get off this one. Ruby could see the car down there, so liked the idea of a steep shortcut with possible scrambling (no problem). Trailhead

Peak 5020 and Alamo Benchmark

  • 2.6 miles, 2:15, 1287' gain RT

Peak 5020

This is the view from our parking spot on the road. The cliffs offered a surprisingly challenging approach.

We found a notch through them, and other than a little scrambling and some some cajoling of Ruby to follow, it went quickly.

From here, we traversed the ridge until we could find a desirable route to the next peak (meaning a minimum of up-and-down through side canyons).


Alamo Benchmark, 5131'

We found a pretty good route from Peak 5020. Then it was a matter of figuring out what part of the ridge we should target as the potential summit. Tom said just left of center, so that's where I steered.


I popped up on top about 40 feet off. Not bad!

That's Alamo down there.

The water you see here is the Wildlife Refuge. We were camped at the far end on the left, near side. Trailhead
Tom on the summit. Trailhead

Peak 5218


We then drove south of the wildlife refuge to an unmarked dirt road. Tom knew there were a few peaks up this direction, so we were simply wandering around in the car. This peak caught my attention (surprise). But we still drove up to the pass above to see what we could see.


Heading back down the valley, we decided that this looked like a good approach.

But as we took off across the playa, poor Ruby was lagging. Because this is so unusual, it really got my attention. Poor pup was walking like she was on hot coals. On inspection, her pads were tender and kinda pink. She gets tons of exercise every day, but the snow in McCall hasn't done much to toughen her feet against this sharp limestone. So I carried her back to the car, where she looked pretty dejected when I left her.

The map showed a couple parallel ridges that all curled AWAY from the summit up high. Dang! But the closest one look like it might entail some pretty aggressive (read: steep and exposed) scrambling. So we chose Ridge #2, resigned to more up-and-down traversing when the ridge headed south (our summit was off to the left here, more northerly). Trailhead

More great views, but I was a little anxious about Ruby. So we chose a steep, rocky-looking shortcut down a different ridge.



Our mystery shortcut turned out to be a good route. I joked about how it was similar to Chickenout on Borah (not).

Ruby was fine, and back at camp, happy to lie quietly on her bed.



Peaks 6220 and 6221

  • 2.1 miles, 2:02, 1099' gain RT

Peak 6220

This morning, we broke camp earlier and headed north through Hiko. Although that's not actually the summit, it IS where we were headed above Mail Summit.

Ruby seemed to be doing her usual running 5x the distance we walked, plus we were out of the limestone. So all was good.


Peak 6221

From the summit of 6220, this is the view of our next peak. Just follow the ridge.

Whoops. Our easy walk got a little exciting when we encountered a previously-unseen cliff band. A little dance around that, though, and we were on our way. Trailhead
Tom knew he was going to lose cell signal, so made the most of our high point. Trailhead

From Mail Summit, we proceeded out into the massive flats of Coal Valley. This valley is over 10 miles across and we suspect when wet it is total gumbo. So while we kept one eye peeled for changes in the weather, we proceeded north looking for interesting things to climb.

But in this case, it was the side canyons that held our interest.

So we drove up one that had a 'road' of sorts. And had lunch parked right in the middle (you don't have much choice when the 'road' is barely as wide as your vehicle). We would have liked to explore this more, but still had a few miles to go before we got to our proposed camp site. Trailhead

There it is, over there.

But then we were near Cherry Benchmark, so kept going north.


Cherry Benchmark, 6283'


The geography of this peak was very interesting, with ridges topped by different type of rock, each forming serrations and cliffs. It looked challenging in terms of navigating a route.

We didn't like the cliffs on the ridge to the right, so decided to go for the unseen on the middle and left ridge. After about three steps, it was obvious that Ruby needed a break again, so we put her back in the car. Poor thing!


As we got up higher, we ran into our first deer on the trip. The deer very purposefully headed up the ridge, and then to the right.

Alrighty, then. Follow the deer!

That worked perfectly, and we were able to follow a pretty continuous deer track most of the way through the narrowing canyon and up onto the summit plateau. Click to see a bigger version with Tom on the deer trail. Trailhead

The last bit was easy, as long as you quit rubbernecking long enough to avoid tripping over the rocks and very stiff brush.

We reversed our tracks back down the obvious trail, hopped in the car, and headed south.


Clouds. But so far, not looking too bad.

Meanwhile, the valley we had chosen to camp in, dead ahead, was looking pretty interesting.


We explored the roads a bit in our valley, then set up camp. It was still pretty early, so I decided to go see what the rocks above camp had to offer. Ruby stayed with Tom, although Tom said she was constantly looking to see where I had gone.

Meanwhile, I was having a blast scrambling around this rocky wonderland that reminded us both a bit of the City of Rocks.

My 10-minute walk stretched into more like a half hour, but eventually I got to a highpoint with a view of camp. I whistled, but Tom didn't hear me (the photo is VERY zoomed in). Trailhead
I wasn't all that far away. And easy enough to see standing on top of this thing. Trailhead


Peak 6797


By this point, we were getting into the swing of camping on the ground. So we were on our feet by about 7:30. The highpoint is just right of center.


Looking back down our route from near the summit.

Our next peak for the day is off to the right here, but we weren't sure which was tallest.

But before we go to the next peak, I feel obligated to talk about how beautiful the desert is. It looks big and brown on the macro, but in the micro there are tons of little wonders. Like this flower, which I'm waiting for my wife to identify. Trailhead

Peak 6761


So here's another distant view of today's second peak. We followed the dry stream bed to the right as it curled around left in front of the peak. Then up onto the left shoulder, crossing to the right and finally gaining the summit.

But I'm ahead of myself. Let's start with that dry stream bed. Trailhead
And then proceed up toward the left shoulder. Climber's left. Trailhead

Of course we climbed the false summit.

But it wasn't much farther to get the high point.


Peak 6530


This peak sat at the mouth of the canyon, and we both agreed that as the most visually stimulating in the area, we needed to visit.

From our last peak, we had seen a road heading toward our objective. But when we got there, we found it marked closed as part of the Weepah Springs Wilderness. We got so involved discussing wilderness that we neglected to realize that we could have driven much closer on legal road. Sigh. But the abandoned road was easy walking. Trailhead

Then came the real challenge: Where the heck is the summit?

Let's go through that notch and see what we can see.

Several more notches and traverses followed. All up. Trailhead
Until we were near. Very near. On really, really weird conglomerate with some huge drops nearby. Trailhead
Ruby doesn't understand why I put her on a leash near cliffs. She's better than me on loose terrain. Trailhead

We found a much easier and quicker way down to the road.

But that left us about a dusty half mile from the car.


Peak 5565


Tom had what I thought was a crazy idea about this one peak. One peak, when there were so many all around us. But it turned out to be a fun drive, and the peak looked pretty cool when we got there. Ruby had already done three peaks this day, so was considering how she felt about one more. And how her feet felt about it, too.

But Tom was off and Ruby followed. Trailhead

From the top of that peak, we could see a really unusual rock formation to the north. When we got back to the car, the map showed a natural arch. So then we visited the Coal Valley Natural Arch. Interesting outcrop. The white thing on the big outcrop, the one that make it look like a face, is just bird poop.

This web page offers more photos of it than you really want to see.

All week, the weather had been pretty decent to quite good. So we were anticipating a change. NOAA mentioned high winds and rain tonight, with worse on the morrow. So with regrets, we cut the trip short a bit. But not before doing some ground work for our next visit. This shows on the map as Black Cliff. Armed with the info gleaned with my telephoto, we'll be back. Trailhead


We decided it might be prudent to skip the dirtbagging and get a room. That night, we could hear the wind from inside our hotel room. We were both awake at 4:45, so made an early escape from Ely. Not so early that we missed the storm, though.

More info

Tom's report of this trip.


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