Fletcher Peak, Bonanza Peak, Willow Peak
By: Bob Michael
Exploring "Off the List" In the Spring Mountains, McFarland Peak
Climbers bagging Charleston and Mummy have gazed upon many other fine-looking peaks over 10,000 feet in the Spring Mountains. At least six of these are named on the new 7 1/2-minute quads, my Las Vegas climbing buddy George Quinn and I have been working on these for a couple years now. On a crystalline Indian Summer weekend this October, we climbed two more of these 10-ers and enjoyed the Nev. high country at its finest.
Fletcher Peak (10,319') is a southeastern spur of Mummy Mountain, but a quite respectable peak in its own right. It is accessed via the Deer Creek Trail. The trailhead is at the 8,400' highpoint of Nevada Highway 158, a short, very scenic high route which connects Lee and Kyle Canyons. This is also a route to Mummy Mountain. The route to Fletcher leaves the Deer Creek Trail about three miles from the roadhead at 10,000' in a slight saddle between two bumps (see attached map) and drops about 250' to the major saddle separating Fletcher from the Mummy massif. From this saddle it is a straight shot up the northeast ridge of Fletcher with about 550 feet of gain to the top. This ridge supports one of the most beautiful forests of ancient patina'd, wind-sculpted bristlecones I've ever passed through; their bitter resinous fragrance is the distilled essence of high remote desert ranges. On this radiant Indian Summer day, we had excellent views of golden aspen groves climbing the slopes out of Kyle Canyon below us, and of the soaring cliffs at the south end of the Mummy a mile northwest.
Next day, we explored some totally new country at the little-visited north end of the Springs to climb Bonanza Peak (10,397'). The access road to the trailhead (Cold Creek Road) takes off US 95 a few miles north of the Lee Canyon road (Nev. 156). You can't miss it - it's also the access road to a new prison. The mostly-paved road ascends "the mother of all bajadas" about 15 miles past a very remote residential development to the northern terminus of the Bonanza Trail, where the forest very abruptly begins at about 7600'. Most of the route to Bonanza Peak is through a magnificent Ponderosa/white fir forest. We both observed that the forest seems denser and bigger here than in the Charleston Peak area just to the south. The well-graded trail soon begins a relentless series of switchbacks (I think we counted 71) to climb 2500' up the steep face of the range. Although the trail is in heavy forest, just to the north is a strangely barren area which extends far to the north over 9977' Willow Peak. This area burned in a catastrophic fire in the 1970's. Except for a few scattered mature conifers which somehow escaped death, there is nothing but grass, weeds and brush; the forest is not regenerating. I suggest that this shows that the lush forest on the Springs is indeed an Ice Age relic. It can maintain itself, if not severely stressed, in a steady state, but cannot now re-establish itself from "scratch".
After gaining the crest of the range at about 10,000', the trail heads south and gradually upward through another splendid grove of ancient bristlecones. A little cairn a few hundred yards north of the peak, at the point where the trail turns decidedly downhill, shows where to strike upslope to the ridge and the last couple hundred feet of elevation gain to the gentle summit. The view to the south is staggering - miles of thrusted, buckled and cleft gray limestone draped with black robes of forest. The almost inaccessible sheer northwest face of Charleston is especially impressive, as are the flying buttresses of McFarland Peak, (10,745'), probably the most difficult major peak in the Springs, two miles southeast. That will be our next goal as our Off The List rambles continue!
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