Wheeler Peak, Ruby Dome, Mount Jefferson, Arc Dome


By: Paul Lipsohn


After several schedules and postponements, the Wheeler Peak odyssey finally got underway over the Labor Day week-end.

Leaving L.A. about 1 pm Thursday, I met George Hubbard at the appointed spot and we were soon winging over the Cajon Pass to Las Vegas. The desert heat was oppressive, but a strong tail wind removed some of the curse, and we enjoyed an early supper in air-conditioned comfort in Las Vegas.

From Vegas we headed north along US 93, then east on US So through Sacramento Pass to Nevada #73 and Baker, then followed the signs to Wheeler Peak, arriving about 1 am Friday.

Morning revealed the beautiful aspen and pine covered campground at 9951' as well as the first of many flat tires. Following breakfast we changed the flat and began our climb along the Stella Lake Trail. Upon gaining the ridge above the lake, a fierce wind forced a contour below the crest and we finished the climb in down jackets. A cool summit break with great views revealed numerous clouds to the Northwest and promised some bad weather for the following day. Returning to the campground via a ridge that appeared on the way up to be good scree but wasn't, we headed back over Sacramento Pass to Ely and a tire repair. At Ely we made one of several questionable route decisions. Electing to drive West on Hwy. 50, we turned North 10 miles East of Eureka on what ultimately becomes Nevada 146. Following 10 miles of pavement and 140 miles of jarring dirt, we arrived at the Te-Moak Indian Reservation, picked our way through Hennan Canyon and made camp in what will soon be a commercially owned campground at 6400'.

The weather we had observed the preceding day had dropped several inches of snow in the Ruby Mountains and threatened us all night, forcing us to flee for the car as the spectacular lightning display finally yielded to rain about 4 am. As we ate breakfast and cursed the weather that threatened to wash us out, the skies lifted somewhat and we decided to proceed as planned. As we were about to leave camp, we discovered our daily flat tire..this time on the opposite side, and elected to change it on our return, which proved wise in the end. An old trail follows Hennan Canyon, and many of the huge aspen that line the canyon bear the carved names of previous visitors, some dating back to the early 1920's. At Griswold Lake we hit the first snow and recalled how in Las Vegas we had kidded about the stupidity in bringing ice axes. From Griswold Lake we followed a steep gully southeast, contoured around a small peak then proceeded up a steep icy chute to the summit. Snow squalls and high winds drove us from the viewless summit and we retraced our route to the car. Several minutes after changing the flat to the one we had fixed in Ely, it became apparent that all was not well, and at the current rate our spare would be flat in another fifteen minutes. Now spareless, we took a hasty leave of our camp and raced for Elko. Fortunately we arrived with a bit to spare and the purchase of two new tires solved the problem.

Again a route decision from Elko, and again a semi-misfire. We went west on Hwy. 140 to Carlin, south on Nev. 51 to Eureka, west on Hwy So to Nev 82, then south to Pine Creek Campground. All went well to Nev 82, which turned out to be another 85 miles of bone jarring dirt. Hordes of jackrabbits on these dirt roads made the going very slow for the soft-hearted driver, but we arrived at Pine Creek to meet Bernie, Lu and Jon Petijean about 10 pm.

We enjoyed one of the nicest nights of the trip here, and awoke raring to go on to Mt. Jefferson next morning. Pooling the cars at the road for Jefferson Pass, we were soon at the pass at 9,300' enjoying the view. The climb of Jefferson went uneventfully and the views we had been deprived of the preceding day were more enjoyable in the warm sunshine. Upon returning to the cars, Bernie and family decided to return to Los Angeles with his malfunctioning Renault, so George and I proceeded alone to Columbine Camp after a detour to Tonopah for gas.

Following Nev 89 north to the Forest Service Road #018 proved to be the third in a series of misdirected route choices. After bouncing through 100 miles of rough dirt and jackrabbits, we arrived at the Reese River Ranger Station, turned southeast on F.S.#ll9 and drove to Columbine Camp (called Stewart Crick by locals).

Using the inadequate topo we took a longer route to the summit than necessary, going left of a ridge where we should have gone right, but we were back to the car and headed for home by 3 pm and arrived in LA 2 am.

Total miles driven were 1734, miles hiked about 36. with about 15,000'gain. The trio was easily done in four days, though we didn't spend much time lounging around.

For those interested in future trips, the following information may be of some help.

Route to Wheeler was alright as is. From Wheeler the best route to Ruby Dome is: north thru Wells and Elko, then southeast toward Lamoille, following signs to Spring Canyon Campground at the mouth of Herman Canyon. From here, best route to Mt. Jefferson is: west to Carlin, south on Hwy 5O to Eureka, west on 50 to Nev 8A, south to Nev 69 thru Manhattan, and north on Nev 82 to Meadow Canyon. Follow signs over rough but passable road to Jefferson Summit sign. For Arc Dome from the west, return south on Nev 82 to Tonopah, west on Hwy 95 to Nev 23 (24 miles east of Hawthorne), north thru Gabbs to Nev 91, north thru Ione to the Reese River R.S., then southeast as described to Columbine Camp.

The Tonopah topo is some help, but not much. Best Forest Service map for Arc and Jefferson is Tonopah Ranger District D-5, Toiyabe N.F. (P0 Box 989, Tonopah, Nev.,89049). Best map for Ruby Dome is the Humbolt N.F., Ruby Division, (Humbolt N.F., Lamoille Ranger District, Lamoille, Nev., 89828). Topos are Lee and Lamoille, Nevada.

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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