Mormon Peak, Virgin Peak
By: Steve Smith
This DPS trip went as scheduled with a total of twelve participants over the weekend. Unfortunately for the exploratory of Mormon, a desert storm had removed all vestiges of vehicle tracks where the vehicle route goes up a wash for several miles. By late morning, we were still two miles from the desired roadhead to the west side of the range highpoint at 7,360'+ as shown on the Rox NE quadrangle.
While still about two miles from the roadhead and running out of time we decided to head out cross-country for the ridgeline which leads to the summit. The hiking vent veil and we reached the ridgeline southwest of the summit by late morning. The western Mormon mountains are a very scenic and colorful desert area. As we began ascending the ridgeline, we encountered several interesting features.
First, we saw a Bighorn ram about 200' above us which quickly disappeared over the ridge. Shortly, we passed a wildlife water catchment drinker at 3,700' at the end of a short spur road which leads off of the roadhead area we had tried to reach by car. Attaining the first ridgeline highpoint at 4,530', we discovered a large solar powered radio system. I later learned from the BLM in Las Vegas that it is a real time radio link into Nellis AFB so that aerial training can be monitored and instantaneously evaluated.
At that point, half the group turned back since it was midday and we probably were not going to have time to reach the highpoint. Five of us continued on and the ridge went fine with just a few minor dips. At 5,100', we came across the fairly intact remains of an F-18 which had been parked right into a saddle. It makes a good route marker since that is a good point to leave the ridge and head northwest down into the canyon when returning to the proper roadhead.
The ridge is an interesting climb with great scenery, a pinyon forest towards the top and the sense of a great desert vastness. At 2:00p.m. we had reached 6,200' and were still a mile from the summit so with regrets, we turned around, not wanting to descend the ridgeline after dark. The ridge is fairly broken up and requires some navigating around several steep slopes which can easily be done in daylight but nighttime could make it rather challenging.
Returning to the plane, we examined it for awhile - it was more intact than most crashes and had lots of interesting remaining pieces in the area. Dropping off the ridge to the northwest, we headed straight for the proper roadhead and just missed catching a ride back with Jon Inskeep and Bill Stevens who had figured out the right route through the wash and had reached the roadhead shortly before we hiked down to it. Following the road for a mile, we then cut cross country and in the dark found our cars with the help of some lights being flashed around by the group that had returned earlier.
That night, most of us took advantage of not having to rough it and stayed at one of the hotel casinos in Mesquite - room and meal rates are sure reasonable. Next day, the climb of virgin Peak vent fine and everyone was down by mid-afternoon. Bob Greenawalt joined the group - having done list peak McCullough on Saturday - and everyone made the summit of Virgin following the standard DPS approach from the road on the southeast side.
The approach and climb of Mormon Peak from the west makes a great trip and excellent desert peak climb. A good candidate for the peak list, the only drawback may be the difficulty of reaching the roadhead. The way we were trying to drive in is easy 4-WD but definitely requires 4-WD while going up a wash for several miles. There may be another and better route in from the north. Campy and I plan on pre-checking the roads into the area next spring and will reschedule another attempt of Mormon Peak for next fall, probably coupled with Moapa and Virgin over a 3 day weekend.
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