Arc Dome


By: Bob Greenawalt


Cogitations of a Labor Arc Domer Bob Greenawalt

The fall 1971 UPS climbing schedule kicked off Saturday morning, Sept. 4, when 15+ eager contestants met at Carver's Cafe in central Nevada to begin the caravan to the Arc Dome trailhead. The 3 miles of dirt road were tolerable to all modern cars. Within an hour we were seen trudging up the first ridge, one that begins immediately after leaving the cars and whose 400 feet or so of gain is slightly depressing. Arc Dome is one of those intriguing peaks, not to be seen until a couple of hours short of its summit, and one that is well into the Toiyabe Range.

Saturday was spent in arriving at base camp, and the most enticing part of the whole weekend was the flowing stream, known as South Twin River. The Twin Rivers lie in two narrow canyons and meet not far below the parked cars. Can you imagine a fine flowing stream in the middle of Nevada in September? THIS IS THE PLACE. The stream is bordered by many trees, species unknown to the writer, but upwards in the canyon we came upon intermittent stands of friendly quaking aspen. The wild roses had bloomed and their brilliant red seed pods added to the area's color. In profusion were ripe elderberries, and we found them to be a good purgative when eaten in excess.

A couple of miles up the main canyon is an interesting old mining operation, consisting of a demolished shack or two and a mill structure with a 10 foot diameter wooden waterwheel. A flume had been used to divert stream water to power an ore crusher and ball mill. Naturally some of the youngsters wanted to bring home some of the 4" spheres as souvenirs. Imagine those in a Kelty. We noted the names of Tonopah Belmont Development Co. and Tonopah Extension liming Co. on equipment and judged they were in use in the 20s.

About three minutes above this activity the canyon divides, as did our route. The south fork continues over to Jett Canyon (posted with a good sign) and several minutes up that trail one can find remainders of another working, complete with a partial Model T Ford. Apparently this was the mine served by the mill below. Only one of our party went up to see this mine.

The Arc Dome trail continues up the west canyon and the signed junction indicates 6 miles to the peak. About two miles up this canyon, and after having crossed the stream numerous times all day, the vista opens up and signs of cattle were noticeable (bones and dung only). Presently a small stream from the north intersects the trail, and a sign "North Twin River, 4Mi." points over the saddle to the adjoining parallel canyon. Perhaps a mile westward of this sign we met a 100 ft square corral, surrounding willows rather than cattle. At its north side was a plastic drum with a food cache, either for cattlemen or Forest Service people. We chose to camp a few hundred feet to the north of this corral. Here a watered canyon from the north joined us and provided a fine place to camp. Former use by careless persons was attested by the old cans and bottles. Call this Canyon #1 for lack of better definition. Since the only known topo sheet of the area is the 1:250,000 Tonopah Quadrangle, its small scale makes for rather useless information in these parts.

With pleasant temperatures and an unrelaxed one campfire rule, night sped by rapidly under a full moon. By 7 AM Sunday, all ten dedicated climbers were on their way to Arc Dome via the bull and heifer route. We scouted up about two dozen beeves before the day was through. Also seen were red columbines, a treatto any climber. Within 10 minutes of base camp, Canyon #2 looms from the north, with an aspen grove at its juncture. We chose the next canyon, #3, as our ascent to Arc Dome, still not being able to see our goal. Scouts out the evening before verified its location by climbing a high ridge to the south of base camp.

Before leaving on the steep Canyon #3 ascent, canteens were filled as this is the last water. Two quarts are recommended. Soon this very narrow #3 bears to the west and a climb through mountain mahogany stand brings one to an unwatered aspen grove, which apparently must have long-lying snowfalls for its moisture. Five minutes through this grove and we could see out to our mountain from the near side of Canyon #4. From here we had to lose some elevation to begin our ever-gaining ascent on the east slope of Arc Dome. It must be about a 1500 foot gain from the bottom of Canyon #4 to the summit. We all arrived by noon this wonderful summer day and enjoyed lunch together in one of two waist-high shelters atop this 11,788 foot spire. The real name appears to be Toiyabe Dome, and some of the climbers seemed intent on having our name for it changed.

The view from the top is worth all the effort expended in getting there, and immediately to the west is the vast Reese River drainage area, running to the north past Austin and dumping into the Humboldt River near Battle Mountain. We feel there may have been a heliograph station here long ago, since mortared brick (wow, like the steel balls!) provided a sturdy foundation for something. Maybe it was a companion to Wheeler Peak, which we know sustained such an installation.

The descent was made in two parties. Six people chose to take an easterly route down Canyon #2, while four of us took the southerly shoulder of Arc Dome which leads directly to the saddle of the South Twin River and Reese River drainages. It also parallels the west side of Canyon #4. From the saddle, a well-defined trail leads down to Canyon #3 and is no doubt an old trans-Toiyabe cattle drive route. Our party beat the other group back to base camp by 15 minutes, meaning our route was most likely the shorter or easier. We all reached the parked cars before dark, even after taking a 30 minute break at base camp.

In summary, this writer would suggest that the best route to Arc Dome is directly up Canyon #4. If one stays in South Twin River canyon, Arc Dome is first sighted up Canyon #4 and cannot be mistaken as it is the dominant peak. A walk of one half to one mile up #4 (which has water a portion of the way) brings one to the point where we began our chute ascent to the summit after attacking Canyon #3.

It should be stated that there are two ways to begin the hike from the cars. The shorter is the first ridge gain from the car, previously mentioned. The alternate one begins by following the stream near the cars and is perhaps half a mile longer. I prefer the ridge route upstream and the water level route out.

A number of tired but happy climbers chose to eat at Carver's Cafe. I heartily recommend it as one of the volume deal eating places in the west. Still others planned to stay an extra day to climb Mt. Jefferson in the nearby vicinity. Admittedly Arc Dome is a long drive, but I consider it one of my most adventuresome climbs in my 15 years of desert peaking. Leaders Bill Clifton and Jon Inskeep helped make it so.

This region, in Toiyabe National Forest, is one of the yet unspoiled places with primitive surroundings. A family could spend an enjoyable vacation within its confines without ever seeing other people. Fishing appeared to be fine. A rough map is presented as an incentive to climb Arc Dome, if you haven't already.White Mountain - Dennis Lantz and Al Campbell

"Do as we say, not as we do" is a good trip leader philosophy which will work here too. Since Ye Fearless Editor (YFE) has asked for trip reports, not only for DPS scheduled trips, but also for non-scheduled trips by DPS members, why not a report on a scheduled non-trip by DPS members? Why not, indeed; you'll see why not.

The Forest Service recently discovered the High Altitude Research Station, University of California, strewn between Crooked Creek and White Mountain, complete with fence, so they declared it a Scientific Area, thus rendering it safe from harm by the public, the DPS, and things that go "bump" in the night. This safety is attained by a locked gate and by not giving permission to enter, at least by car. With calls and letters to the District Ranger and the Assistant Director of the Research Station, a Sierra Club group was to be admitted on a trial basis for a tour of the station and climb of White Mountain.

Due to the inflexible deadline of YFE (he writes it; he can set his own dates) and the mass of USDA/UCLA/etc. paperwork, we did not get into the Newsletter, but still filled the trip in short order through announcements at the monthly meeting. Since "the road is open at least until November 1", we knew we'd make it; since the leaders are cautious and have even been snowed off Mt. Pleasant (Mt. Pleasant?), we got telephone numbers and made a last minute snow check. Since the lab could not force their snowplow through, we decided that even the dauntless DPS would cancel. Anyone for 22 miles plus in fresh drifted snow? Calls from San Francisco to San Fernando caught nearly everyone. The Dedicated Leaders went anyway, as did a few others. We met at the Bristlecone Pine area, and over breakfast Saturday chose an alternate. The nine people finally climbed Glass Mountain, a beautiful partial snow climb, then scattered for such rugged dinner camps as the Embers in Bishop. On Sunday, the leaders joined forces with the Portland, Oregon unit of the DPS and climbed Mt. Pleasant again. And got snowed on again.

Best feature of the trip - the beautiful and unexpected country northeast of Bishop around Glass Mountain. It is well worth a weekend of just hiking, driving, and looking around. Worst feature - returning over El Cajon Pass in a slush storm after dark with lots of dry-road pilots who weren't on dry roads. Outlook for the future - if enough people are interested, (it won't take many if they are female and good looking) the leaders will try this trip again. Next time we'll include a guided tour of the Cerro Gordo silver mines and Mt. Pleasant. Watch for the exciting details in your newsletter, if you've paid for it.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
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