Potosi Mountain


By: Wynne Benti


We spent Saturday celebrating Igor & Suzanne's list finish on McCullough. Following the hike up McCullough and return back to Stateline, we decided to forego the continuing party at the old railroad sitting called "Desert" and instead spent the night at Stateline, in part to recover from the prior week's flu bug.

Sunday morning, up at five -- a relaxed breakfast at the Primadonna and on to Potosi which we planned on hiking from Route C. There was road construction at the turn-off for the Potosi Mountain Road, and all signed identifying this road had been removed. We continued up the road past Potosi Spring and the old Mormon townsite of Potosi.

There were a number of tailings piles at the actual townsite, a few foundation stones from the original Mormon homes and quite a bit of historic and not so historic debris. Over the years, two stories persist about the naming of the mine: Potosi was named by the Mormon pioneers for the town they came from in Wisconsin or it was named for the Potosi mining district in Mexico, where the same ores -- lead, silver and zinc were also mined. The trip geologist (Andy) mentioned that the Potosi Mine is the oldest mine in Nevada, circa 1850, and was prospected to produce lead for the making of bullets for the Mormon army. Brigham Young commissioned the Potosi Mine when the Mormons feared a potential war with the United States. However a decent bullet couldn't be made from the lead pulled from the Potosi Mine. Upon careful and further analysis of the mineral content, a large percentage of silver was discovered in the lead. The workings fell into disuse and were later mined heavily for silver during the years of World War I. Those workings are the massive tailings piles located high in the cliffs along Route A, which can be seen from the townsite.

Further along the road, the sign marking the route to Goodsprings was gone. The road was fairly good all the way to the cabin, with only a few huge rocks which required 4WD clearance. We walked up the wash directly behind the cabin and soon reached the impressive waterfall, just beyond a high-walled chasm where the wash narrowed. Embedded in the gray limestone of the waterfall were the perfectly defined patterns of broad coral leaves, more than 300 million years old -- deposited when the area was covered with warm oceans. Shells and other fossils were visible in the rock in the wash and all the way up the ridge to the summit of Potosi.

Route C was an interesting and wonderful way to the peak. We reached the cold, windy summit in just under three hours. The north-facing slopes were completely covered in snow, but only a few patches were all that - remained near the summit. From the top, we could see from San Gorgonio to the Pine Valley Mountains in Utah -- Telescope, Sentinel, Porter and the crest of the Sierra to the west. Coming off the summit, Andy discovered a perfectly formed nautilus, perhaps two inches in diameter, embedded in the rock.

The wind ceased its relentless gale on the return and the afternoon became quite warm. With long winter shadows of the mountains cast across the desert, it was the perfect end to a great weekend in Nevada.

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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