Muddy Mountain, Muddy Highpoint
By: Ted Brasket
Over Thanksgiving, my wife Lorry and I camped just north of Hidden Valley. It's a great camp spot with several acres of parking and it is separated from the five-mile long Hidden Valley by high rock formations There's a trail from the south end of the large camping area that takes you up through the rocks and over a pass overlooking the spectacular valley. It's a half-hour hike from camp over the pass and down to the valley floor. This valley is a special place - you have to see it to believe it. This camp spot is great for hikers as well as climbers. Exploring the rock formations there is worth the trip.On Thanksgiving morning, Lorry and I hiked over the pass and down into the valley. The main wash from the valley goes out the north end of the valley. We hiked down this wash, through a narrow high-walled canyon for a nice loop back to camp. At the northern end of the canyon is a well-built stone cabin at the location of "Color Rock Quarry," no longer in operation. There are no visible sign of the rocks ever being disturbed there. On October 13, we camped by this main wash, a half-mile below the cabin. Jeanette Vincent and I did the 12+ mile round-trip to climb Muddy Peak. The named peak is a bit lower than the Muddy high point, but is a more challenging trip. From a saddle at the south end of the valley, go east up a steep, loose ridge then south over three 3rd class ridge points to the steep, exposed 3rd class summit climb. Just under eight hours for the round-trip climb. From this same saddle, you go west up to the crest then south to the summit of the high point. These peaks are across from each other, separated by Lovell Wash. There's a bit of route finding on this class 2 route. These are interesting peaks and one of them is on Pete Yamagata's Nevada peaks list. I'd propose that maybe both should be on the list. In a conversation with Bob Michael before the trip, I said we'd do both these peaks on the same day. He said we'd better leave real early. No way could we do them in one trip. From the saddle, they each took an hour and a half of hard labor to the summit. Stronger people could probably do it, but it would be a long day. To the southwest of camp, and not much more than 1/2 mile in distance and 1,300' of gain is an extremely rugged little peak. It's 4,240' in elevation. We got back to camp early from our Thanksgiving Day loop hike and I decided to have a go at this little peak. Lorry studied the peak with her binoculars and found a rock formation in a notch, just to the east of the small summit, that looked like a Monk with robes on. It was a stiff climb up to the Monk with a 1,300' gain in about half a mile. I waved at Lorry and patted the Monk on the head several times. It took an insecure-feeling move of about 8' to get on the ridge. When I could see over, there was nothing but space on the other side, and the ridge was only about one foot wide. This is where I got that funny feeling running up and down my spine. You know - that feeling with all the years you've climbed. I was able to walk part-way on this ridge, then it got too irregular, so with hands on the ridge and feet on the outside of the ridge, I made the 30-35' trip to the five- foot wide summit. After waving at Lorry and while I was still on my adrenaline high, I started back. You can imagine how the insecure climb to the ridge was on the down climb. When I go back there, I'll rap off the summit. No human signs on top. No summit cairn, no register or cigarette butts. Lorry watched all this foolishness through her binoculars and had an upset stomach when I got down. Gave that Monk a few extra pats on the way by, and I'm not even religious. The next day, November 29, I soloed the high point with another 12+ mile round-trip journey. There was the largest herd of big horns I've ever seen at the saddle. They kicked some rocks loose and the rock fall got my attention. I watched them go up the ridge the same direction I was traveling. They went up a narrow chute, traveling single file so I was able to count them. There were 21 sheep. What a gift! Hoped to see more of them on up, but they hid from me. The round-trip was just under 8 hours. If you added four more hours, and were a very strong hiker, you could do both peaks. It would be a real energy burner.
Drive instructions to fine campsites: About 35 miles northeast of Las Vegas on I-15 take exit #75, signed "Valley of Fire" exit. Follow the paved road 3.2 miles. The paved road swings left here and a dirt road continues straight off the paved road. Drive this dirt road 4+ miles and turn right on an unsigned road. After a short distance on this road, you cross a wash. Turn left just beyond the wash toward the mountains. Good views of the two high points of the Muddy Mountains can be seen to this point. Continue on this road, crossing two washes and going over the hills for about 3 miles (staying on the main road over the hills and down the other side, you come to a junction). A sign for Color Rock Quarry goes straight. Turn right at the junction, crossing a wash and going uphill half a mile to camping. You have great views of the rugged class 4 peak 4,240' on the last three miles of the drive.
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