Ibapah Peak, North Schell Peak
By: Pete Yamagata
A DESERT PEAK IN UTAH Unmentioned among the few Utah peaks written up in the Sage is a real emblem-type peak that I climbed as part of a three-state peak adventure from July 23 to July 30, 1082. This is Ibapah Peak (12,083'), listed on road maps as Haystack Pk., located about 120 mi. by road east and north of Ely, Nevada. This climb is described in the recent Sierra Club totebook, Hiking the Great Basin. With the information obtained from the book, I, along with veteran Nevada peak climber Leo Krastins of the Mother Lode Chapter, made a 32-hour excursion out of Ely to bag this summit.
Having warmed up on North Schell Peak (11,833'), the high point of the Schell Creek Range, we drove east on U.S. 50 in the afternoon to the turnoff past the Utah border that heads north to the Deep Creek Range, of which the peak is the maxima. Visible from the highway was Notch Peak, also mentioned in the book with its 2000-ft. north face clearly delineated against the skyline. I had been intimidated by the drive to Ibapah: a 58 mi. dirt road--the recommended approach. However, most of the road was good; I drove much of it at high speeds, up to 55 m.p.h., which, of course, ignored flying rock hits on the underside of my car. The mileages the guide gives were a little off by my odometer, and there was no sign for Granite Canyon, the entrance to the peak. We found the camping register nonetheless. We camped at our trailhead before the second ford, situated in a canyon surrounded by white granite walls and towers. The one above us had a huge cave reminding me of the thousands of small indentations on the bottom of my wagon.
Starting early (5:30 a.m. M.S.T.) we hiked up the segment of jeep trail that begins the climb. I was struck by how much the area looked like the Colorado Rockies with the green hillsides and the proliferation of aspen and fir. The guidebook was helpful and accurate, sufficing in lieu of a topographic map. We arrived on the summit, cloudy and mist-covered, after a leisurely 6-1/2 hr. ascent. The register was placed in 1961 by the Ute Alpine Club--a good book in a mailbox. Just on the other side of the rock shelters was laid out a large banner that said, "STOP MX", a phrase also spray-painted on traffic signs about the Kennicott copper mine near Ely. We glimpsed occasional views through the clouds of our ascent route, the open upper slopes to the west, and a tease of a view of the range and desert to the east.
On the drive out, we witnessed one of the most intense rainbows I have ever seen, then returned to Ely by 8:00 p.m. for the dinner special at Jerry's, and some deep crust at the Pizza Hut, and continued north to Idaho for a climb in the Sawtooth.
This is as much of a desert peak as Ruby Dome and Mt. Wheeler. I did not allow the 600 mi. drive from Sacramento dissuade me from such a worthwhile adventure-- seeing the borderline alpine/desert ecology. Certainly a unique peak experience! It probably can be done in 3-1/2 days from Southern California, although there is a plethora of good peaks in the Ely area--Mt. Grafton, Duckwater, and Currant, in addition to Mts. Washington and Lincoln, and mighty Mt. Moriah in the Snake Range (all described in the guidebook) that makes an extended outing more practical.
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