Verdi Peak, Talbot Peak, Liberty Peak, Snowflake Peak, Fitzgerald Peak
By: Dean Acheson
A couple years ago Ted Brasket called me to say he was in the Rubys (NE Nevada) and that he was enjoying some of the finest climbing he's ever experienced. So when he called in August this year to say he was there again and did I want to join him and Neal Scott for a few peaks, we started loading up the ol' Dodge before he hung up the phone.
By the time we caught up with Ted in Thomas campground in Lemoille Canyon, Neal had already left. Early Tuesday morning, Aug 29th, we set out for Verdi Peak (11,074'). Ted, Pat, Gozer and I drove to Terraces picnic area about two miles up canyon from Thomas campground. We followed Ted to the far southwest side of the picnic area and started up a use trail which sidehilled up and to the left (northeast) for a half mile or so to a wash which runs up to the ridge south of Verdi. Leaving the wash near the top, we crossed left just below the ridge cliffs, then climbed north to the more gentle ridge northwest of the peak.
On top the views were spectacular in all directions, despite the cloud cover which was building. About two milers to the north was Talbot (11,060'), another peak on John Vitz's list of Nevada 11,000+ peaks. Ted has already climbed it earlier, but Pat, Gozer and I realized that we'd be foolish to not get Talbot cause later we'd have to do practically all of Verdi again to get there. So while the three of us dropped the 900' or so down to Verdi Lake and climbed back up to Talbot, Ted went back to the top of the wash we'd come up to climb 10,811 just south of Verdi. (Ted saw no sign of previous visitors, built a cairn and left a register.)
We were back at dusk, sipping Tocates and dipping chips into my favorite salsa, Rojo's medium. I'd introduced Rojo's to Ted on our Picacho climb last year, and he'd been wanting to get some but couldn't remember the name of it. I got a bright idea . . . knowing that Ted's memory for peaks is foolproof, we decided to name the (10,811) peak Rojos so Ted could remember the name of the Salsa. (We saw Ted this morning on his way through LA and he had no trouble remembering the name of the peak or the salsa!)
Winter must have arrived in the Ruby's the day we arrived. We'd prepared for the reported hot afternoons, but our hiking wardrobes were all wrong. Days were cool, evenings were nippy and nights were downright cold! Wednesday we tripped into Elko for breakfast and maps. Thursday morning the sun tried to extend summer a bit longer for our climb up Liberty Peak, but the rain and cold eventually won out. Liberty is trail from the end of Lemoille Canyon for about 2 miles to Liberty Pass, then an easy ridge walk the last 600' to the summit. We'd hoped to see the ridge going west to Snowflake Peak (as named on the old 15' topo) but the clouds had settled around us and we couldn't see more than a few feet. Rain teased us all the way back to camp.
Friday was rain, and we were beginning to wonder if we were going to be able to get Snowflake. Ted had been up with Neal and Jeanette 2 years earlier, and had deemed it to be the royal challenge of the Nevada 11,000'ers. Its 4th class pitch leading to the summit needed to be dry for a safe ascent. We'd made arrangements to leave Gozer with Heidi, the German shepherd belonging to Al and Marge, the friendly camp hosts, who graciously agreed to doggie sit for the day.
Saturday morning we awoke to Ted saying something about the peak wasn't going to wait any longer and off we went. We took the stock trail towards Liberty Pass almost to Lemoille Lake, then turned right to gain the ridge leading to Snowflake Peak, an imposing mass of rock cliffs daring and beckoning at the same time. It was an easy hike around to the west side where Ted's route began, but there the ease stopped, Donning our harnesses, we followed around ledges to the south and then the east, scrambling up some 4th class rock to a major ledge on the east side. We then went back to the south side and up to a 75' class 4/5 chute leading up to the summit. I walked all I around that rock block mass called Snowflake and could not see any doable route up. How Ted ever found this route, I'll never figure out. It looks impossible, but it goes. There was loose rock on the 4 class portions making the vertical climb challenging, but the holds were good and there was enough solid rock to feel comfortable.
After that round of sheer excitement, the trip over to Fitzgerald was a walk in the park (for Ted, that is, who walked the very narrow knife edge ledge to the summit; a crawl in the park for Pat and me.) The three bumps at the top of Fitzgerald play games with your vision, cause they make it look like the lower is the higher and vice versa. Actually, the furthest bump is the highest, so you have the excuse to tread across the knife-edge with the sheer drops to each side. The views are worth it with a direct full view of Gilbert and an impressive view of the impossible peak we'd just climbed, Snowflake.
Although very close to Full House, Pat and I decided we would come back another time for it and Thomas Peak. We felt fulfilled with the accomplishment of Snowflake and Fitzgerald, and enjoyed the thought of coming back to this awesome area for more climbs. We'd completed 5 of the peaks on John Vitz's list and 2 on Pete Yamagata's list.
Any of these peaks would make great companion climbs in combination with Ruby Dome. For someone to drive so far to get Ruby Dome only to hurry on to get another list peak is to miss out on some of the most beautiful and breathtaking climbs of the desert. These peaks beg to be led as exploratories, and some should be chosen for consideration as additions to our DPS in the future.
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