Moapa Peak, Virgin Peak


By: Paul Bloland


Co-Leader: Ed Lubin

Moapa Peak (6,471') Ed Lubin and I first saw Moapa Peak back in March. The top third of the mountain had been obscured by a cloud bank as we started up the wrong canyon, killing most of the morning. By the time we aborted the climb and headed down the road to Las Vegas the summit was, of course, clear but we agreed that we would be back.

Eight months later, night found us pounding orange cardboard markers into the sand at critical intersections along the dirt road leading out across the Nevada desert to the loop turnaround shown at Jacks Pockets on the Moapa Peak 7 1/2 minute quad.

(Driving instructions: Drive NE on I-15, beyond the town of Glendale, to Exit 100, Carp and Elgin. Go under the freeway to the N side and turn right about 150 yards on the pavement. Then turn left (N) on the dirt road which is the one that leads to the "corral" as shown at the center bottom of the quad. From here follow the dirt road, NNW, adequate for passenger vehicles, 8.7 miles to the loop turnaround; plenty of parking and over-night camping.)

Our party of seven left for the peak about 7:00am, following the jeep road through the gap into Jacks Pockets and then up through the sagebrush to the entrance to the canyon, up past the dry waterfall, and up the W slope to the saddle NW of elevation 4542. From the saddle we climbed the SW ridge on a partially ducked route where we spotted a herd of six Bighorn sheep high on the ridge above us. As described in the Smatko (DPS #148, 1979), Akawie (DPS #151, 1979), and Russell (DPS *160 , 1981) writeups, we crossed the S face of the peak by means of a wide and undulating grassy shelf, then up to the ridge which we hit right at the point that the infamous "knife-edge" begins. There is an easy access route to the ridge about 20 yards around the end to the N side and to the left.

The ridge runs for about 150 yards with several hundred feet of exposure on both sides, but is truly knife-edged only in about two places. Ropes were carried but not used. Randy Bernard had some fun with his camcorder, filming our party nervously balancing its way along the narrow ridge. We reached the summit before noon and spotted yet another Bighorn in the summit area. Starting down at 12:40pm, we were back to the cars about 3:45 where we found Barbara Reber who had had a long dull day after pulling in that morning too late to join us.

Virgin Peak (8,075'). Our now augmented party left the loop about 4:30pm, drove up I-15 to the Riverside Exit, and crossed the Virgin River bridge where we unexpectedly met Gene Olson who then guided us through the darkness for some 21 miles along the New Gold Butte Road to the road junction just about at the end of the pavement. We car-camped here, near Quail Point, amid large pock-marked boulders.

The next morning we left Gene, after thanking him for his helpfulness the night before (he had climbed Virgin that same day and respectfully declined our invitation to repeat the climb with us). Our passenger cars made it up the left fork of the road for 2.4 miles and for another mile and a half along the graveled side road until we struck about 50 yards of a very narrow and rough section. Here we had to find a place to park our cars where very little space existed.

Here Randy Bernard's 4WD Isuzu took over and ferried us in two loads on what was again relatively good road to the start of our climb at about 5,600 ft, a deserted homestead complete with rusting lawnmower. There appeared to be good campsites all around. Following Russell's advice, our route took us straight up to the prominent ridge to the W leading N to the summit (about by the R in Virgin on the Virgin Peak 15-min quad). The ridge was straightforward, fairly open with few steep sections, and we were on top by noon (We had left the campsite about 7:00am and the cars about 9:00am). We followed the same ridge down on our return except that we dropped off the ridge early down a rather precipitous gully to meet the road clearly visible below. Back at the Isuzu at 2:30pm, all eight of us managed to squeeze into the limited space for the ride back to our cars and headed for home, some via Las Vegas and others after a stop at Whiskey Pete's at the state line.

Participants on what we believe to be the first scheduled DPS climb of Virgin since it was placed on the list, included Randy Bernard, Roy Bishop, Paul Bloland, Gail Hanna, Julie King, Ed Lubin, Barbara Reber, and Carolyn West. We were favored with perfect desert winter weather, the participants were both congenial and capable, and special thanks go to Randy for the transfer service and to Gene for escorting us to the Saturday night campsite.

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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