Nopah Range, Smith Mountain


By: Maris Valkass


We met in the restaurant in Shoshone on a beautiful Saturday morning. After a good breakfast all 18 of us left for Nopah roadhead about eight miles away. Since Ron Jones has started to supply the leaders with good directions, which are updated by the current trip leaders, I will not describe the route in this write-up in any detail. The road to Nopah roadhead was passable by all cars.

Not having done this peak before, I was relying on the comments of others, which for the most part said that it was a full days hike. Well, I can add my testimony to that too. It took us about 11 hours. It is, however, a fun peak. It may be possible to describe the exact route but it is more fun trying to find it. It is not difficult. I think Nopah has an emblem quality. Seventeen of us attempted the summit and all of us got it. Martha Bean went stalking Indians in Death Valley on Saturday. She said that she also followed one (How about Latvians Martha?). Seven (John Sarna, John Leonard, Francoise Waithert, Carl Brodene, Paul Nelson, Mary Gygax and myself) of us also climbed the second bump, indicated on the map to be seven feet higher. Paul Nelson apparently could not stand the slow pace up the first summit, begged to be allowed to start for the second summit earlier. The rest of us started a few minutes later, but we didn't see him again until he started on his way down.

We did have a couple of close calls on the way, as a result of rock falls. One person was injured when a rock he was pulling on came loose and fell on his leg. The same rock continued rolling down the gully where 15 others were coming up, shattering in many pieces. The gully was narrow and the falling rocks were many. It was a miracle that no one else was hurt. Later on, another rock came loose and it shot by a couple of people, without causing any harm. Needless to say...we can never be too careful in these situations.

Doug McLelan conquered his first desert peak by bagging Nopah. Congratulations, hope to see you on many more.

We were back at the cars by 7:30, thanks to Martha who had turned on her car headlights to help guide us to the cars. Paul Nelson again, left us in the dust and got back to the cars at dusk and also helped Martha with the lights.

After such a long day, all of us were tired. We decided to go back and camp by the mud cliffs one mile east of Shoshone. Some started cooking dinner and some of us went to the Tecopa Hot Springs for therapy.

During the night, Karen Leonard stepped on a broken glass bottle and cut her foot. She could not climb the next day. (My guess is that she went back to the Shoshone bar with all the rowdies and stepped on broken beer bottles).

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