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2012 Blog Entries 

Northern Nevada Update
12/29/2012 – Not much has changed with the weather and conditions since the last report. The weather has been flaky with recurring snow down to the valley floors. Which means the peaks are very snowy, but more importantly, many of the access roads are snowed in. At this point, it is unlikely things will melt off significantly until March. So what's a hiker to do for New Year' weekend? Head south, of course. Death Valley National Park, the Mohave Desert, Joshua Tree, Clark County NV, Anza-Borrego and western Arizona are all available for hiking. Just be aware that it is still very chilly in many places, and that car camping is likely to be a frigid experience. Moteling it is warmer option, and you'll have a hot shower at the end of the day. Good luck and good hiking, wherever you end up!

Weather Update
12/15/2012 – The fickle nature of Northern Nevada weather continues. Where some high peaks were snow-free and great for hiking last weekend, they are now covered again under multiple inches (or feet) of the white. The snow has come all the way down to the valley floors this time, and it's also sticking on many south-facing slopes. There are several more days of snow in the forecast. So it's pretty much the end of the hiking season up here. But that means it's time to switch to warmer and lower locales, like Clark County, Death Valley, and the Mohave. Here's hoping everyone has a great holiday season, with safe travels and some nice (lower) desert peaks.

Worthington Peak, Lincoln County, NV
12/10/2012 – Another week, another change to the weather and conditions. Believe it or not, a few of Nevada's 11K peaks are hikeable right now. One example is Troy Peak in Nye County, whose south-facing route has melted off. Mount Jefferson may also go, but only until the next storm comes through...which is less than a week away. Of course, a great many of the central Nevada peaks at lower elevations are available too.

A fine peak in Lincoln County is Worthington Peak (8968'). Situated northeast of Rachel, Nevada (the town renowned for being closest to "Area 51"), this fine mountain can be approached on its east side using old mining roads. From there it's a "straight up" route through the pinyons to a steep limestone ridge studded with gendarmes. But the route goes easily, and never exceeds class 2, since there are so many options available to avoid the outcrops. The summit proffers outstanding views, from Troy Peak to the north to Hayford Peak to the south, and Kawich to the west all the way northeast to the southernmost peaks in the Snake Range. Other identifiable peaks include Reveille Peak, Quinn Canyon Range HP, Mount Grafton, Seaman Range HP, Golden Gate Range HP, Badger & Tikaboo, Mount Irish, Bald Mountain, and the southern sentinel of the Worthington Mountains, Meeker Peak (8768'). It's a husky 2000' gain in just over a mile to the top, but well worth the effort for such a centrally located Nevada 2K prominence peak.

Great Basin Update
12/3/2012 – Things have changed once again since another storm has raked across northern and central Nevada. This one brought high winds, with gusts of 100 mph over the high ridges, and property damage in some areas. Fortunately the forecasted flooding of the Truckee River did not materialize. The weather has not really stabilized though, since more showers and snow are possible during the coming week. In another words, typical late fall/early winter weather, with any outcome possible. This means snowy/icy hiking (and driving) conditions for many of Nevada's county high points, with limited/diminished chances for success. Be sure to scrutinize the weather forecast and road conditions, should you decide to head out for the high points.

Great Basin Update
11/26/2012 – It's been a couple of weeks since the last storm, and alot of the fresh snow has melted. The south facing slopes are in especially good shape right now, and snow free hikes up to 10K (and even 11K in some places) are possible. However, the temps at those elevations are mighty chilly, and a person will still need to prepare for, and dress for, extreme winter conditions if they wish to hike that high.

The lower elevations are much warmer and are generally snow free, with the exception of north-facing slopes and shaded areas. In Nevada - Clark, Nye, Lincoln, and Esmeralda Counties all have alot of hiking available right now, and the dirt roads are pretty much clear. Death Valley is also in its prime season now, and except for the Panamints, snow is likely not an issue.  

East Peak, Douglas County, Nevada
11/11/2012 – A larger storm has raked across Northern Nevada the past few days, and the snow level has fallen to 5-6K, down to the valley floors in many places. So many of Nevada's County High Points are not currently accessible, or at least are not safely and easily accessible.

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has recently completed the "Kingsbury Bypass", a segment in the Daggett Pass area (east of South Lake Tahoe). As such, there is a new segment of the Tahoe Rim Trail which starts at the Stagecoach Express ski run parking lot. The old trail starting here that went up the ski run for 200 feet has now been removed. Instead hikers should follow the Tahoe Rim Trail initially until they reach the dirt road 200' feet above. Upon reaching the dirt road, turn right and continue following the instructions on page 54 of Hiking Nevada's County High Points.

Notch Peak, Utah
10/28/2012 – The cold snap and brief storm we had last week certainly changed things across the Great Basin. The drop in temps means that most of the trees have now lost their leaves, but there are still a few spots that have some Fall color. It was also our second coating of snow, and alot more of it above 10K is now sticking, especially on the north-facing slopes.

Notch Peak (9654'), also in Millard County, is another amazing beast of a peak that graces the Western Utah desert. As such, it is regarded as a "Utah Classic", and rightly so. The western escarpment rises some 5000 feet from the floor of the Tule Valley, and stands out in stark contrast to its neighbors, especially when spotted from distant peaks like Wheeler and Moriah in eastern Nevada. This is another approach that has a good road, and most 2WD can get to the trailhead. Then it's a walk up Sawtooth Canyon, where you are treated to immense limestone cliffs towering overhead. It's a steep haul to get out of the canyon, but once you get to the ridgeline above, the views really open up. As you move west and get to the final "notch" before the summit, you can peer down into the canyon to the immediate north, and gaze in awe at the thousand foot cliffs all around. The summit views are immense and are pretty similar to Swasey Peak's vista - Swasey is the next big peak to the north. Thrillseeking summiteers will get down on their bellies and inch towards the drop-off at the northern edge - a look straight down to the canyon, some 2000 feet below. This is truly a vertigo-inducing experience, and not for the faint of heart! But it's purely optional, and the grand views can be enjoyed (and photographed) from well away from the edge. Notch Peak is a superb adventure, and should be on every desert hiker's to-do list.

Swasey Peak, Utah
10/21/2012 – The fall colors continue to impress across the Great Basin. Above 10,000' many of the leaves are gone and the trees are barren. But on the lower slopes and down in the canyons, the colors are lovely lemon yellow, deep gold, and vibrant crimson, with much green still in the mix.

Swasey Peak (9669') stands alone as the most prominent peak in Millard County. From below, the towering cliffs give hikers pause as to whether or not there is a route that "goes". There is indeed, though cliffs are not the problem. The route from the pass to the south has dense tree and brush zones, and is quite reminiscent of one of Nevada's brushiest, Kawich Peak. After making it through the brush and emerging on the high ridgeline, a rock and pine walking route leads to the top. Here the views are massive and sweeping. To the south are the partly dry Sevier Lake and Notch Peak (also in the House Range). To the distant southwest and west are Wheeler Peak and Mt Moriah in the Snake Range. Not far to the northwest is Ibapah Peak and the Deep Creek Range. To the far northeast is Deseret Peak; to the east is Fool Creek Peak, out beyond the town of Delta. One of the nice things about Swasey is the easy dirt roads - most 2WD should be able to make it to the pass, where the cross-country travel begins. Now is the time to go bag this lovely beast, since November is right around the corner, and the snows of winter can arrive at any time.

Fall Update and Deseret Peak, Utah
10/8/2012 – Over the past week, the temperatures have really dropped across the Great Basin. Gone are the daytime highs in the 90s, replaced with moderate temps in the 60s or 70s. That means the nights are chilly now - we're seeing lows in the 30s and even in the 20s in some places. That means the next weather we get will likely give us a solid dusting on our higher Nevada County High Points, and other peaks across the Great Basin.

One such peak is Deseret Peak, county high point of Toole County, Utah. At 11,031' you get the feeling you are really "up there", and the views extend across much of northern Utah. After sauntering the nice trail to the top, you'll be treated to views of the Great Salt Lake (and Desert), Mount Timpanogos in the Wasatch Range, Ibapah & Haystack in the Deep Creek Range, and Black Crook Peak to the south. You may even be able to make out Goshute Peak and Pilot Peak in eastern Nevada.

For peakbaggers, one of the things that makes Deseret Peak so special is that it is on so many lists. Not only is it a county high point and a county prominence peak, it is also on the Great Basin Peaks List. It is also one of only 57 peaks that have over 5000' of prominence in the lower 48 states. Coupled with the proximity of this peak to Salt Lake City, it's no wonder its such a popular peak - even in Fall when it's mighty nippy on top.

Charleston Peak and Death Valley Updates
9/22/2012 – The fall colors have really been coming on in the past few weeks. Whether its the interior ranges of Nevada or the eastern Sierra, the colors are developing nicely. While the leaves and weather are changing, so are some of our roads & trails. There is construction occuring at the South Loop trailhead for Charleston Peak, high point of Clark County, Nevada. The reports state that the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area and South Loop Trailhead are not currently open to the public due to renovations. However, there is an alternate route available from the Lower Cathedral Rock Trailhead, which utilizes a new connector trail. Some of the campgrounds in this area are also closed for renovations. More information can be found at the website for the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

The summer thunderstorms have not been kind to Death Valley National Park. According to the Death Valley Morning Report, there has been damage to several roads around the park. The Big Pine Road across Eureka Valley is closed, as is the Scotty's Castle Road between it and US Highway 95. There are also some new reports that the Goler Wash Road is completely washed out and impassable to ALL vehicles.

Be sure to check the road conditions in advance, no matter where you are going during your autumn adventures.

Warner Peak & Steens Mountain, Southeast Oregon
9/4/2012 – It's early September and the first leaves are starting to turn on the aspens - at least they are in southeast Oregon. This is one of the lesser visited areas of the Great Basin, and the scenery is different. It is a land of plains and ranches, mesas and deep-cutting gorges, of antelope herds and long dusty roads. But there are a few ranges that beckon desert hikers, who will be surprised at the natural beauty hidden up in the heights. The first of these is Warner Peak, the high point of Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. There are indeed many antelope about so don't be surprised to see some as you drive to the Hot Springs Campground. From here a hike of 9 miles gets you to Warner Peak (8017'), though in the early season the 4WD road may still be open, making for a much shorter hike. But when the summer and fall fire restrictions are in effect, you'll have to hoof it. About 70 miles east of the refuge is the Steens Mountain National Recreation Lands, an area highlighted by the Steens Loop Road. Starting at the burg of Frenchglen at about 4200', you'll meander up the good graded road for about 25 miles to the crest of the Steens Mountain range. Continuing south brings you to the Steens Mountain parking lot. From there an easy road hike of a half mile puts you on top (9733'). It is amazing to see all of the huge glacial cirques from up high, with the added bonus of looking down onto Wildhorse Lake (8420'). (There is a trail that goes from the same parking lot down to the lake.) While some folks may be tempted to drive back on the North Loop road, don't shortchange yourself. Descend the South Loop, where you'll be treated to views of lingering snow patches clinging to life in elevated mini-cirques, distant meadows, gushing creeks, and endless aspen groves. October is a great time for this drive too, as you'll likely enjoy magnificent fall colors. This is a very remote area and the nearest gas is far away (Lakeview, Denio Junction, or Burns), so plan accordingly.

Granite Peak, Snake Range, Great Basin National Park
8/27/2012 – August is a great time to visit Great Basin National Park. Even more so when your objective is one of Nevada's 11,000'+ peaks. At 11,218', Granite Peak is the southernmost 11K+ peak in the park, and makes for a fine hike. The driving route is the same as for visiting Lexington Arch...mostly. You stay in Lexington Creek and drive up that road as far as you can, depending on whether or not you have 4WD or 2WD. The hike itself is very direct - over 3000' in only 3 miles. You start out in a pine & aspen forest, but higher up walk through sage meadows dotted with wildflowers. The high ridgelines have an alpine feel, but how could they not with bristlecones around? The summit views are amazingly good and you can see the other big peaks in the park - Wheeler, Jeff Davis, Baker, Pyramid, Johnson, Washington, and Lincoln. You are actually looking down onto the "Highland Ridge Route", which is a traverse of the southern section of the Snake Range. Other distant visible peaks include Mount Grafton and Notch Peak, Utah. The bonus after this excellent jaunt is driving up the final segment of the Lexington Arch road to do that enjoyable hike, which checks in at about 3.5 miles and 800' gain. A great twofer as a reward for the long drive.

Northern Nevada Fire Update
8/12/2012 – There are several fires burning around the northern portions of Nevada right now, and access to multiple mountains is likely affected.

Washoe County, Lost Fire - Hays Canyon Peak (NV P2K, GBPL).

Humboldt County, Holloway Fire - Disaster Peak (GBPL) and Orevada View BM (NV P2K).

Humboldt County, Hanson Fire - Granite Peak (NV COHP), Santa Rosa Peak (NV P2K), and Buckskin Mtn (GBPL). The Lye Creek Campground has been evacuated.

Your best bet is to check with the local land management agencies before heading for these. The fire area can also be viewed using the Google Crisis Map.

Boundary Peak, White Mtns, Esmeralda County, NV
8/7/2012 – This past weekend, there was another "missing hiker" incident on Boundary Peak. A solo hiker, male, 66 years old set off alone for a dayhike of Boundary on Thursday 8/2. A fellow hiker noticed he had not returned to his car on 8/3 and alerted authorities. A search commenced but the hiker was not found on 8/4. By 8/5 more searchers from Mineral County Search & Rescue had joined in, and the disoriented hiker was located (alive) on the east ridge of Boundary Peak. This is a story with a happy ending and even more so for the searchers who found a live person instead of performing a body removal. But the man's "day hike" had turned into a 4 day & 3 night ordeal. The nights were very cold up there this past week, and the hiker relied on stream water from a drainage known to be polluted by horses and cattle (Giardia, anyone?) Plus the disoriented man gave conflicting stories to different personnel on the SAR staff. This is the most undesirable position for a hiker to end up in - relying on others to get off the mountain, often at great risk to those volunteers. And even worse, sometimes a mentally-fatigued and energy-depleted person (like this one) disbelieve or disrepect the very rescuers who are trying to help them. In this case, the lost hiker initially refused to follow the rescuer off the mountain, claiming he had "already been down that way" and the cars weren't there. (The cars were in fact visible from the ridge.)

While it's remarkably easy to regard this person as a dufus (and perhaps rightly so), it's a situation that can happen to even the most experienced of hikers. So what can be done to avoid this?

Self-education is an excellent starting point. Books like Freedom of the Hills have enlightened many generations of hikers and mountaineers about the proper procedures for safely enjoying the outdoors. Important concepts like planning are covered in great detail. I also like the yearly publication Accidents in North American Mountaineering, which includes an analysis of each accident. These are some great "tools of the trade" that can help prevent many of mistakes made by the Boundary Peak hiker. Be safe out there.

Ruby Mountains Update, Elko County, NV
8/1/2012 – Almost a month after a fire on the property of the Spring Creek Association, hiker & backpacker access has been restored. Of course, if you are planning a trip to Ruby Dome, be sure to call ahead to see what the current situation is. The phone number for the Spring Creek Association is 775-753-6295. Elsewhere in the Ruby Mountains, Liberty Peak is a great hike from road's end in Lamoille Canyon. As you saunter up the trail, you'll pass the Dollar Lakes and Lamoille Lake before switchbacking up to Liberty Pass. From the pass, it is just another half mile to the peak. Since Liberty Peak is so centrally located within the Rubies, the views are phenomenal, and it actually seems like there are "too many views" to look at. A good problem to have. Plus you might see some mountain goats - they frequent this area but are rather skittish around humans. So to spot them, you'll definitely have to wander from the beaten path. Expect views that include many peaks in the Rubies including Ruby Dome, Gilbert, Fitzgerald, Snow Lake Peak, Favre BM, Verdi Peak, Mount Thomas, Lake Peak, Wines Peak, and King Peak. Other distant peaks that can be spotted include Pilot Peak, Spruce Mountain, Ibapah Peak, and the East Humboldt Range.

Pilot Peak, Pilot Range, Elko County, NV
7/22/2012 – Pilot Peak is one of the 17 Nevada County Prominence Peaks. As such, it is just about as important (or perhaps even more important, depending on your objectives) than the Nevada County High Points. One thing is for sure: no matter how you look at it, it is a mighty fine peak! And mighty steep. Starting from the end of the 4WD road in Miners Canyon, you ascend some 4000+ feet in just barely over 2 miles. It is quite worth the effort though, to attain such a distinguished peak. Ruby Dome may be higher in Elko County, but for sheer magnificence of view, it's hard to beat Pilot. That's what prominence is all about. The views of the Bonneville Salt Flats and Great Salt Lake Desert are tremendous. A bevy of distant peaks are visible, including Deseret, Ibapah & Haystack, Goshute, Spruce, the East Humboldt Range & Rubies, and the Jarbidge Mountains. Oodles of lesser ranges are visible closer at hand, including the Silver Island Mountains to the east. Though its a rugged 4WD road for the last few miles and one of the remotest peaks in Nevada, it should be on every Nevada peakbagger's to-do list. I was happy to hike it for my final peak of the 17, and it was an added bonus that it is of historical significance.

Signal Peak, Pine Valley Mountains, Washington County, UT
7/16/2012 – A couple of weeks ago, I was in southern Utah to hike Signal Peak. I did not get very far, as the road to the Oak Grove Campground was closed some 4 miles below the campground. That would have made for a much longer hike in the already very warm temps. There is a notice on the kiosk lower down the road, just above Leeds, stating the road is closed due to extreme fire danger. The notice from Dixie National Forest can be found here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/dixie/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5376288
The trend is becoming increasingly clear: with so much dry terrain around the western United States, it's likely that hikers will encounter more fire restrictions and road closures as the season progresses. The best bet is to locate the managing agency on the web, and give them a call ahead of time to check the area's status.

Ruby Dome, Ruby Mountains, Elko County, NV
7/9/2012 – The drought is starting to take its toll and we've now got an early season peak closure, which is Elko County high point, Ruby Dome. On July 4th there was a fire on the property of the Spring Creek Association, and they are no longer issuing the key to the gate to visitors. Also, hiking access across their land has been temporarily suspended. If you are planning a trip to Ruby Dome, be sure to call ahead to see if/when hiker access will be restored. The phone number for the Spring Creek Association is 775-753-6295.

Thomas Peak, Ruby Mountains, Elko County, NV
7/1/2012 – As we already know, this year's low snow levels have created some "early" hiking opportunities. One place where this is readily apparent is the Ruby Mountains in northeast Nevada. It's not unusual to have large amounts of snow linger here, even into late July and August. But this year much of the snow is already gone, as evidenced by my ascent of Thomas Peak a few days ago. At 11,320', Thomas Peak is the 3rd highest peak in the Rubies. Starting from road's end in Lamoille Canyon, the trail to Island Lake is clear and in great shape. The wildflowers are blooming and the creeks are gushing, making for splendid scenery. From Island Lake, the route then goes cross-country northwest towards Thomas, but cuts right higher up using steep chutes and ledges to gain the east ridge of the peak. Mountain goats frequent the higher terrain, so don't be surpised to see some. Nearby and interestingly-shaped Thomas Benchmark can also be added on quite easily. The views are far-reaching and the distant ranges are numerous. The best views of course, are of the East Humboldt Range and Rubies, including Elko County high point Ruby Dome. This will be a great summer for hiking the Rubies but don't wait too long. Prime time starts now, and it's stunning and breathtaking.

Mount Grant, Mineral County, NV
6/24/2012 – This year's Mount Grant Memorial Challenge (hiker & runner access day) will be held on Saturday September 8th. To get the details and the signup form, click here.

White Mountains, Inyo County, CA
6/11/2012 – Most of the snow has melted off in the high terrain of the White Mountains. That means it's a great time to do the hike to White Mountain Peak (14,246'). It's a long walk on an old dirt road but is worth the effort - the views from the top are stunning, and it's amazing how far you can see on a clear day. For those seeking a cross-country adventure, the thirteeners north of White Mountain Peak along the crest (13,908' and 13,615') are seldom-visited. Even though you can see the structure atop White from these two, they have a feeling of being "out there" as they are off the beaten path and take considerable effort to get to. For example, the first obstacle after leaving the White Mountain Road and heading north along the ridge is a series of manly gendarmes, with rock ranging from class 2 to 5. If a person can work out the correct sequence here, they can keep it class 2-3, and make it to Peak 13,908. The terrain is easier from there to Peak 13,615. But be forewarned - if you do these two from the standard trailhead (at the locked gate some 2 miles south of the Barcroft Lab) - you'll end up with a hike of about 18 miles and 5000' gain, round trip. So you'll need to be in good shape for these two, and get an early start. Also be sure to bring plenty of warm clothing - it can be quite nippy when the wind is gusting along the crest. (As a side note, there is now a bathroom and designated parking area located at the Barcroft Gate.)

Charleston Peak, Spring Mountains, Clark County, NV
6/4/2012 – What a difference a year makes. Last year, snow and ice lingered on Charleston Peak (11,918') well into the summer months. This year, there's very little white left, and it's early June. That means its open season to hike the peak, via either the North or South Loop Trails. Neither gaiters nor ice axes are needed. Be aware though, that due to the drought, many of the usual water sources are already dry. For example, on the North Loop Trail, Cave Spring is already dry.

Another important fact to be aware of is the new Trail Canyon Trailhead, located downhill from the original trailhead. It's a large well-graded dirt parking lot, with nice new bathrooms, and can also be utilized for the hike to Mary Jane Falls.

Great Basin Update
5/27/2012 – This year, Memorial Day weekend has been something of a setback for springtime hikers. The storm that passed through was variable, but dropped fresh snow from the higher elevations (~9k and above) all the way down to 5000'. The best plan right now is to stick with lower elevation hikes. As the temps warm up this coming week, the snow will melt off fast, and it's likely many mountains will be back to their normal dry condtions by next weekend. In the meantime, this is a good opportunity to check your equipment and inventory your supplies. Don't forget to do a car inspection, and perform preventative maintenance.

Troy Peak, Grant Range, Nye County, NV
05/14/2012 – Troy Peak is yet another gigantic beastie in the "middle of nowhere, Nevada". As an 11K peak, it is hiked semi-frequently in the summer months and into the fall. This year it seemed like mid-May would be a good time for an effort, with the low to non-existent snow in many places. The peak is just a long way from anywhere, so you'll want to use a place like Ely, Lund, or Ash Springs to top off your tank. The drive in goes past the Kirch Wildlife Area, which seems to be popular with ducks. The last 8 miles into the Scofield Canyon roadhead are not too bad, though high clearance 4WD will be needed for the last 2 miles or so. The end of the road is a great camping spot. The peak itself is just ghastly steep, and just never backs off. You'll do 3700' gain in only 2.5 miles, a good workout for sure. The rewards are towering limestone cliffs, bristlecone pines, and views of central Nevada that are so distant and amazing they defy description. There is also the option of approaching (or exiting) via Cherry Creek Canyon, but once again, you might need a 4WD for that route. With the remoteness and fuel requirements taken into consideration, this lovely high alpine peak is one that requires a bit of extra planning. Don't skimp in this regard, and you'll have an enjoyable trip.

Western Peak, Roberts Mtns, Eureka County, NV
05/06/2012 – There are some peaks that are really "way out there" in the Nevada Outback and Western Peak is certainly one of them. To get in (and out) for this one, you'll have over 70 miles of dirt road driving. You'll pass through a ranch and various mining operations. But by the time you get to the starting point, there'll be no doubt left that you'll have this peak to yourself. It's steep (2300' gain in 1.5 miles) with endless dithering through dense pinyon groves. There is also abundant deadfall and underbrush to deal with. But once you arrive on top, you can be certain this is a Nevada view that very few people have ever experienced. You're treated to views of Roberts Creek Mountain, Antelope Peak, the Simpson Park Mountains, Nye County high point Mount Jefferson & the Toquima Range, Mount Callaghan & the Toiyabe Range, Mount Lewis, Mount Tenabo, the Ruby Mountains, and numerous valleys to the north. And whichever route you take, you can probably consider that no one has ever visited any given spot you're at. That's just how remote Western Peak is - untramelled by the masses and rarely visited even by hard-core peakbaggers.

Another Spring Update
05/04/2012 – Spring is rapidly transitioning into summer in the Great Basin. Peaks that only a few weeks ago were covered in a thousand feet of snow are now barren, or quickly melting off. Ground that was recently buried under the snowpack is now coming alive. Grass and flowers are shooting up rather quickly.

What this means is that prime time for hiking Nevada's County High Points is now under way. Several that are already available, and are snow free or mostly clear, include Snow Valley Peak, Mount Davidson, NE Ridge of Middle Sister, and Diamond Peak. Several others, like Boundary Peak and Mount Rose, are close. Some of these peaks might need another 2-3 weeks, which means they will be ready to go by Memorial Day. A friend of mine also did Desatoya Peak yesterday with no snow problems at all.

All in all, it looks like it's shaping up to be a great late spring and early summer hiking season. The caveat to this though, is that with the low snowpack some of the usual water resources may not be available, or will be diminished.

This is a great time to review and analyze your hiking equipment and supplies. Check your shoes to see if they are nearing replacement. Stock up on supplies like Clif Bars and energy drinks that you know you'll be consuming in the coming months. And don't forget to check your car! A properly maintained and functioning car is critical to your success in pursuing your peakbagging objectives.

Great Basin Spring Update
04/22/2012 – What a difference a week makes. Even as recently as last weekend, many of the mountains around northern Nevada were sporting a fresh coat of white. There was even up to 3000 feet of new snow in some places. But the temps really warmed up over the past week, reaching into the 80s and even spiking into the low 90s. As a result, that fresh dusting has come off, and alot of the older snow has melted too. Peaks up to 11K can now be done via their south facing slopes, in some places. Many of the 9K and 10K peaks may be hikeable from even more directions. The grass is sprouting and the flowers are blooming. Though we are now forecast to cool down to "normal April" temperatures over the coming week, alot of winter's mantle is gone, and won't be coming back. The coming cooling trend should be taken advantage of, as it will be a great opportunity to squeek in some more peaks in the 6-8K range before it heats back up again. May is right around the corner, and its shaping up to be a great month for hiking.

Monte Cristo Mountains, Nye County, Nevada
04/16/2012 – Sometimes the mountains of Nevada can be confusing. For example, let's look at the Monte Cristos and the Anns. The north end of the Monte Cristo Mountains start in Mineral County, become higher farther south in Nye County, then peter out into the Gabbs Valley (once again back in Mineral County.) Of course, the Monte Cristo Mountains should not be confused with the Monte Cristo Range, which is in Esmeralda County, northeast of Coaldale (the junction of US Highways 6 and 95.) Then within the Monte Cristo Mountains, the northern named peak is Mount Anna (6908') and the southern named peak is Mount Annie (6642'.) Anna is the range high point; Annie is a nice peak but carries no special signficance. Neither peak is very difficult, and you can get pretty close to either one, utilizing 4WD roads. And the views are outstanding from either peak, and include: Fairview Peak, Slate Mtn, Big Kassock and the Sand Springs Range HP, Sinkavata Hills, Pilot Cone, the Gillis Range, Mineral County high point Mount Grant, Sweetwater Mtns, Mt Ferguson and the Gabbs Valley Range, Pilot Mtns, Cedar Mtns, Paradise Range, Lodi Hills, Broken Hills, Churchill County high point Desatoya Peak, and many others. Both of these nice peaks can be bagged in a day, separately, or can be done as a traverse using a car shuttle. Good views guaranteed!

Healy Peak, Churchill County, Nevada
04/08/2012 – Healy Peak (8847') is located on the northeast end of the Clan Alpine Mountains in Churchill County. It's approached from US Highway 50 in the Edwards Creek Valley, between Middlegate and Austin. After about 16 miles of dirt road driving, you start from the max 4WD parking spot in Byers Canyon. As you drive along and observe the landscape, charred by a fire from a past year, its easy to conclude that the peak will be boring or ugly. This is not the case though, especially in spring. The creek is flowing, and grass and other native vegetation have already returned to the creekbed. Antelope are present near the mouth of the canyon, and birds are active throughout it. There are many creek crossings initially and it is difficult to keep your feet dry. But eventually the old road brings you to a high ridgeline, and the summit is a mere 700' beyond. The views are sweeping and include Churchill County high point Desatoya Peak, Mount Augusta (high point of the Clan Alpines), Job Peak, Star Peak, Mount Tobin, Mount Callaghan, New Pass Peak, Bunker Hill (Lander County high point) and the Toiyabe Range, the Shoshone Range, and Dixie Valley. Like many of the central Nevada beasties, its rarely visited, and there were only 10 register entries going back to 1993. Its another remote one where you will undoubtedly find some solitude.

Buffalo Mountain, Churchill/Lander County, Nevada
03/31/2012 – Buffalo Mountain (7603') is a rather obscure but interesting peak at the southwest end of the Desatoya Mountains. Just like Churchill county high point, Desatoya Peak, Buffalo resides right on the Churchill County/Lander County line. It is an easy hike from the vicinity of Buffalo Summit, which has a very good dirt road crossing over it. This yields a hike of only around 2 miles and 800' gain. It is lovely country - pinyons, junipers, and sage - with fairly open terrain. And the views are just utterly amazing: Augusta & Healy in the Clan Alpine Mountains, Desatoya Peak, Bunker Hill (Lander County high point) and Arc Dome in the Toiyabe Range, North & South Shoshone and Ardivey Peak in the Shoshone Mountains, Sherman & Paradise in the Paradise Range, Lodi Hills, Monte Cristo Mountains, the Fairview Range and many others too numerous to mention. In the far distance, you can also spot Esmeralda County high point (and state high point) Boundary Peak, and Mineral County high point Mount Grant. This peak truly offers one of the most stunning views in all of Nevada, and can be done when snow still coats the higher ranges. But most unbelievable of all - the peak has had only 5 ascents since 1993. I suspect that due to the proximity of so many higher peaks, it will remain a seldom-visited peak.

Reveille Peak, Nye County, Nevada
03/25/2012 – After many days of sunshine, much of the fresh snow has already melted. It was enjoyable watching the snow level quickly creep back up to 9K - this meant alot more possibilities had just opened up for central Nevada hikes. I selected Reveille Peak in the range of the same name. This peak is west of NV State Route 375 (the Extraterrestrial Highway) not far north of Rachel. While there were no alien visitors about, there were lots of cows - hundreds in fact - grazing the open range where I parked, some 5 miles east of the peak. After crossing 3 miles of uphill scrub slopes, the terrain quickly changed along the ridgeline. It was a rock and pinyon affair, including many minor spots of scrambling. The summit views were amazing, and folks with a discerning eye (or binoculars) can pick out Groom Lake far to the south (alleged home of the Air Force's "Area 51".) Nearer to the peak, great views are had of Kawich Peak and Range, Worthington Peak, and Mount Irish. Farther out, Troy Peak, Currant Mountain, Morey Peak, Table Mountain, and Mount Jefferson are visible. This peak gets visited about once or twice a year only, which is surprising for a 2K prominence peak. It's a fun jaunt to one of the remotest peaks in Nevada, and well worth the time and distance involved to get there.

Great Basin Update
03/19/2012 – The weekend storm has passed and fresh snow coats the mountains of the Great Basin. Here in Mineral County, the snow level appears to be 9K in the Wassuk Range, and about 8K in the Gillis Range, a rather strange juxtaposition since the Gilllis Range is further east and lower. That means highly variable snow levels throughout the mountains of Nevada. The weather forecast shows mostly good weather for the coming week. Best guess - try for peaks below 7K, and you should be snow free. 6K peaks should be the sweet spot, and I would expect that Death Valley and the Mojave will be great for hiking right now.  

Bronx Butte, Inyo Mountains
03/12/2012 – As promised by the weather forecasters, the past weekend was sunny and warm. That allowed the opportunity to hike Bronx Butte (10,151'), the southern neighbor to New York Butte in the Inyo Mountains of California. Although sometimes classified as a "trans-Sierra range", the Inyos are also a Great Basin range, and one that reaches up to 11,123' atop Waucoba Mountain. The Inyo Crest Road from the old mining town of Cerro Gordo was still snow-drifted in many places, so hiking up to Bronx Butte from the bottom (Owens Valley) was the best choice. I selected Long John Canyon for the ascent, a classic route, with remnants of an old miner's trail. It is not the easiest route to follow, but for those acquainted with the "sketchiness" of Inyo trails, it is indeed a usable path. There was the added bonus of stopping at the Burgess Cabin, an old miner's cabin located just off the Crest Road immediately south of the peak. The views from atop the mountain were rather stunning and revealed much lingering snow on the east side of the Inyos. The Sierra Nevada, of course, commanded much attention for the viewer. But it is not looking like March in the Sierra, and much of the normal snow is absent. A new round of storms is forecast for later in the week - will they bring about a significant change in the Sierra snowpack? And how much white will the storms bring to the Great Basin ranges? Stay tuned for new developments in the coming weeks. As one person just stated, "Winter has arrived just in time for Spring".

Great Basin Update
03/05/2012 – While we've certainly had storms over the past few weeks, and have received some snowfall, it's still been a pretty negligible winter in the Great Basin. Alot of the early snow has melted, and many of the peaks are open again. This includes peaks in the 10-11K elevation range, whose south-facing slopes are looking rather barren in places. The daytime temps have popped up, and have reached the 70's in the valleys. While it's still cool (and oftentimes windy) up higher, the mountains in the 7-9K range are superbly compelling. What does all of this mean? A certain phrase has been bandied about lately, and it's not necessarily good news. We've got about 8 more weeks to get some significant moisture, or this may indeed be a "drought year". There have been some "last minute miracles" in the past, wherein a whopper storm hits in May. But high pressure over the West has been a recurring theme this winter, and it's still happening. So what's a peakbagger to do? I'll be looking to try some higher peaks in the coming weeks, but will still be carrying alot of extra warm clothing. I'll be expecting warmer hikes, but be prepared for last minute weather changes. And I'll still be favoring south-facing routes, to avoid lingering snow and ice on the northern slopes. It's an issue of proper planning and common sense at weird times like this, and when in doubt, be conservative and remember we have only about 13 hours of daylight right now. Factor that in and plan appropriately.

Surprise Canyon & Panamint City, Death Valley NP
02/27/2012 – Panamint City is one of the most well-known and difficult-to-access ghost towns in California. Starting from the trailhead at Chris Wicht Camp (2600'), one hikes up the canyon for 5 miles and 3700' gain to Panamint City (6300'). Mining in this area goes all the way back to the late 1800's, and resumed briefly during the 1980's. Debris from the initial era, as well as more modern remains, are strewn throughout the canyon. When I last hiked this route in 1999, most of the old road through the canyon was still discernable and easily hikeable. (Many improvements to the road, especially at the falls, were made in the 1990-91 timeframe when extreme four-wheeling was allowed in the canyon.) But time and flash floods have had their way with Surprise Canyon, and gone are the days of strolling up the road. The first 2 miles from Chris Wicht Camp (aka "Novak's Camp)" are now solid riparian, which in layman's terms means there is alot of freaking brush. Many footpaths meander through the riparian areas, but not all of them go. Many are dead-ends, and end in walls of brush. Therefore it is slow going, both uphill and downhill, to decipher the path of least resistance. Water remains abundant in Surprise, and the best way to tackle the cascades is to walk right up them. It means getting wet, but that will happen anyway since the creeks often flow right down the hiker's trails. The City has also changed over the last 20 years, with some of the cabins having missing doors, and the corrugated walls to the mechanic's shop having been removed. But it's still well worth the hike, and the Main Cabin and "The Castle" Cabin are still in great shape. If you decide to do this hike, be prepared for slow and tedious route-finding, soaked shoes and socks, and views that are to die for. One backpacking party I came across was not prepared for the hardships of canyoneering, and turned back after only 2.5 miles.

Death Valley 1000' Prominence List Finish
02/20/2012 – This past Saturday I found myself doing one of those hikes that comes along rather infrequently...a List Finish hike! A few years ago, Andy Martin put together a list of the 1000-foot prominence peaks in Death Valley National Park. It is a really nice list, 51 peaks total (55 if you count the "just missed" peaks on page 2, which I also did.) The most interesting thing was that nobody had ventured to do this particular list, and I was apparently the first. Several of the obscure peaks had no registers, nor even any summit cairns. Other peaks were visited only once every 5-10 years, based on the sign-in gaps in those registers. It is truly an adventure list, and several times the phrase "nobody ever comes here" flitted through my mind. The final summit, Peak 6015, is in a truly remote area of the park. Starting from the quarry at the end of the road beyond Hole-in-the-Wall, the hiking route checked in at 17.5 miles and 3900' gain, and included nearby Peak 5960 (450' prominence.) The limestone rock walls out there are hundreds of feet high, and are riddled with caves that are probably visited only by bats. Bighorn sheep frequent this area, as evidenced by their abundant tracks and droppings. But the real reward was the view, which was gigantic. The entire Amargosa Valley stretched out into the distance, with peaks visible from the Sierra Nevada to the Spring Mountains. I couldn't have planned a nicer desert peak for this finish. If you'd like to view this list, click here. The list is a keeper, and I expect many "desert rats" like myself will pursue it in the years to come.

Schwaub Peak, Death Valley National Park, California
02/12/2012 – The good weather in Death Valley National Park has continued into February. For folks with 4WDs, a really fun ascent is Schwaub Peak (6440') in the Funeral Mountains north of Highway 190. The turnoff is only two miles east of Furnace Creek Resort, and after a few short miles you enter Echo Canyon. Here the scenery becomes amazing and you gaze up at towering rock walls as your vehicle slowly meanders up the canyon. There is a really neat "window" in one of the rock walls too. Further along, you pass by the ruins of the Inyo Mine, a locale with many photographic opportunities and short hikes. Finally, you park at road's end about a mile beyond the Inyo Mine. Here any of several ridges to the southeast will get you on your way up to Schwaub. Once there, you'll be treated to one of the best views found anywhere in the park. Nearby peaks include Winters Peak, Pyramid Peak, and Mount Perry. Further out, one can spot Charleston Peak (high point of Clark County, NV), Telescope Peak (highest in Death Valley National Park), the Sierra Nevada, the Inyos, Funeral Peak, Nopah Peak, Tin Mountain, Tucki Mountain, Grapevine Peak, and others too numerous to mention. A great hiking guidebook for this area is Desert Summits by Andy Zdon, which can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Peak 6960, Death Valley National Park, California
02/06/2012 – The first couple of winter storms have come and gone, and the snow is already melting (or melted) from many places. It's still very nippy up high, but the lower valleys have some great camping locales that don't generally fall below the 30's at night. Eureka Valley is one such place, and there are oodles of hikeable peaks ringing the valley. So I found myself ascending the seldom-visited Peak 6960 over the weekend, just east of the Eureka Dunes. (It's a sand road approach to get around the east side of the dunes, so 4WD is mandatory.) The ridges are steep and rocky, and lined with seemingly endless limestone gendarmes. But there are numerous ways to bypass these obstacles, for hikers who don't mind a bit of steep scrambling. The views from the summit were stunning, and included the Sierra Nevada, Inyos, White Mountains, and Grapevines. Nearby prominent peaks really stood out like Last Chance Mountain, Sandy BM, Tin Mountain, Marble BM, Dry Mountain, Saline Peak, and Waucoba Mountain. And best of all - there was nary a drop of snow on this peak - at an elevation of almost 7000'. That's why the desert rats (like me) repeatedly turn to Death Valley National Park in the dead of winter - no matter how cold it gets, there are always peaks available to hike.

Monte Cristo Range, Esmeralda County, Nevada
01/28/2012 – Just two weeks ago, the Great Basin ranges of Nevada were largely devoid of snow. But with the arrival of the first real storm of the winter, many locales are now coated in deep layers of white. Yet that doesn't mean desert hiking is over until spring. Take the Monte Cristo Range in Esmeralda County for example. Located northeast of the junction of US Highways 95 and 6 at Coaldale, this fun little range has plenty of peaks in the 6-7K elevations. While the area high point, Cristo Benchmark (7,996'), is looking a bit frosty right now, there are several other peaks that are lower and mostly snow-free. Castle Peak (6,145'), Norman Benchmark (7,474'), and Gilbert Benchmark (7,031') all have routes that are hikeable, post-storm, with dirt road approaches having little or no snow. There is also the enchanting "Esmeralda Badlands", a colorful canyon on the south end of the mountains. This range is one of those fun "winter secrets", since so many folks drive right past it without stopping to visit. But if you do stop for a hike, you'll likely have the peaks to yourself, with many photographic opportunities as an added bonus.

Great Basin - Late January Report
01/21/2012 – It certainly took alot longer than usual, but winter has finally arrived in the Great Basin. As of this morning, the snow level was down to 5000-6000 feet in many places, and the higher elevations have received at least a foot. And more snow is forecast over the next several days. This is an excellent time to hike the lower elevation peaks in the Nevada and California deserts. Many lovely places beckon, like Death Valley and Southern Nevada, though they will still be very chilly and you'll need to dress warmly. A superb book to help you find some of these adventures is Desert Summits by Andy Zdon. It covers many of the excellent lower peaks near Las Vegas, including peaks in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It also covers many great peaks in Death Valley National Park, and peaks south of there in Mojave National Preserve. Over 320 different peaks are covered in this text and it is worth every penny. Get your copy of Desert Summits at spotteddogpress.com.

White Mountains, Mono County, California
01/14/2012 – This has been one of the dryest winter seasons in recorded history for much of the Great Basin. While we really need the water (and snow is now in the forecast), the dryness has created some unexpected and amazing hiking opportunities. Just a few weeks ago, within the winter season proper, I was able to drive up the White Mountains Road to 11,500', and do so without any snow or ice issues. The higher elevations are quite brisk and frostbite was a genuine concern, so I opted for quick and easy peaks just off the road. Some of these were bumps like Limestone Peak (12,240') and Mexican Mine Peak (10,640'). The views were sharp, clear, and expansive. It would have been entirely feasible to hike to White Mountain Peak (14,246') had it been a little less windy. And it still is hikeable - at least for a few more days, and only with proper winter-quality clothing. Snow may arrive by the end of this coming week, and that will certainly change everything. It may be many months before the high peaks of the Great Basin open up again. So get out there and get some while you can - time is running short.

Roberts Creek Mtn, Roberts Mtns, Eureka County, NV
01/02/2012 – Towering over the central section of Eureka County, Roberts Creek Mountain (10,134') is a short and fun hike, regardless of whether you have 2WD or 4WD. From NV SR 278, on the east side of the range, you drive in many miles along Vinini Creek to the high pass dividing that creek and Roberts Creek. You can park here, yielding a hike of around 5 miles round trip, or continue along a steep and severely rocky 4WD road to within a mile of the peak. There is some brush, but most of it can be avoided. The views are immense, and include the Ruby Mountains, Diamond Peak (high point of Eureka County), Bunker Hill (high point of Lander County, Mount Lewis (most prominent in Lander County), and so many more ranges and peaks in various directions that it is difficult to count them all. Roberts Creek Mountain is no slouch itself, and ranks among the "Fifty Finest" (for prominence) in Nevada. You can hike this peak on a weekend trip, as a bonus peak to Diamond Peak, or combine it with nearby Western Peak (9,061), also in the Roberts Mountains. Assuming you have good weather, you certainly won't be disappointed with your time on the summit!