Moapa Peak, Mormon Peak


By: Lou Brecheen


When that big, round, bright Nevada moon came up Friday night, it bathed wide expanses of Nevada desert, untenanted for the most part ---But--there---at Exit 100 (Carp, Elgin) off IH 15, NE of Las Vegas, a single automobile with a single passenger pulls off into the desert - follows the reasonably good dirt/sand road a mile north of the freeway, comes to a wide place and stops. The car's passenger did not disturb the serene quite of the desert surroundings as he spread sleeping gear by the side of the car with the efficiency born of long practice. The slight sound of a zipper being closed -- a deep exhalation of satisfaction, then total solitude closes in. The dark silhouette of Moapa Peak rose a few miles to the north. ---Lonely -Lonely

But---when the sun rose over the Virgin Range, the desert was abuzz with activity. Why, there were Greg Vernon, Larry Machleder and Ron Bartel; also oldtimers John Hellman and Mary Bihl--and John McDermott, Jack Grams and Lou Brecheen---munching Granola.

Gregg's new Toyota pickup and Jack's truck easily accommodated the entire party for the short journey along the road north to a spot marked by an abandoned man-made "thing". Leaving the trucks, the party passed through a notch in a ridge, followed the gradually inclining desert floor toward a prominent wash cutting the face of the mountain slightly to the right of center. (1 Mi.) Greg led up the twisting gully which increased in steepness. A couple of nice dry waterfalls can be either challenged for fun (low class 3) or easily bypassed. Working higher, the party came out of the wash onto a ridge leading up to an escarpment guarding the impressive peak. The scarp is broken and a class 2 route can be managed along friction, up short chutes, and up short faces with good hand and foot holds. The large summit mesa rises a vertical 300 feet on the south side. The party did not choose to challenge it, but followed several hundred yards east along the base of the cliff to a rock and dirt slope. Ascending it, they came to the east end of a ridge. Access to the ridge was gained via a 20 foot low 3rd class crack just around the end of the ridge.

The ridge is a couple hundred yards of knife-edge, with a 5 foot notch about half way across. At the notch, confident people can either walk the top or do a modified layback. Timid souls can ootch across astride. All eight climbers etched their way to immortality in the summit register, where they found an entry made just the previous week by a small but undoubtedly intrepid party which included someone named Gygax something or other. They had made a brief entry to the effect that they were scouting the peak for "Greggie". This was duly noted. The wonderful views included two coal-fired power plants to the southwest, a steady stream of 18-wheelers on IH 15 and the haze from all those cigars in all those casinos in Vegas. But it also included the Virgin range to the southeast and the Mormon range to the north-- --and a total overcast which had crept in gradually during the morning. It looked very much like threatening rain but the group did not worry. Larry had informed all that "it never rains in Nevada in October". Returning in fine fettle to the cars, the group disintegrated. Jack Grams went off homily to do Virgin, John Mc was burning to see the "Valley of Fire State Park" and John H and Mary were stretching themselves on an extended trip.

Greg said, "I'm driving this truck. Isn't that big-o-me? Lets go do Mormon!" The correct road to start on is not well marked but it is the very first road (not street) going north as you leave the west outskirts of Glendale. Everything else is just as Wes Shellberg described it. Greg drove to the roadhead - parked in a dry gravel wash and -- sure enough -- the rains came - in October. Though the morn dawned with light rain falling, the valiant band suited up and set out. The winds picked up as the more exposed ridge was attained. Visibility shortened to just a few yards. The rain was heavier and blowing almost horizontally. After a half mile of this the leader made one of his wisest decisions; he said, "O.K.~L That's it! I've had enough of this! Let's go for the Silver Bird and that gambler subsidized Champaign Brunch!"--------------------And we did!

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section