Pahrump Point, Nopah Range


By: Fred Camphausen


The prospect of climbing Nopah Pk by way of its usual W approach didn't encourage our early return here. The climb entails a hike halfway across Chicago Valley, a rugged ridge, and 4000 ft of hard work. No roads closer to the mountain are indicated on the topos than the main N-S track that begins at Twelvemile Spring, since little mining activity has occurred in this central part of the range. While climbing in the area last January I got curious and decided to explore any road that might approach Nopah more closely from the S. Advantages I saw in this side of the peak were a relatively smooth ridge and a broad canyon which looked passable by vehicle to a closer and higher point.

Just about at the proper place for such a road to be usefully located there appeared one, only it was more like an old 4 WD truck trail that hadn't been traveled for years. I drove it to its end, mainly while engaged in 4-WD, but it appeared to be passable by other high-clearance vehicles if they were geared low enough. The track passed right by the peak and finally gave out in a narrow wash. Near this point I examined a grassy ridge that led most of the way to the summit. An exploratory climb from this new direction was thus scheduled, along with a warm-up climb of Pahrump, for the following November.

On the appointed Saturday fifteen of us joined for breakfast at the Shoshone Cafe. We then caravaned to marker Iny-178 5360 in Chicago Vly where a desert road heads NE toward Pahrump. The hike up the canyon from the end of this road followed a use-trail to a main fork at about 4000 ft elev and a tall cairn here showed us the intended canyon on the L. After climbing about 200 ft higher, this canyon narrows and a steep side canyon entering from the R directed us upward to a prominently variegated ridge. The trail then reappeared and it followed the ridge briefly to a passage between pinnacles where it entered the short upper part of the canyon. We crested the craggy main ridge and turned L for the short scramble to Pahrump's summit. A relaxing stay there in the warm sun was encouraged by clear distant viewing; many of the surrounding reference points were given identity by Steve Smith. After returning to the cars someone noted that our downhill time was nearly as long as our 2 1/4 hr uphill climb.

We came back to the highway and returned S almost to the start of the pass where a graded road went toward a small settlement. This general area is near the top of the Tecopa 15' quad. After following the graded road to the previously discovered track we stopped and made camp when our low-clearance cars reached their driving limit. To get here from Hwy 178, go E and then S past the mobile home settlement. Continue to the second L fork, then take another L fork to cross the salt flat and get on 'the E side of the taniarisk grove. This routing appears to follow the road into Sec. 30 R.8E T.22N shown on the Tecopa sheet. Turn N at the fork and go 0.2 mi to a dim track heading E. Take this track, and after about 0.2 mi it gets rough. If you can drive past this difficulty you probably can get all the way to the end, which Is about 4 mi.

The next morning three of the womenfolk departed in a cloud of dust toward the hot springs at Tecopa. We who remained squeezed into my 4-WD Scout, except for two people who stayed out and rode on the rear bumper. After driving 3 1/2 mi up the canyon we dismounted and started our climb near the end of the S ridge that runs E of the intermittent stream shown on the Tecopa sheet.

A limestone-paved gully was followed, past fresh Desert Bighorn tracks and past a sleeping rattlesnake coiled up on a rock, to the ridgetop. After halting briefly at a knoll (the topo shows it to be 4520+ ft elev) we dropped 150 ft and again moved steadily N to a flat area which is shown just inside the Stewart V]y 15' sheet. The steeper portion of the climb was now the 1200-ft summit cone, which we did via the W ridge and slopes. Wind came up during the day so we took the summit register down to a protected spot for perusing and signing in. Fewer than one group per year had climbed the peak in recent years. Our 2 1/2-mi, 3000-ft climb took us just 2 1/2 hours. Class 2. We returned along the climbing route in 1 1/2 hours. Our passing shadows finally woke up the rattlesnake.

This new climbing direction makes easy work of the mountain but it probably won't popularize the climb, because of vehicle demands. A few big DPS trips here could conceivably wear the road down to a lower driving class (the area is not being considered for desert wilderness designation at the current time). Participants joining Steve Smith and me on this weekend were: Shane Smith, "Ski", Dana Burks, Joe and Betty McCosker, Bob Meador, Deanna Gaudineer, Jon Fredland, Cathy Robinson, Diana Leach, Rose Certini, Bruce Maynard, and Nancy Fletcher.

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