Arc Dome, Ruby Dome, Wheeler Peak

2-Jul-94 (Private trip)

By: Karen Leonard


Saving some of the DPS's highest and most distant peaks for last, Bob wanted to climb Arc Dome (11773') on June 30, Ruby Dome (11387') on July 2, and Wheeler (13063') on July 3. Also, he wanted to not do all that much driving and to be home in Marina del Rey for the July 4 fireworks, so he decided to fly to Reno June 29, rent an Explorer to drive to the trailheads, and fly back from Reno July 4 (an inexpensive roundtrip flight). He got A1 Conrad and me to go along for the flight and the drive, and he invited people to come to the peaks and the party. Tom Moumblow not only accepted the invitation, he added in his own list finish on Ruby Dome July 2. Others who climbed these fine peaks were Carol Snyder, Mark Bender, and Rich Gnagy, on all three; Delores Holladay and Charlie Knapke, on Ruby Dome and Wheeler; and Tom Sumner, on Ruby Dome.

Despite the changing personnel and long distances, Bob kept the group together well. We assembled at 6 am June 30 at the turnoff for the Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park one mile north of Gabbs, Nevada, and followed a talkative local fellow to the Columbine Campground, noticing that the 3rd stream crossing in the Peak Guide writeup had disappeared. The 4600' 11 mile climb went well, hampered only by a very strong wind towards the top, and it took about 7 hours by Route A, leaving lots of time for happy hour and a campfire at this pretty campground.

July 1 was spent driving, with brunch at the International Care in Austin, en route to the ex-KOA campground in Elko which is now the Wyndon Campground and definitely is to be avoided ..... very dirty and noisy. Bob had made a reservation to guarantee space and a meeting place, and Tom Sumner did meet us there (he was on a marathon trip of his own). We also tried to get the key to the Spring Creek Association campground, to save 1 1/2 miles and 400' of hiking to the (real) trailhead, but despite Bob's call ahead and apparent agreement to give him the key, when he showed up and asked for it, it turned out that one had to be a member of the Spring Creek Association. We had a great meal in the Nevada (Basque) Dinner House and viewed some of the annual Basque street festival events (woodcutting, log-splitting, weight-lifting, costumed dancers). We didn't stay on for the "flamingo" (sic, to Spanish Professor Tom Sumner's horror) dancing, since we were to start driving to the trailhead at 5 am.

On July 2, Charlie and Delores were waiting at the campground entrance and we started the 5400' 12 mile hike by 6 am, through the upper end of the campground with its two tables, across the stream, up the lovely use trail to the beautiful lake, up to the 10200' saddle, left and up the snow-patched route to the cirque, finally circling left and up to the peak by just after 11 am. The crampons had been left behind, but most had brought ice axes and used them a bit (it proved possible to do the peak without an ice axe). We celebrated Tom Moumblow's list finish and started down, figuring we'd be out in about nine hours altogether--but on the way down we were stopped by a dramatic accident. A man, Jeremiah Nelson, had just broken his ankle, quite badly, at about 8700' coming down from the lake. We found ourselves helping in many ways. Jeremiah's brother Whitey Nelson and Whitey's three children and wife were scattered around the area and had to be gathered. Charlie took command of administering medical assistance, which eventually involved using an ice axe for a splint. Bob and the two Toms ran out for help with Lolo, Whitey's wife, and the 12 year old son (they made it in about 1 hour). Karen and Delores took out the 8 and 10 year old children (2 hours). A1, Rich, Carol and Mark stayed to help carry Jeremiah down to a place where a helicopter could land, and when no helicopter had come by 5:30 they hiked out (1 hour), leaving Whitey with Jeremiah, who had cheered up considerably after the medication, conversation, and clothing provided by our DPSers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Whitey lives at the ranch just across from the Campground and Bob went there to make the calls for help), no helicopter could be found for a rescue since all were being used for firefighting in Nevada and Utah. Travis, the Sheriff, was trying to coordinate the rescue and finally got together an ambulance and a crew to take in a stretcher and carry Jeremiah out. This group went up the trail at 6:40 pm, just after the rest of our group came out. The result of all the excitement and confusion is much gratitude from Whitey, to be manifested in the future by loan of his Spring Creek Campground key whenever needed by the DPS. A1 Conrad has the contact information--it was just his second DPS peak, and he's already become an indispensable member of the section! Then when it all seemed over, and we were heading for the ranch to tell Lolo what was happening, our rented Explorer got a punctured tire. (A1, staying to help fix that, was the only hiker not to meet Lolo, a most regrettable circumstance.)

When rambling happily down from Ruby Dome before encountering the Nelsons, we had planned to have a very early dinner in Elko and start towards Wheeler. Considerably delayed by the accident, we then failed to get immediate seating at Elko's Star Basque restaurant, regrouped at the Italian restaurant, and had to wait for a table there. By the time we finished the excellent food and drink it was 10 pm, and we drove into a campground a few miles southwest of Wells and slept there from just before midnight to just after 5 am. We planned to meet at the Wheeler trailhead in Great Basin National Park, giving people an hour for eating or shopping on the way, and by 11:30 am we had started for the final peak in the heat of the day. Some zipped up, with listfinisher Bob and Mark making it in just under two hours and Charlie hot on their heels; some took it much more slowly. The celebration was a worthy one with many commemorative photos. The last hikers got down at 5:30 pm, taking six hours to do this 9 mile 2900' trail hike (from the 10161' benchmark summit trailhead, where the parking spots filled up fast). Charlie and Delores took off for LA and Carol and Mark for San Diego. Bob, Al, and Karen stopped to phone in the diminished number for the Ely KOA reservation, then found that the gas station in Baker had closed at 6 pm and had to drive to the Utah stateline for gas before convening with Rich for a final spirited dinner at the local Pizza Hut. The Ely KOA turned out to be a very clean, pleasant campground, and its showers particularly welcome.

On July 4, Bob, A1, and I drove back to Reno (and Rich to Sacramento) on highway 50, "the loneliest highway in America," which lived up to its name. Interesting stops in Eureka and Virginia City preceded the 5:30 pm Reno Air flight back to LA. The trip was great fun, and now we have lots of "tourist" information about hot springs, more scenic canyons and caves, mining towns, us for ways to do it even better. I won't mention Bob's success rate at the blackjack tables, but his fine organization and leadership took all the risk out of getting these challenging and beautiful peaks--thanks, Bob, congratulations again, and please don't stop doing desert peaks!

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