Mount Stirling, Arc Dome, Mount Jefferson, Wheeler Peak, Charleston Peak, Mummy Mountain


By: John Vitz



This spring Jerry Haven and I decided to use a few Sierra weekends to do a bit of climbing in Nevada. We discovered a land quite different from the California and Arizona countryside with which we are all familiar. The six peaks which we visited had only one thing in common; all were Class I and II walks. These walks ranged from the quite easy jaunt on Stirling to the rather lengthy march on Arc Dome.

The first trip was in early May and the high desert of the Spring range was crazy with wildflowers, from the purple sage to the red prickly pear. Stirling and Potosi are both low enough to be warm in May and perhaps April would be a better time to visit these areas. Both peaks are rather easy and infrequently climbed by DPSers, a fact we noted on all six peaks. Stirling is a pleasant mountain covered with juniper and other evergreen trees and shrubs. Potosi adds to this some impressive cliffs and gullies. There are three arches near the west end of the ridge.

The long Memorial Day weekend gave us the time needed for the rather lengthy excursion into the Central Nevada area containing Arc Dome and Mount Jefferson. Looking at the USGS map of the Tonopah area we decided to try to climb Arc Dome from the west rather than via the traditional Twin Rivers route. This necessitated driving over many miles of dirt roads but this is not as bad as it sounds as most of Nevada's dirt roads are of superior quality.

From north of Gabbs we drove over a good dirt road into the lone Valley and to the ghost town of Berlin, the jumping off point for a pleasant and interesting side trip to Ichthyosaur State Park. Then after a climb over another range and a visit to Ione we came to the Reese River Valley. This beautiful valley, filled with green fields, runs along the western base of the Toiyabes.

The upper Reese River Valley is a lightly wooded area with narrow side canyons and grassy meadows. The area is covered fairly well by a network of not too distinct trails. The region is so lightly travelled that, trails across the meadows were completely overgrown. There was still a small amount of snow on the higher ridges and each gully was alive with dancing water. The summit is covered with fort-like campsites, probably constructed by the CCC as there have not been many parties to the summit in recent years.

Across the Big Smokey Valley is the Toquima Range with its high point, Mount Jefferson. Its summit stretches unbroken for over 5 miles. The vegetation was sparser than in the Toiyabes, but the streams were running equally well. We approached from the town of Round Mountain and followed a poor, even by California standards, dirt road up a canyon to an abandoned mining area. At this point the road deteriorates to a jeep trail. This appears to be a popular area as there were a good number of people camped along the stream. The stream beds are heavily wooded and travel along them is virtually impossible.

Over the Fourth of July weekend we drove to the Wheeler Peak Scenic Area. The first day was spent in a tour of Lehman Caves and in general sightseeing. The campgrounds were reasonably full but even on a holiday weekend there was ample space. A new road leads to a campground near l0,000 feet on Lehman Creek, a beautiful setting in the pines. Even after seeing the high country of the Toiyabes we were not prepared for the Alpine beauty to be found in this region. In the upper reaches of Lehman Creek there are springs, lakes, a dense Forest of Bristlecone Pine, and a permanent ice field.

The impressive east face of Wheeler towers above the ice field at its feet. This face has been climbed but it required a major effort due at least in part to poor rock. The summit commands a section of Nevada containing many fine peaks, a number of which should be considered for addition to the list. The Snake Range spreads to the south, containing a number of 11,000 foot plus peaks, and assorted lakes and streams. Mount Moriah and the Shell Creek Range cut the sky to the north and northwest. This beautiful area is well worth the rather long drive from Los Angeles.

The following day we climbed Charleston, and, nice as it was, it was almost an anti-climax. Ky1e Canyon is an area of fairly dense forest and beautiful cliffs, but July is just too late in the season. When we visited the area in May there was snow on the high ridges and the beauty of the area was greatly enhanced. A seventeen-mile loop trail traverses the peak and both the ridges forming Kyle Canyon. This trail finds beautiful country. There is a pleasant campsite at the base of Mummy Mountain and the south ridge is covered with meadows and dense stands of Bristlecone.

All of these peaks possess many things of beauty and grandeur and we urge all of you to make the extra effort of travelling into Nevada to see them.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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