Moapa Peak


By: Steve Smith


It all started back in 1948, as told by Bob Greenawalt, when he made his first climb of a DPS peak before he ever knew a Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section existed. That was Telescope Peak but it was not until 1957 that Bob did his first DPS scheduled climb on a bus trip to Martinez Peak. Over the years, he continued to enjoy climbing the desert peaks and so it was that 45 years after his first climb, Bob completed the DPS List on Moapa Peak.

After 1957, Bob became very active in the DPS, began going on DPS climbs, became a DPS climb leader, served as DPS Chairman in 1964 and was editor of The Sage from 1965-1969. Over the years, I had occasion to participate on several of Bob's trips and for some reason they were all memorable. The most memorable for me was, Bob's 1947 Thanksgiving three day backpack climb of Pico Matomi - the southern highpoint of the San Pedro Martir Range in Baja. A major Pacific storm coincided with our three days of backpacking and it was the wettest, coldest and most uncomfortable I have ever been on any DPS trio, as Bob heartily agrees. Five of us actually made the summit in a snowstorm and somehow all successfully got back to camp. By the end of that trip, everyone's completely soaked down sleeping bags had turned into small worthless blobs not much bigger or useful than a large chunk of ice.

Scheduling Bob's List Finisher

For the past few years, Bob was working on his few remaining peaks to finish the DPS List. He mentioned that Moapa was going to be the last having saved 'til-last the major roper summits. So it was with relish I took up the chance to schedule it. We had a good initial sign-up of 17 people but a major winter storm hitting across the southwest caused most to cancel. Checking the dirt access read on Friday in the rain and with Moapa completely obscured in the clouds, I was sure there was no way we would be climbing it the next day.

However, upon meeting Bob and six others at the meeting point Saturday, no snow was visible on Moapa (higher nearby Virgin Peak was covered in snow) and with partly cloudy skies, we decided to go for it. It turned out to be a good day for climbing with some great views as clouds periodically blew up against the southern side of the peak. Bob and I were joined by Julie King, Mary Sue Miller, George Jewell and legendary Phantom of the Desert Bill Banks.

We followed the traditional route by winding up the spur ridge, around the summit block and over the narrow summit ridge. There was only a light covering of snow along the north side of the top of the range and fortunately the 200' long narrow summit ridge was completely dry and free of ice.

Bob Completes All 97 Peaks In Less Than 45 Years!!

Bob was first to the summit for his final, number 97, DPS peak. Probably the longest effort by any DPS List finisher - 45 years! As we relaxed on the summit, Bob entertained us with some of his many stories of past DPS tripe and many desert adventures. The day was pleasant and we enjoyed the summit views as clouds periodically blew up against the south side of the summit. Bill was nowhere to be seen - we later met up with him on the way down and learned he had explored a direct route down off the west side of the summit. He reported it all went fine except for one 15' pitch which unfortunately makes a direct route to the summit impractical for groups.

As we reached the bottom of the wash, darkness arrived and the night balmy as we enjoyed our leisurely final hour walking across the desert and back to the vehicles. Two of Bob's friends had waited at the vehicles and kept flashlights on as Bill scouted the way so that we easily made our way directly make to camp.

At the cars, we had an hour around a great desert campfire as we celebrated Bob's List completion with the usual assortment of delicacies before everyone went their own ways. On the way out in the darkness at different times, we all missed the sharp turn at 3,200' where the 4-WD road turns south and drops steeply in leaving Jacks Pocket. On a future trip, it would be good if someone could place a few boulders across that false 50' of road which leads past the turnoff to prevent a possible accident particularly for people who end up driving out in the darkness.

The evening was so pleasant that Bob and his two riders elected to stay and camp at the roadhead to enjoy the desert nighttime wonders. Of course, you know the rest! At 3:00a.m., another big storm hit and well, you'll be hearing about it from Bob on an upcoming DPS trip.

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