Nopah Range, Pahrump Point, Stewart Point


By: Dale van Dalsem


Last minute problems kept us from leaving L.A. until after 10 PM & the rain-soaked freeways were still not clear - and it poured until almost 3 AM and Shoshone as we drove to the Chicago Valley turnoff & got 2 hrs of Z's. The threat of rain kept a lot of folks away, (Eat your hearts out; we had no rain all weekend except for Friday night! I), but a dozen vehicles started to caravan in to Twelvemile Spring. About half a mile in we encountered Lou Brecheen, hiking out from the spring. He'd driven in with his VW bug Friday afternoon, then got stuck driving out to sign in. I assured him we'd have no problem with my 4WD; it does everything but walk on water. About a hundred yards later the Toyota ground to a halt in the stickiest gumbo I've ever seen!! We managed to rock the truck out, but aborted any plans of driving into Twelvemile Spring. We drove back out to the gravel road, parked and prepared to do the peak from the gravel road. We started at 7:35 AM & warned everyone to take flashlights, as this was probably a l2hr round trip. We squished across the Chicago Valley, found a very direct route (below), and summited in a whiteout in wind. Brief lunch and we decided not to do the northern, lower summit, as the southern summit had the VABM, was the true high point, and had the official register. We headed back down, got slightly off route in the whiteout, but were all back to the gravel road and our cars by 4 PM. Nopah: 13 mi r.t., 81/2 hrs r.t., 4300' gain, 16 people.

Nopah topo confusion: The 1958 Stewart Valley 15' topo showed VABM Nopah, 6394'. This is the Nopah that the DPS has been calling Nopah Peak, and has the official register. A point 6401' is shown about a mile to the north. The 1984 Nopah Peak 71/2' topo calls this northern point Nopah Peak, 1946T (metric height: 6385'; shrunk 16 ft.) The southernmost point is still VA Nopah, 1948.9 (6394'; no shrinkage). Note that on both topos, the point called Nopah is the lower point! Our vote is to leave the list, and the register alone & write the USGS & tell them we think the label "Nopah Peak" should be on the south bump. The two are equally commanding; the northern point does appear sharper from the highway & beyond.

Nopah climbing instructions: Drive Cal 178 5.5 mi from Shoshone & turn east on gravel road at sign "Chicago Valley". Go .6 mi on this road, which turns south. Continue due east on dirt road which bends north to junction 1.9 mi from pavement. Turn right & go another 1.3 ml northeast to prominent green tree (cottonwood?), 3.2 mi from pavement. This is Twelvemile Spring; all cars can reach this point when the dirt road is dry. High clearance vehicles can continue east .6 mi on a faint track. Walk to the mouth of the canyon that drains from the divide between the two peaks, about 110 bearing. Ascend the minor gully that starts at UTM 810851 and, when the gully disappears at "1200" on the 71/2 topo, continue SE up the ridge to the saddle NE of 1519T & follow the ridge to the summit, contouring around 1587T. Other routes go, but aren't as easy or direct. 10 mi r.t., 4200 gain from Twelve-mile Spring.

Saturday night most soaked in Tecopa Hot Springs & a few ate at the Miner's Diner in Tecopa (cheap; fair to good) & we had a good campfire at a sheltered spot a few hundred yards in on the dirt road, sheltered from the wind by mesquite trees. The first dozen bottles of bubbly bit the dust along with varied other libations. Several carloads of non-climbers & new arrivals joined us for the festivities and the big one: Pahrump.

Sunday we caravanned out to Cal 178, then north to a point about 10.8 mi north of Shoshone, where a dirt road, easily seen in daylight and shown on the 71/2 topo goes 1.9 mi directly for the peak, ending in the canyon that leads to the west Bide of the peak. All cars made it to within. 150 yds of the road end. Hike up the canyon, staying left at 1150 meters (3780'), then take the right fork at 1255 meters (4120'). Stay in this canyon until you climb around a 10-15' waterfall on the right, then turn right. (south) and climb up to the ridge which runs SW from the summit, topping out on this ridge at about 1555 meters (5100') in a saddle. Up the ridge for perhaps 50 yds, then left through a ducked notch, traverse over to a chute that ascends right & back up to the original ridge & through a small saddle, then NE along the right of the ridge & top out on the summit ridge. Then left (northwest) along the summit ridge, staying to the right about 200' to the summit, Class 2 all the way. We topped out 2 hrs 15 min from the cars, 23 of us signed in as I completed the list. We had a great summit celebration which is probably better described by Randy Bernard, but featured songs recorded & played on a ghetto blaster by Randy, a banner by Randy, a list finishing pin which Carolyn West had surreptitiously obtained from Mike H., 1.5 liters of bubbly, a book of John Muir's Essays and a bird I.D. bandanna, both from the San Diego folks, and Norm Rohn's tuxedo T-shirt for the occasion. Weather was beautiful & clear, with slight wind.

The Twelvemile Spring 1984 71/2 topo shows point 1751T, .6 ml NNW of Pahrump, 1749.6 VA, where we and the register were, as well as the VABM. As this point is 4.6 feet higher than the VABM, we fully intended to climb it. However, we could see over the top of point 1751 to the sides of lower peaks many miles away. Inspection with Norm's level indicated that point 1751 was perhaps 10-30 ft below the 1749.6 VA we were standing on. We decided, again, not to do the alternate peak. We're writing a letter to the USGS; they blew it.

We all reached the cars by 1 PM, 5 hrs r.t. with a long lunch. 4 mi r.t., 2600' gain, 23 people.

After another soak in Tecopa Hot Springs, cocktail hour was well under way by 3 PM. Two tables groaned with food and Carolyn brought a huge cake with appropriate remarks. The campfire was well oiled by 21/2 cases of bubbly, plus other beverages; the dead soldier count exceeded 50 Monday A.M. Diane Rosentreter told the Pretzel, we managed Camel I, Camel II, Camel III and even a Camel IV; there were many songs and other jokes. Four list finishers, Barbara Reber, Gene Olsen, and Norm Rohn, plus the new one, were there (Ron Jones, with Ron Webber & Adrienne (5 to go) had done Brown on Saturday & joined us for the Sat night warm-up party, then split Sunday A.M. Diane and Dennis had dirt-biked old mine roads & trails on Sunday & caught the party. Bob Dubeau did Nopah with us then left with an ill Julie King. Other climbers at the party were, in order of sign-in (doesn't everyone sign in for the party? Shelley Rogers, Paul Freiman, Tom Scott, Donn Cook, Ed Lubin, Ron Hudson, Jon & Betsy, Al Franz, Mario G, Lew Amack, Nancy Gordon, Dave Dykeman, Karen Leonard, Don Weiss, Gail Hanna, Barbara Raab, Teri Sutor, Edna Erspamer, George Pfeiffer. More non-climbers: Carette McFarlane, Ed Sutor, Randy's son Glen & his friend, and probably some I missed. The rains probably cost us 10 to 15 attendees, including Mac, Bob H., & Vi, who turned back at Victorville Fri nite, certain The Flood had come.

Stewart on Sunday was anticlimactic; 13 of us did it, 5 his r.t., 7 mi. r.t., 2600 gain; I'd done it two weeks before to finish on Pahrump on Sunday. Park at one of the turnouts on 178, a mile past the high point on the road and 16 miles from Shoshone, at 645 meters (2770'). Walk on a 300 bearing. The peak is the one at a bearing of about 304 with a white band of rock running up the ridge almost to the summit. Go through the saddle on the section 25/26 border at 980 meters, drop into the main wash & follow it NNE. Take the main (right) fork after the black rock dyke. Just after the first significant waterfall, (10', easy 3 or hard 2), you'll pass around & partially under a 12' rock & see a duck on the left. Scramble up & out of the canyon to your left & parallel the canyon to a saddle to drop back into the canyon perhaps 200 yds upstream. You just bypassed some interesting waterfalls. Continue upstream in this main canyon another 200 yds to 1155 meters (3790') where a major fork occurs. Go straight up the ridge between these two streams to the summit. Thanks to Jon Lutz for a great assist on the first two peaks, Edna Erspamer for a great assist on Stewart, Randy Bernard and Carolyn and everyone for making the day special.

In doing 50 DPS peaks in the past 13 months, and leading 25 officially this schedule, I've relied heavily on my 8-year Desert Sage library and all the invaluable trip write-ups therein, especially ones by Lipsohn, Akawie, Russell, Jones, Valkass, Harsh, McCosker, Camphausen, Olsen, & Blauvelt and to Barbara Reber for putting it all into print these many years - and to all the above plus Backus, McRuer, Mantle, Ranschau, Fracisco and others for showing us how a trip should be led, and to Shelberg, Lilley, McLeod, & Michael for keeping the lamp of exploration lit, and to Mike M. for keeping us from getting too serious in our obsessive-compulsive behavior. Thank you all for your time and thoughtfulness in helping to make Weekend desert hiking FUN!!

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