By: Wes Shelberg
Mormon Peak Exploritory
The Mormon Mountains are a long, north/south trending, Great Basin range in southern Nevada. This enormous desert range is north of Lake Head and east of the Sheep Range, the latter featuring Hayford Peak which is on the DPS peak list. The Mormon Mountains are located on the Chevron (Standard Oil Co.) Road Map of Nevada (1973 Edition), and better on the National Geographic Society map, "Close-up - U. S. A. - California and Nevada", published in June 1974. Essentially, the southern terminus of the Mormon Mountains is the steeply inclined, 6471-ft. Moapa Peak whose spectacular appearance most certainly invites future exploration and climbing by desert peakers. Moapa Peak is shown on the Moapa Peak Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Min), and is approximately 9.5 miles north, as the crow flies, of Interstate 15 (the freeway between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah) when the freeway location is approximately nine miles east of Glendale, Nevada. It is superbly visible from Interstate 15. The 7414-ft. Mormon Peak (North Mormon benchmark) is the highest in the range, is located approximately eight miles north of Moapa Peak, and from Hayford Peak has a compass bearing of 60 degrees and a distance, as the crow flies, of about 44 miles. Mormon Peak is shown on the Moapa Peak NW quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Min) and the Rox NE Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Min). The bench-mark is on the former.
Jack Grams and I explored and climbed Mormon Peak. When we were about 800-ft. (elevation) below the summit, six desert bighorn sheep viewed us for awhile, then ran up the peak in single-file to disappear near the summit, and finally re-appeared to run single-file down an adjacent shoulder of the mountain. Mormon Peak summit views show that the range is free from offensive mining scars, roads and other human depredation, and engender a feeling of wildness, freedom and isolation. The summit supports a sparse growth of pinyon pines, cactus, mountain mahogany and other desert shrubs. It reveals several rugged 6000-7000-ft. peaks of the range which appear difficult of access because of terrain, steepness and lack of jeep routes. The summit provides expansive and distant views of the impressive escarpment of the East Mormon Mountains; badland, mesa and mountain topography reaching into Nevada, Utah and Arizona; blue Lake Mead far to the south; and the long Sheep Range to the west.
Road and climbing directions follow. Proceed north-east from Las Vegas on Interstate 15 for 48 miles to Nevada State Highway 7. Proceed north-west (toward Moapa) on Hwy. 7 for 2.8 miles to intersect a good gravel road which goes north on the east side of the Union Pacific Railroad. Details to this point are shown on the AAA San Bernardino County Road Map (Lake Head side), and you are on the Moapa quadrangle (NV, 15-Min).
Turn north and stay on the gravel road paralleling the railroad for 18.4 miles. This road is shown on the aforementioned AAA and topo map, but may not be shown on some oil company road maps. At roughly 11 miles from Hwy. 7, the road goes through an underpass to the west side of the railroad. This is on the Farrier Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Min). At 13.4 miles from Hwy. 7 (just before Rox, Nevada which doesn't amount to much), you underpass the railroad a second time under a large steel bridge. Continue for another 5.0 miles from the bridge staying on the main road.
At a point 18.4 miles from Hwy. 7, you are roughly half-way up the Rox Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Min) at a location labeled "Borrow Pit" on the map. Borrow Pit is a sand/gravel excavation below the road on the west side, has some decrepit wire protecting its upper lip, and is at the mouth of a readily visible wash that heads toward the east. Take the "unimproved road" (faint auto tracks) shown on the topographic map and leading east up the wash, and continue even though the tracks may occasionally be covered with a veneer of sand. If you don't have 4-WD, you will have to judge whether you might get stuck in sand; ordinary cars could have passed safely when we were there. Measuring from the Borrow Pit: at 2.0 miles the tracks leave the wash and are easily followed, at 4.8 miles there is a small dip where long and low cars might scrape bottom, and at 6.5 miles you are at the end of the road and at the "route-head". The entire unimproved road to the route-head is seen by combining the Rox and the Rox NE Quadrangles (both NV, 7.5-Min).
The following Map #1 shows the route-head and the climbing route taken for Mormon Peak. It reproduces a section of the Rox NE Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Mm). While this is the critical quadrangle for climbing, its eastern edge bisects Mormon Peak, and the benchmark is depicted on the adjacent Moapa Peak NW Quadrangle (NV, 7.5-Mm) at a point about one millimeter from its western edge. It is recommended that the latter quadrangle map also be taken into the field since it covers the backbone of the Mormon Mountains and gives elevations for numerous high peaks. The following Map #2 shows the Mormon Peak area of the Moapa Peak NW Quadrangle.
The Mormon Peak route is rated Class 2, but it is quite strenuous and could easily require sunrise/sunset dedication during short winter days. The one way distance from vehicle to summit measures 4.0 miles on the map. The elevation gain is 3214-ft. A register was left on top.
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