Ruby Dome, Wheeler Peak
By: Barbara Reber
What a change, everywhere there was snow. Our trip thru southern and northern Nevada this year was like a drive through the High Sierra. Toiyabe (Arc) Dome and Mt. Jefferson were covered with snow down to 7500. The rivers and streams were running high and all over because of run-off. Our first view of Ruby Dome was a snow and cloud enshrouded mountain range. After checking out roads and snow conditions it was with great pessimism, I viewed climbing Ruby Dome on Saturday.
Our roadhead was Spring Creek Campground upper parking lot. The Campground is private but the road and parking lot are open. Three weary travelers arrived and Ron Jones decided we should try for Ruby Dome. We ascended Hennan Canyon and found snow at 7000', partially consolidated. Hennan Canyon is to the west of a prominent rocky peak seen from the road into Lamoille.
Our party numbered five, Earl Kesler, Dave Hammond, Ron Jones, Mary Sue Mead and myself. The men kicked steps and we followed. We progressed up the lone valley leading to Griswold Lake staying to the left (east) and high. There were numerous rock and snow avalanches from the steep rock cliffs, to the west. We worked our way over some small avalanches toward a high saddle and a prominent black triangle of rock above the lake. We passed this on the right (west) and proceeded up to a small unnumbered peak between Ruby Dome and Lee Benchmark. The last 150' was snow covered rock and very steep snow. We topped out on the only spot without a cornice. High winds impeded our climb over the broad southwest ridges to the summit of Ruby Dome. Due to high winds and cold our stay on the summit was short. We couldn't even dig up the register due to the deep snow. The entire Ruby Mountains were covered with snow, beautiful and spectacular. The last of my Desert Peaks was the least likely candidate for a Desert Peak. In any year but a low snow year, this peak would be best climbed between the 4th of July and Labor Day.
We roped down the first 40' from the pinnacle we orginally climbed with the aid of a boot axe belay by Ron. Beware Desert Peakers learn some snow techniques before you attempt the high northern Desert Peaks. Now the snow was too soft to glissade so it was a long, wet, slow journey back to the cars. All agreed this was our best and toughest climb. Twelve hours without even a lunch break and we were famished. Without the great effort expended by the 3 men kicking steps and the moral support of Mary Sue I would not have been able to finish the DPS list on Ruby Dome this year. I thank them all. A spot of Champagne at the cars and we were off to Elko and the Star Hotel for a huge Basque Dinner.
As the leaders felt the roads to Arc Dome and Mt Jefferson would be impassable due to snow and mud and water, we elected to try for Mt. Wheeler. South east of Ely, Nevada one comes to a summit and there is Mt Wheeler across the valley in all its snow covered splendor, dominating the entire area. Last year no snow, this year due to a storm on Tues. the snow was down to about 8000'. At Lehman Caves we learned the road was closed above the 2nd campground. This meant using the Lehman Creek Trail, traveling 16 mi RT and about 5000' of snow. We were told impossible. Four hardy undaunted climbers left at S:30 AM, found the trip less technical and the snow of better quality than on Ruby Dome. Once again the trip down was arduous. Glissading was not possible and in spots one broke thru to the thighs. Ten and one-half hours later the four returned weary but triumphant. And so ended one extremely strenuous holiday weekend with a sixth class drive home. This weekend was evidence of the axiom; the success of any climb is dependant upon the compatibility and working together of the climbers.
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