La Madre Mountain


By: Bob Michael


The Spring Mountains of Nevada contain a beautiful "sleeper" of a peak which is easily as good as Potosi and better than Stirling. From downtown Las Vegas, La Madre Mountain's handsome tawny south-facing cliffs can be seen to the left of Mummy Mountain - they actually obscure Charleston as seen from the Strip.

Having "done" the Spring Mountains, list-wise, I was eager to explore some new country on a recent trip to poke around the desert with Las Vegas resident George Quinn. La Madre's sheer south cliffs and pointed summits had impressed me on a visit to Red Rocks last year. Remembering this intimidating prospect, I decided to look for a route on the northern side. I found one that went perfectly to the summit; it is shown on the accompanying topo map. The route is nowhere above high class 2; the summit ridge is a mildly exposed tilted limestone hogback, but the friction on the weathered limestone is so extreme that it's nothing but a steep walk. The country is very wild past the end of the jeep road, with absolutely no trace of human presence. the hike is in exquisite high desert country through a forest of juniper and big healthy pinyon, some heavy with nuts this fall. Oak brush provided splashes of autumn color. On the north side just below the summit are some white fir. This little remnant of montane forest huddled in the shade near the top is much like Clark Mountain.

Only a few miles as the crow flies from several hundred thousand people, we found a register on top that had not been signed for 2 1/2 years. Since La Madre is a spur that projects to the east from the same range toward the Las Vegas Valley, the views of the city, Lake lead, and beyond to the Grand Wash Cliffs in Arizona and the Pine Valley Mountains in Utah are superb. The peak also offers an excellent view-point for the Zion-like Sandstone Bluffs to the south, as well as of the great geologic structure of which it is a part - the Keystone thrust. This thrust, which is at the core of much of the Spring Mountain block, is a huge and complex detachment structure along which many cubic miles of older limestone have been pried from their "roots" to the west and shoved easterly, atop the much younger red and white Navajo sandstone. Therefore, in climbing La Madre from the south, you would start in younger rock at the bottom and climb upward into older rock on top - just the opposite from the logical sequence. (Needless to say, the mechanisms by which Mother Nature can shuffle the crust like this are poorly understood.)

Round trip distance is about 8 miles and 3000 feet gain if you have a standard car; 4wds can go about 2 mi closer and 600' higher. this peak is definitely List quality. It's a shame it's in a distant range which already has four listed peaks, and therefore is probably not a candidate.

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