Black Mountain (Nevada)


By: Bob Michael


The somber, barren volcanic north end of the McCullough Range utterly unlike the gently rounded, pinyon forested peak on the List boasts one named peak, 5,092' Black Mountain. Although in the back yard of the Las Vegas urban sprawl -in fact, Black is the closest named peak to the south side of Vegas - this country is rather primitive and difficult of access. Some years ago I tried to do Black from the Henderson Cutoff (Nev. 146) and became quite lost on some steep, rocky dangerous 4WD tracks. I gave up driving and started hiking, eventually intersecting a good road that goes from 146 to a complex of electronic installations on peak 4,338' north of Black. I did get to the top of "Antenna Peak", but I'd used up my winter daylight. (This road is gated off and not open to the public.)

"Vegas George" Quinn and I finally found a way into this country from old US 91 Las Vegas Boulevard South, the extension of "The Strip". About 1/2 mile south of the intersection with Nev. 146, near a huge RV supplystore, a residential road with widely scattered houses cuts due east from 91. This road is just south of where 91 curves west towards Sloan from its due north-south orientation through town. When the last of the homes is past, theroad takes a dramatic turn for the worse. It's mapped as 4WD on the topo; it ispassable with patience via a 2WD high clearance truck, but is slow, rocky and tedious. With perseverance, one finally intersects the "antenna road" at a point where it leaves the bajada and begins the ascent towards the towers. Drive 4 mile on this road to a major wash; park here and head straight up Black's long, parabolic WNW ridge which leads right to the summit. The ridge steepens quite a bit below the summit but there are no real difficulties and it is a thoroughly delightful ramble. From the top, one looks east over the grim, forbidding brown and black lava cliffs of the eastern escarpment of the range, over Boulder City to Lake Mead and the canyon of the Colorado. To the north, there is a unique perspective of the Las Vegas megalopolis, looking almost straight down the Strip. Even though this inland urban sea laps at the base ofthe bajada coming off Black, the peak has a wonderfully unspoiled feeling ofdesert wilderness. After taking in the sight of over a million people, their constructions and excesses, one merely rotates one's gaze 180' to the south, and looks out over a landscape without one trace of the existence of the human race; not a track, not a mine dump or power line, not a scratch. I asked George to back me up on this amazing observation, and he agreed that the view into the northern McCullough's was absolutely pristine. Never have I climbed a peak with such wildly contrasting views! (To end with a note of caution; as fast as southern Nevada is developing, I can't guarantee how long the virginity of the country south of Black will last!)

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