Arc Dome, Mount Jefferson


By: Jon Inskeep


Carver's Cafe is known by truckers as one of the best, and reasonably priced, eating spots between Tonopah and Elko. A state roadside rest (with water) across the highway makes it an ideal morning meeting place. 17 DPS'ers including veterans Bob Greenawalt and Sam Fink were there Friday morning to begin a Labor Day weekend in Nevada's Toiyabes. Five miles north, the dirt road to South Twin River angles off Highway 8A to the northwest. It is just three miles to the roadhead, the last very hard on low-slung passenger cars. A wide, well traveled trail starts up along the stream through first one and then a second box canyon. This is apparently just above the major fork, shown on the topo, in South Twin River. The right, or southwest branch is the correct route. Camp was made near a large corral where the canyon widens at 8100'. Total hiking time for the 5-6 miles was 3 to 4 hours. The sensible ones retired shortly after sunset while the night people sat around a nice campfire, reportedly ending up in a heated debate on the effects of "women's lib". Nobody seemed to mind the 7 am, start on Saturday, in fact the majority of the group left camp 15 minutes early. Passing side canyons to the west at camp and at a wide, aspen covered spot about a half mile up canyon, the party of climbers headed steeply west and then south up a minor wash about a mile above camp where the main canyon turns slightly toward the southeast. This route was followed upward to the southwest until the summit could at last be seen. At this point some elevation loss was required to get on the main southeast ridge of the peak. Several climbers left the group to climb directly up the east face and thus avoid the loss. This turned out to be a mistake as it entailed a long, strenuous, sometimes dangerous effort. Toiyabe Dome can be climbed easily using either the southeast or north ridges, but the more direct east face route, sometimes referred to as "Smatko's Folly", involves high angle climbing on unstable talus. The faster climbers made the 3700' to the summit in four hours, with the total reaching 12 in another hour.

From this approach the peak is very plain and unimpressive. The surrounding country however is beautiful, mainly smooth rolling hills with deep canyons, striped with stands of juniper and pinyon, and wherever there is water, quaking aspen. The Reese River Valley on the west is a broad, brilliant green belt. The summit is covered with the remains of a considerable number of rock structures, with some boards carved with dates in the early 1900's. Perhaps this, like Wheeler Peak, was once a heliograph station. The hour's lunch on top was highlighted by the passing around of two quarts of cold beer - an alltime "high" in desert peakbagging.

With the leaders permission three climbers descended the southeast ridge to what looked like the upper reaches of South Twin River. They reported that it would make a steep ascent but would be an easily found route since it simply requires following the main canyon, and trail, from camp until the summit is in view. The rest of the party descended the north ridge, crossed under the east face on good but intermittent trail through pinyon to a side fork of South Twin River and back to the main trail at the aspen grove above camp. After an hour's rest and relaxation, everyone was out to the cars in 2-1/2 hours at 6:30 p.m. While the others got a head start on Monday's drive home, the remaining ten stalwarts, with nothing better to do until Wednesday or after, spent the night at the roadside rest near Carver's. At 6 a.m. Monday morning we drove across the southern end of the Toquima Range via Nevada 69, through sleepy and half-ghosted Manhattan (it should happen to the one in New York) to Nevada 82. This excellent unpaved road goes north through the remains of Belmont with enough relics itself to warrant a return trip into the area, to the Meadow Creek turnoff. From here it is nearly ten miles to Jefferson Pass, where a Forest Service sign optimistically calls out the altitude as 9400' (8600' is closer to the truth). All but the last half mile is moderately good road. But to continue on down the western slope to Round Mountain is to invite disaster; it turned back two daring four wheel drivers. At the pass we doubled up into a Scout and a Jeep and drove another 2.3 miles north along the top of the ridge (get on the road on the right side of the fence) toward Mt Jefferson. This good fortune put us just two miles and 2500' from the summit. Seven made the summit in 2-1/2 hours using a good but again very intermittent trail. The only trick is to circle the large outcropping just below the summit ridge, via the trail, to the left or on the west side, then cross a saddle and approach the summit from the east. The wind was cold and at gale force, but was surprisingly absent on top. There we found the modern equivalent of the heliograph - a large modular telephone relay station. And just before we left it talked! We were down in less than an hour and back at the pass at 2:30. Again we divided, the majority for home, but with two die-hards headed north - one for Ruby Dome and one for Wheeler Peak.

Food for thought: It was the unanimous feeling of the group on the summit of Arc Dome that the DPS should hereafter refer to this peak as Toiyabe Dome. This not only conforms to the USGS naming but ties in with the many references to Toiyabe in this area.

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