Bare Mountain (Nevada)


By: Bob Michael


South and east of Beatty, Nev., is one of those archetypal Southern Nevada - Death Valley - area Desert Peaks, a gaunt tilted chunk of steep white, gray and tan Paleozoic quartzite and limestone - the stripped-bare bones of Planet Earth - whose broken ridges and waterless canyons are known only to prospectors, rattle-. snakes, and Desert Peakers. Located in the rain shadow of Death Valley (!), the Amargosa Desert and its surrounding mountains are probably the driest place in ail Nevada. Vegas George Quinn suggested Bare Mountain as a worthy exploratory after driving past it many times in his work and mentally mapping routes on its tortured geography.

After breakfast at the Exchange Club in Beatty, we headed about 7 miles southeast of town on Highway 95. Our approach road joins 95 at a stop sign. Some concrete ruins (shown on the topo) are visible about a mile NE of 95; the correct road goes right past these. I was able to take my 2wd truck to the end of the road about 2 miles from 95 with no trouble. From the roadhead, a 4wd mining road takes off to the NW to the start of a route that looked quite logical on the topo and with the contour lines spread-out. However, this was a perfect example of the fact that the 40-foot contour interval doesn't "resolve" horrible terrain on a small scale. With despair, we surveyed our chosen ridge and saw a brutal, slowmotion agony of endless, hacked-up, cruddy little limestone gendarmes. Giving up oh that non-route was a no-brainer. I scrutinized the map to save our expedition, and the contour lines above the canyon to the north held the slim hope of a route; we quickly dropped down into this quite beautiful canyon. We exited the upper canyon on a steep but doable ridge when the walls began to close into a "box" The class 12 ridge went very nicely to the crest of the range A couple hundred yards north of the summit knob, whose north face was covered with steep icy snow; we joked about needing crampons on Bare Mountain!

The summit gives great views to the east of the forbidden territory of the Nevada Test Site; Yucca Flats, Frenchman Flats, and Yucca Mountain, the site of the proposed national nuke waste burial vault. What a (literally) eye-popping view one would have had at times from this summit back in the good old days of atmospheric A-bomb tests To the north of the nuke testing area, but still in the Test Site, is the high lonely pinyon-forested plateau country of Timber Mountain :and Shoshone Mountain; seemingly unmarked by man, this was an awesome vision of an enormous expanse of more or less primordial high desert, a big chunk of the West that our eyes had never beheld. Whatever one may think of the military's habit of grabbing huge tracts of our desert for their exclusive use, one must grudgingly admit that it does result in the preservation of a lot of semi-wilderness.

The huge Spring Mountain massif, almost impossibly white under its burden of El Nino snow, formed the backdrop to the southeast. In the foreground, in the valley just to the southeast of Bare Mountain called Crater Flat, is an exquisitely perfect little cinder cone only a few thousand years old, erupted along the rift zone east of the Bare Mountain block; this sort of thing gives geologists goose bumps of ecstasy. Telescope, looking as white as Denali, soared above the somber Funeral Range past the Amargosa Desert to the southwest. We both agreed we had discovered a List caliber peak! "Having experienced the magic of Little Petroglyph Canyon on a guided tour sponsored by the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, I shudder to think what would be the outcome if that place were freely accessible to every jerk with a dirt bike..

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