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2010 Blog Entries  

Mill Benchmark, Death Valley National Park, California
12/28/2010 - Mill Benchmark (3135’) is located in the southeast corner of Death Valley National Park in the Owlshead Mountains. To say that it is infrequently visited is an understatement—in fact, the register only had one previous entry. But the unique location at the easternmost end of the Owlshead group makes it compelling. A good route begins at the Black Magic Mine; high clearance 4WD is required to get there. Then the hiking route follows a long undulating ridge to the peak (and excellent navigation skills are needed). You can add Spring BM, located just above the mine, onto this hike. The views in late December were quite good including the no-longer-dry Owl Lake to the west. One can also stop along the Harry Wade Road some 3 miles west of Hwy 127 and walk north 1/2 mile to view the rarely flowing Amargosa River. A testament to the torrents of rain recently unleashed during December. 

Llama Mountain, Mineral County, Nevada
12/22/2010 - Llama Mountain (6771’) is a funky little peak on the northwest side of the Pilot Mountains in Mineral County, NV. Just a few miles southeast of the town of Mina, it’s one of those peaks that you’re guaranteed to have to yourself. Nobody hikes it, and I doubt most people even notice it while driving by on US Hwy 95, since it blends in with the rest of the range. But peaks like this offer nice workouts during the frigid winter months in the Great Basin. Although my route was a scant 2.5 miles and 1700’ gain, the steep southwest ridge provided vigorous exercise, including some class 3 scrambling. The view down to the Soda Springs Valley is excellent and mountain vistas include the Gabbs Valley Range, Gillis Range, Garfield Hills, Wassuk Range, Candelaria Hills, Excelsior Mountains, and even Boundary Peak (which is Nevada’s highest) in the White Mountains. Good stuff. 

Rocky 2 Benchmark, Churchill County, Nevada
12/17/2010 - Rocky 2 BM (5512’) is the high point of the Hot Springs Mountains in northern Churchill County. East of Fernley and not far south of Interstate 80, this easily accessible peak is rarely visited. A scant but rough drive of 7 miles from the Nightingale exit brings one to a quaint group of sand dunes at the base of the peak. It’s straight up from there, and an hour’s hike brings one to the summit, which has sweeping views. One can spot Juniper Peak in the Truckee Range, the Trinity and West Humboldt Ranges in Pershing County, Star Peak in the Humboldt Range, Job Peak in the Stillwater Range, Fairview Peak in the Fairview Range, the Cocoon Mountains, the Dead Camel Mountains, Cleaver Peak in the Desert Mountains, the Pine Nut Mountains, and in the far distance the Sweetwaters and Sierra Nevada. An excellent vantage point! 

Quail Mountains, “The Bowling Alley”, California
12/09/2010 - This surprisingly delightful range is located in an area known as “The Bowling Alley”. This is a strip of BLM land to the immediate north of the Fort Irwin military base, but south of the Owlshead Mountains and Death Valley National Park. It seems that in the past the military folks were not entirely proficient at containing their exercises to the base. For example, as I ascended Head BM recently, I encountered an undetonated round from what appeared to be a large machine gun, perhaps 50 caliber. A previous hiker had created a “campfire rock ring” around it. The entire Head area was peppered with empty machine gun shells of various sizes, which appeared to be WWII vintage. I also encountered parts of an unmanned drone that had been shot down. The Quail Mountains high point, Quail BM (5102'), also has many expended shells. The view from that summit is absolutely stunning and includes Owens Peak in the Southern Sierra; the Maturango Range peaks; Brown Peak in China Lake’s nearby auxiliary base; Mount Baldy in the San Gabriels; San Gorgonio (highest in Southern CA); a host of DPS peaks including Avawatz, Kingston, Potosi, Charleston, Stirling, Nopah, Pahrump, and Smith; the nearby Owlshead Mountains including Owl, Owlshead, and Spring BMs; and certainly last but not least, the jewels of the Panamint Range—Telescope, Sentinel, Porter, Manly, Needle, and Sugarloaf. With binoculars, I’m sure even more mountains could be identified. After visiting the Quail Mountains, I have no doubt this rarely visited area is one of the “best kept secrets” in the entire Southern California desert. 

Ibex Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
11/29/2010 - Located in the far southeast corner of Death Valley National Park, the Ibex Dunes are situated to the immediate west of the Saddle Peak Hills. From CA Highway 127 between Baker and Shoshone, one goes west on the Harry Wade Road to the signed Saratoga Spring Road. Then driving north some 3+ miles on this 4WD road puts you to the immediate west of the dunes. They are less than two miles away, with flat walking across the desert floor. The steepness of the dunes is not to be underestimated and at times it seems like you are postholing through snow. Except that snow is actually firmer than the sand. There seem to be three main dunes that have localized highpoints. To the east of the southernmost high dune you can visit some very interesting mining ruins. One delightful highlight is the play of sunlight on the sand from different angles. It is most enchanting early in the morning and makes for great photographs. There are many small plants clinging to existence in the dunes as well, and don’t be surprised to see bird and animal tracks. A great little adventure for a minimum amount of effort. 

Table Mountain, Nye County, Nevada
11/21/2010—Checking in at 10,888’, Table Mountain is the high point of the Monitor Range and centerpiece of the Table Mountain Wilderness. It is generally approached from the south, via Tonopah and Belmont, and can be combined with the Nye County high point, Mount Jefferson, to make for two nice days of hiking. This is an interesting area of long gradually ascending ridges accented with sage and aspens. The underbrush can be dense at times, but the views from the top more than make up for the effort. Standing at the summit cairn, an astute observer can spot Bunker Hill, Granite Peak, Toiyabe Range Peak, and French Peak in the Toiyabe Range; the multiple summits of Mount Jefferson, Wildcat Peak, and Shoshone Mountain in the Toquima Range; and elsewhere—Ninemile Peak, Mount Hamilton, Duckwater Peak and Currant Mountain, Portuguese Mountain, Morey Peak and Mahogany Mountain, and many others even further off. This central Nevada beauty is especially recommended in September and October when the aspens are turning. 

Quartzite Mountain, Clark County, Nevada
11/16/2010 - Just north of Las Vegas lies the Desert National Wildlife Range. Adjacent to much of the Air Force’s Nevada territory, the DNWR encompasses the Sheep Range as well as the Las Vegas Range. The latter is not as high as the Sheep Range but remains compelling. Gass Peak and Quartzite Mountain are the highlights of the Las Vegas Range, with Quartzite’s double summits checking in at 7128’ and 7133’. This cross-country hike is an interesting mixture of cactus, sage, junipers, and pinyons—a typical scene in an area that transitions from the Mohave Desert to the Great Basin. The views of Las Vegas are limited, but mountain views include: Charleston, Mummy, Griffith, Bridge, and Potosi in the Spring Mountains; Hayford and Sheep in the nearby Sheep Range; Gass Peak to the south; and further off—McCullough, Frenchman, Muddy, Wilson (AZ), Moapa, Mormon, and Virgin. An exceptional vista! 

Nevada Magazine
11/14/2010 - Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  has made it onto Nevada Magazine’s list of books for 2010.

Mount Irish, Lincoln County, Nevada
11/9/2010 - The namesake peak for the Mount Irish Range checks in at a worthy elevation of 8743’. Only two plus hours north of Las Vegas, this pinyon romp has most of its visitors arriving by helicopter. Yes, there is an installation on top of Mount Irish but no road since it is ringed by limestone cliffs. The views are impressive and many distant peaks can be identified. To the southwest looms Bald Mountain inside the Air Force’s infamous Area 51. Although it’s one of the most prominent peaks in Nevada, Bald is strictly off limits. Just behind it, one can only wonder about the occurrences at Groom Lake. Nearer at hand, the approach road to Logan Pass offers an amazingly large and diverse collection of ancient petroglyphs. These are truly a wonder to behold, and no trip to Mount Irish is complete without a stop here. This central Nevada beauty should be on every Nevada peak bagger's to-do list. 

Portuguese Mountain, Nye County, Nevada
10/30/2010 - Portuguese Mountain (9,240’) looms over Railroad Valley as the high point of the Pancake Range. Situated not far from Currant in central Nevada, this pinyon and juniper studded peak is a pleasure to hike. Using the approach from Little Ike Spring, it seems like you are on trail much of the time—wild horse trails, that is. There are hundreds of them in this area. But the real treat is the view from the top—the peaks in the distance include Diamond Peak, the Ruby Mountains, Mt Hamilton, Duckwater Peak & Currant Mtn, Wheeler Peak, Mt Grafton, Blue Eagle Mtn, Timber Mtn & Troy Peak, Kawich Peak, Rawhide Mtn, Morey Peak, Table Mtn, and Summit Mtn. As far as Great Basin peaks go, this one is a keeper! 

Duckwater Peak, White Pine County, Nevada
10/27/2010 - Duckwater Peak (11,188’) is located in the White Pine Mountains not far from Ely. It is a short but very steep hike that takes you into seldom-visited terrain. The are many bristlecone pines along the high ridge, and the far-reaching views include Mount Grafton, Ward Mountain, Diamond Peak, Morey Peak, and Portuguese Mountain. Closer at hand, the impressive northern ramparts of Currant Mountain consist of sheer limestone cliffs. This makes for some great photos—after you get done with the bristlecone and vista shots! This is another great peak to do in the fall while the colors are out. 

Cave Mountain, White Pine County, Nevada
10/20/2010 - Cave Mountain (10,735’) is located in the Schell Creek Range near Ely. It’s kind of funky in that you pay an entry fee to Cave Lake State Park, and then drive a 4WD road to the top. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have  to drive it. There are numerous places to pull off and hike the remaining distance. Deer and elk roam this area, and the aspens are gorgeous in the fall. The photography opportunities are abundant, and the view from the top is nice, though congested, due to the multiple buildings and towers. Expect views of Wheeler Peak, Mount Grafton, Ward Mountain, and Mount Moriah. It’s a great peak to do after a longer hike and worth a visit. Just be observant—it’s hunting season right now. 

Kawich Peak, Nye County, Nevada
10/13/2010 - Kawich Peak (9,401’) east of Tonopah turned out to be quite the ghastly beast. That is to say, it had some of the most serious brush I’ve ever encountered in the Great Basin. To reach the summit, I had to push through brush, crawl under brush, and climb over brush. This had the effect of giving many scrapes, gouges, and bruises. The experience was somewhat mitigated by the cool temps, but it was still a battle royale to conquer it. The views however, more than made up for the struggles. Among the many peaks visible were Boundary Peak, White Mountain Peak, Mount Jefferson, Table Mountain, Morey Peak, Currant Mountain, Troy Peak, and Irish Mountain. When combined with a rugged 4WD approach, this is certainly not a peak everyone will enjoy.  

Mount Augusta, Churchill County, Nevada
10/5/2010 - The aspens continue to amaze in the colorful canyons of the Great Basin. The weather is turning though, as evidenced by the frigid gusty winds I encountered atop Mount Augusta (9,966’) in Churchill County yesterday. One of the nice surprises was the amount of water still flowing in the high country. Each little brook had vibrant grasses along it, with the plants nearby sporting red and orange leaves. The cattle and wild horses are starting to move to lower terrain as the temps diminish. The mountaintop views were muddled, and it was difficult to spot nearby Desatoya Peak through the clouds and haze. It won’t be long now before we see snowfall at the higher elevations. 

Job Peak, Churchill County, Nevada
9/26/2010 - The brown, orange, yellow, and red colors have returned to the Great Basin. It’s autumn and it’s a bit cooler. On a recent hike of Job Peak in the Stillwater Range near Fallon, I was surprised to see a couple of coyotes drinking from the same water hole as a herd of cattle. They know how to get along and share the scarce water resources during the dry season. What wasn’t lacking was the view from the top (8,875’). Mount Augusta was nearby to the east, and farther off I could see Nevada county high points Desatoya Peak and Bunker Hill. Even Arc Dome was discernible to the distant southeast. Now is the time to be bagging these Great Basin beauties in the few weeks we have left until winter.

Highpointers Visit Northern Nevada
9/20/2010 - This past weekend, members from the Highpointers club (highpointers.org) visited northern Nevada to ascend several county high points. Included in the gathering were visitors from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.    

On Saturday night, the group of 30 Highpointers converged at Rojo’s Restaurant in South Lake Tahoe for dinner. Most had ascended Snow Valley Peak (highest in Carson City) and East Peak (highest in Douglas County) earlier that day. A tally was taken and we discovered that we had over 7000 county high point ascents among us.    

Sunday morning, most of the Highpointers headed for Mount Rose (Washoe County’s highest) while some visited the Placer County, CA high point. Located just off the Tahoe Rim Trail above King’s Beach, this is one of the “newest” county high points. For years, people thought Granite Chief (9,006’) above Squaw Valley was Placer’s high point, until one astute map reader noticed a 9040’ contour line on the west rim of Mount Baldy. And thus a new county high point was born.    

There was much enthusiasm and excitement within the group over the possibility of coming to Hawthorne next year to ascend Mount Grant. We’ve been working with the base to establish a procedure for climbers to visit our towering mountain, and many local folks have been supportive of this endeavor. We hope to have an annual access day to bring in hikers from around the country to visit Mount Grant. Here’s looking forward to a visit by the Highpointers in 2011! 

Northeast Ridge of Middle Sister, Lyon County, Nevada
9/17/2010 - Today I escorted Highpointers Rick Hartman and Bill Jacobs up the Lyon County NV high point (10,560’) on the Northeast Ridge of Middle Sister. Bill is a cancer survivor and really enjoyed adding another Nevada county high point to his collection. We had great weather, though smoke was blowing in from wildfires in the Sierra Nevada. The most amazing thing though was the color - its still very green up there for September. It looks like October will be ablaze with fall colors in the Great Basin! 

Mount Grant Access Update
9/13/2010 - Wonderful news! The Hawthorne Army Base has decided to allow one day of hiker access in 2011.    

Here is what we know so far. The access day will be on a weekend in mid to late September 2011. There will be mandatory carpooling up the Cottonwood Canyon Road to the summit parking area, and an escort will be provided. It is a short hike to the top from there. All participants will be required to submit an application well in advance of the event, so they can be screened by the Army. No pets will be allowed onto the Army base, and all participants will be required to use porta-potties (which will be located along the driving route and at the summit parking area).    

It was explained to us in the meeting that Mount Grant is an extremely sensitive environmental area and the watershed for Hawthorne and the Army base’s drinking water. Hunting is prohibited, and several species such as bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, and sage grouse live here. There are instances of 100 year old sages growing near the road, and all vehicles will be confined to the designated route.    

If the hiker access day goes well, we hope to make this into an annual event. Be sure to check the County Highpointers website (cohp.org) periodically for updates, and to download an application once it becomes available. 

Virginia Peak & Pah Rah Mountain, Washoe County, NV
9/1/2010 - As summer winds down, there is a nip in the air in the Great Basin to remind us that fall is fast approaching. I recently did two peaks on the  Great Basin Peaks List  north of Reno. Virginia Peak (8,366’) is a drive-up peak studded with microwave towers, but from that vicinity you can walk the ridgeline north to Pah Rah Mountain (8,240’). Animal sightings are common in this area, and I spotted an antelope as well as a herd of 40 wild horses. But the best reason to summit Pah Rah Mountain is the views - mighty Pyramid Lake dominates the surroundings and with binoculars you can easily distinguish the lake’s namesake rock formation. To the south, Nevada county high points Mount Rose (Washoe County) and Mt Davidson (Storey County) are visible as well as downtown Reno. This mountain is a fun and short jaunt which makes a great addition to your peak collection.

Ultramarathon Dayhikes
8/23/2010 - Now in late August, I’ve managed to do 4 ultramarathon dayhikes in the Sierra Nevada. They were: 
Coyote Peak (10,892’) - 32 miles, 9100’ gain, 18 hours
Merced Peak (11,726’) - 31 miles, 6500’ gain, 16 hours
Arrow Peak (12,959’) - 27 miles, 10300’ gain, 19 hours
Caltech Peak (13,832’) - 29 miles, 10100’ gain, 18.5 hours   

Other superb hikes were:
Angora Mtn (10,198’) - 25 miles, 6900’ gain, 12.5 hours.
Merriam Peak (13,103’) & Royce Peak (13280’) - 20 miles, 7000’ gain, 13 hours.
Mt Carillon (13,552’), Tunnabora Peak (13,563’), The Cleaver (13,355’), and Gambler’s Special (12,960’) in the Mt Whitney area - 10 miles, 7300’ gain, 13 hours. 
Mount Perkins - 16 miles, 7300’ gain, 12 hours.   

Other Sierra peaks (repeats) dayhiked this season include: Spanish Needle, Stanislaus Peak, Leavitt Peak, Disaster Peak, and Mt. Morrison (3x). 

East Peak & Tamarack Peak Articles
7/29/2010 - There were two more really good articles in today’s Reno Gazette-Journal by Maggie O’Neill. One featured the hike to East Peak , and the other was about the hike to Tamarack Peak . 

Snow Valley Peak Article
7/15/2010 - Today another excellent article by Maggie O’Neill appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal. This time is was about Snow Valley Peak , the high point of Carson City. A really nice job! 

Gold Hill Hotel Event
7/14/2010 - Last night I did an electronic slide show presentation of Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  at the  Gold Hill Hotel  in Virginia City. It’s a wonderful venue for presenting a colorful pictorial of these fine mountains, and a casual and convivial group of folks converged to enjoy it. A great evening was enjoyed by all at this historic building high above Reno and Carson City. 

North Shoshone Peak, Lander County, Nevada
7/6/2010 - Over the 4th of July holiday, I had the opportunity to hike up to North Shoshone Peak (10,313’) in the Shoshone Mountains. Located southwest of Austin, this nice little range south of SR 722 had been on my to-do list for some time. The Peterson Canyon road was non-trivial to say the least, but I did make it to the base of the peak’s northwest ridge. The canyon is a delight at this time of year with shimmering green aspens, lush grassy meadows, and blooming purple lupines. It’s a straightforward ascent up the ridge, and the route checked in at 3 miles round trip, 2300’ gain. It’s a great way to spend a few hours, though I suspect most people will opt to hike rather than drive the rugged road, thereby adding on additional mileage and gain.   

On the way back I stopped at the Pony Express kiosk on Hwy 50, 1.5 miles west of Cold Springs. This is the side trip for Desatoya Peak in  Hiking Nevada’s County High Points . Here I met Richard and Jeannette McGrath, who with their 4 horses are traveling coast to coast along the American Discovery Trail. This is one of Nevada’s wildest and least travelled routes, but it offers an exceptional look at Nevada’s superb backcountry. As the McGraths continue their journey east, their progress can be followed via their website at  www.heartsupranch.com . 

Sundance Books Signing Event
6/16/2010 - Last night’s book signing at  Sundance Books  in Reno was a complete success with many people attending to get a signed copy of  Hiking Nevada’s County High Points . Some of the notable guests included Sharon Marie Wilcox of the  Great Basin Peaks Section , Ted and Jill Oxborrow of the  American Discovery Trail Society , and  Desert Peaks Section  old timer Darryl Kuhns. Many questions were asked (and answered), with many of us sharing hiking stories. In some ways it felt more like a group of friends chatting around a campfire instead of a book signing. Near the end of the evening, I was asked to sign the cover of my book which was shrink-wrapped and placed on Sundance Book’s “Wall of Fame”, alongside many other notable authors including Senator Harry Reid. Thanks again to all those who attended! 

Toiyabe Range Hiking Loop, Lander County, Nevada
6/10/2010 - The wildflowers were ablaze in the Toiyabe Range this past weekend. I did a superb hiking loop from Kingston Canyon, which started with hiking up the Toiyabe Crest Trail to the crest. Here I turned north and followed the ridgeline for many miles, passing over Peaks 9700’ and 10,000’+. I was treated to amazing views of Bunker Hill, Edith and Archie Hills, and North Toiyabe Peak. To the south Granite Peak and Toiyabe Range Peak were visible. North Shoshone, Mt Augusta, Desatoya Peak, Mount Jefferson, and Arc Dome were all visible at various parts of this long walk. After passing Peak 10,000’+, I dropped down to the Big Canyon-Kingston Canyon saddle and strolled the Kingston Canyon Road south back to the TCT trailhead. Only a few small snow patches were encountered and a nice breeze kept it from getting too warm. A delightful saunter—if you want to repeat this fine journey (approximately 17 miles, 6100’ gain), just use the Bunker Hill driving instructions (page 87 of Hiking Nevada’s County High Points ) and stop at 7.8 miles up the Kingston Canyon Road, which is the Toiyabe Crest Trailhead. 

Mount Davidson Article
6/3/2010 - Today there is a new article in the Reno Gazette-Journal featuring a hike to Mount Davidson in Storey County.  Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  is prominently featured in this excellent article by Maggie O’Neill. 

Book Signing Announcement
5/18/2010 - On Tuesday June 15, I’ll be at  Sundance Books  in Reno to sign  Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  at 6:30 pm. The address is 1155 West 4th Street. Exit Interstate 80 at Keystone—go one block south to 5th Street and turn right into the shopping center, then turn left to get to Sundance. Coffee and tea are available if you want to sit and chat, or just browse their excellent collection for more books. 

Pilot Peak, Mineral County, Nevada
5/5/2010 - It’s the spring season and that means two things—lot of wildflowers blooming in the desert, and longer hikes to get much-needed conditioning to prepare for the grueling summer ultramarathon dayhiking season. Right now I’m keeping the hikes just under marathon length.    

Two weeks ago I did a 24 mile death march in Death Valley National Park. Now 24 miles usually doesn’t count as a “death march”, but when the heat pops up into the 80s by midday it can certainly feel like one. One of the unexpected rewards from this hike was coming across an ancient Native American hunting camp. There were thousands of obsidian shards, mostly broken or chipped arrowhead points, and several smaller tools. Like most other sites, it had been picked over pretty severely by collectors, which is sad though not unexpected.   

Last weekend I did a nice 20-mile loop of Pilot Peak from the Soda Springs Valley here in Mineral County. The lingering snow patches in the 8-9000’ elevation were inconsequential and did not impede progress. With the severe gusting winds (a recurring theme this spring) it never really did get too warm. There were many fresh red paintbrush flowers along the route—that’s the Nevada backcountry in April! 

Press Release
5/3/2010 - A  new  nationwide press release  for  Hiking Nevada's County High Points  went out today via pr.com. Book promotions never sleep. 

Retail Locations
4/18/2010 - Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  is now available at several locations in Reno, Nevada, including REI, Sundance Books, and Zephyr Books. It’s also available at the Nevada Legislative Gift Shop in Carson City and Gotta Getta Map in Las Vegas. Online, you can get it at Spotteddogpress.com and Amazon.com. 

Nevada County High Points Article in RGJ
4/12/2010 -  An article  about Bob Sumner and  Hiking Nevada’s County High Points  appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal today. 

Book Due Soon
3/13/2010 - We’re about one week away from receiving shipment of Hiking Nevada’s County High Points . Be sure to order your copy at  www.spotteddogpress.com