Mount Irish (Nevada)
By: Bob Michael
As one whose ancestry traces back to the Auld Sod of the Emerald Isle, "Vegas" George Quinn has wanted to climb Mount Irish in western Lincoln County for many years. The unusually cool late spring this year provided us an opportunity to do this peak over Memorial Day, since everything much higher was snowed in. We've come to expect many surprises in back-country Nevada, and this peak was no exception. We found some splendid petroglyphs and a lost-world relict forest, along with a fine Mexican restaurant in a most improbable location.
Irish, like most southern Nevada peaks, is an upfaulted chunk of paleozoic sedimentary rocks, mostly limestone with quartzite. Unlike most in this area, the beds have been lifted straight up with little rotation, so they are pretty much flat-lying, like buttes on the Colorado Plateau to the east. A massive, resistant quartzite unit whose top is at about the 8,000-foot level provides both the "crux" of the route from the south, and the erosional floor for the summit plateau were the "lost" forest grows.
We approached the peak from the Pahranagat Valley to the southeast. We breakfasted where we had dined the night before, at the Mexican restaurant attached to the general store in Alamo, We weren't expecting too much, and we were delighted to find some really excellent Mexican home cooking - highly recommended. The unsigned dirt road to Logan Pass takes off from Nevada Highway 318 on the west shore of a reservoir about a mile north of the Hiko post office. It's very easy to miss, especially because there's a closed (unlocked) fence gate where the road takes off. This fairly good 2WD road (marginal high clearance) passes some bouldery rhyolite passes some bouldery rhyolite outcrops about 6 mi W of the highway. As we approached them, I thought, "What a great place for petroglyphs!"...and as we passed the rocks, there was a bighorn sheep in the desert varnish about 30 yards S of the road. Closer inspection revealed quite a nice tableau. There is more rock art a bit further W, on the N side of the road; a BLM sign proclaims the "Mount Irish Petroglyph Site". 2 mi W of the glyphs, the better road goes left to the abandoned townsite of Logan; the Logan Pass road veers right, steepens,and deteriorates. A 4WD could have made it to the pass, but we left my 2WD truck at about 6500' when the rear wheels began to spin out. Our chosen route began at the pass, heading N up a ridge. Beginning at about 7850', the tough quartzite formation caps this ridge, and going was slow and tedious up and down blocks and mini-crags. (We found a better descent route to the E that avoids this tiresome stretch.) The quartzite forms a fairly continuous cliff band, and we were glad to find a cl 2 passage through it at the spot shown. Above this point the route flattens out to the summit plateau; a few scattered Ponderosas and white fir appear. When you cross a ridge into a broad central valley, you suddenly enter a Ponderosa fir forest (with even a few bristlecones). For how many eons has this forest been isolated? We're hardly botanists, but it looked to us like inbreeding has occurred among the white firs, producing a variant. They show a marked tendency towards multi-trunked forms instead of the typical "Christmas tree" shape.
As the summit is on the far (N) side of this plateau; going up the south side, one reenters the pinyon/mountainmahogany zone. Regretfully, the top is defaced with a robot electronic site; at least, it's accessed by helicopter, so there is no road. The register records mostly military-types with helicopter "ascents", although a University of Nevada botanical survey team exulted in "Pristine Nevada montane vegetation (NO COWS!)". We could see pretty much across the southern half of the state, from Charleston to Virgin (!) to the solid white Snake Range (Wheeler) to Jefferson. Much closer, to the southwest, is a peak we will not be climbing soon, 9,348' Bald Mountain, highpoint of the Groom Range. This peak overlooks the nonexistent (according to the Air Force) Area 51, where there is officially nothing but a dry lake and some creosote bushes. However, so special are these creosote bushes that the Air Force has withdrawn Bald Mountain from public entry and surrounded it with motion sensors and "Use of Deadly Force Authorized" signs* And, we are happy to report that nothing out of the ordinary is back there; we observed no UFO formation hovering over the top-secret creosote bushes.
*These spooks mean business. A few years back, George and his son Peter were doing a little exploring and maybe a little envelope pushing in that area when a helicopter came out of nowhere and buzzed them.
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