Sheep Peak


By: John Vitz


For the second year in a row the response to our springtime trip to the Sheep Range was underwhelming. On another beautiful weekend in Southern Nevada the entire section elected to do something else. At least two people had called about the trip so it was assumed that we would have the opportunity to lead some people up Sheep Peak. Put we found no one anxiously awaiting our arrival at the meeting place and so we proceeded to Corn Springs with sadness in our hearts.

Why was it that we had been scorned in such a fashion? Certainly not because of our leadership abilities (we rarely lose more than two a trip - except for the eight in the Superstitions), or our image of lack of respectability (we have both had hair-cuts in this decade). It must have been something like the distance of the drive (Vegas being all of five hours away), or the fact that it was an exploratory (we only had fifteen for the Hualapai Exploratory), or that it was out of state (we had fifteen for Potosi). Finally we decided that it was just too late in the year for desert peaking and so we felt much better. A month later, almost thirty people came out to climb Waucoba.

Our shame and hurt somewhat subdued, we continued from Corn Creek on the Mormon Pass Road around the south end of the range to a poor road which led northwest to a place called Pine Nut Camp. The climb of Sheep is routine and somewhat disappointing. Being on the dry, southeast side of the range, we were not graced with the beautiful trees found in other areas in the range. Canyon bottoms contained some fine stands of ponderosa but in general the mountainside was covered with the ubiquitous pinyon-juniper forests. Beautiful bristlecone pines cover the summit and the view to the Spring Range is more impressive than from Hayford.

We returned to the car by a slightly different route and after counting off and sign out, we found that we had lost no one. Another fine job of leadership. We then backtracked through a thick stand of Joshua trees and then continued on to the picnic area at Mormon Pass where we fixed dinner. This is a delightful area, just high enough to have ponderosa with the pinyons and is remote enough that we had the place to ourselves. There is, however, no overnight camping in the game range, so after dinner we drove down towards highway 93 until such time that we could sack out. In the morning we returned to the Sawmill Canyon Road for the intended ascent of Peak 9782. This road is gated well below Sawmill Spring and we were faced with a long walk up the road. We took a vote of the group and decided to explore elsewhere.

After going out to 93 and then south to Vegas, we drove out to the Red Rock Canyon area of the Spring Range. This band of red and white sandstone cliffs extends for about seven miles north from the Pahrump Road and contains many beautiful areas. After driving around for a quick look, we ventured up one of the side canyons in a thwarted attempt to climb one of the front peaks. The canyon walls are steep and. narrow and reminiscent of areas in Zion. Pine and shrubs adorn the canyon bottoms and tanks and dry waterfalls are hidden in pleasant side canyons. It was too warm for any serious climbing in May but perhaps March would be better. We returned to L.A. via Pahrump (the garden spot of Nevada as the sign says), Shoshone, and beautiful Baker.

It seems to us that the Desert Game Range (surrounding the Sheep Range) would be a prime candidate for wilderness status. Now it is illegal to backpack overnight into the region. Perhaps it would be possible to open some areas of the range to over-night (backpack only) camping. Of course the area should remain a wildlife refuge. Possibly the bighorn, which like people even less than I, would be too greatly disturbed for this to be a practical plan.

Red Rock Canyon is a stone of a different color. This tiny area of solitude and beauty, only minutes from the Strip, is threatened with overdevelopment by the BLM. Proposed are miles of new roads, including one along the tops of the cliffs; new trails, including one which will probably be open to motorcycles; and other developments, including a visitor center and more campgrounds. We question the sanity of trying to put so much into so small an area. The side canyons will lose much of their charm if the quiet is broken and the litter, which was bad when we were there, is increased. This is an area worth exploring further by the DPS and certainly worth saving from the bulldozer. The Las Vegas Group is waging a campaign against further development and urges you to write to Senator Alan Bible, United States Senate, Committee on Appropriations, Washington, D.C. 20510, with copies to Nolan F. Keil, State Director, BLM, 300 Booth St, Room 3008, Federal Building, Reno, Nevada, 89502, and Dennis Hess, Director, Las Vegas District, BLM, 1859 N. Decatur Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89108.

Request that the Recreation Management Plan for the Red Rock Canyon Recreation Lands be revised as follows:

1. Eliminate the Crestline Scenic Drive from the plan.

2. Eliminate picnic grounds and campgrounds at all canyon mouths and at Ram's Head.

3. Begin immediate construction of the Visitor Center.

4. Increase policing personnel immediately and give them enforcement power.

5. Eliminate off-road vehicle use in the recreation area.

6. Eliminate construction of segment B of the Red Rock Scenic Drive and substitute improvement of the existing Willow Springs Road.

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